Robert Osbourne "Bob" Denver (January 9, 1935 – September 2, 2005) was an American comedic actor. He is best known for portraying Gilligan on the television series Gilligan's Island and the beatnik Maynard G. Krebs on the 1959–1963 TV series The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.
Denver was born January 9, 1935, in New Rochelle, New York, and raised in Brownwood, Texas. He graduated from Loyola University in Los Angeles with a degree in political science. While at Loyola, he acted in college productions and met fellow student Dwayne Hickman, with whom he later co-starred in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. After graduation, Denver coached physical education and taught mathematics and history at Corpus Christi School, a Roman Catholic elementary school in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles. He also worked as a mailman.
Most of Denver's acting career was spent working in television, although he also appeared in several films and on Broadway. He became most identified with the title character he played in the 1960s sitcom Gilligan's Island, and continued to appear as Gilligan in several movies, as a guest on other television series, in personal appearances, and as a voice actor in the animated version of the series.
Denver made his television debut in 1957, playing a bit part in one episode of The Silent Service (S01 E37: "The Loss of the Tang"). While teaching at Corpus Christi in 1958, Denver was permitted to audition for a role in the TV sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis as a favor to his sister, who was a secretary on the production lot. He got the part, and left teaching the following year to become a regular on the series. From 1959 to 1963, he appeared on the series as Maynard G. Krebs, the teenaged beatnik best friend of Dobie Gillis, played by Dwayne Hickman. After filming the first three episodes, Denver received his draft notice, and was briefly written out of the script and replaced, but he was designated 4-F due to an old neck injury, and returned to Dobie Gillis having missed only one episode. Denver later reprised his Maynard G. Krebs role in the television sequels Whatever Happened to Dobie Gillis? (1977) and Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis (1988).
During his time on Dobie Gillis, Denver appeared on the NBC interview program, Here's Hollywood. In 1963, Denver played his only major dramatic role on television, as a physician (Dr. Paul Garrett) in one episode of Dr. Kildare, telecast on October 10, 1963; the episode, "If You Can't Believe the Truth ...", also featured Barbara Eden and Ken Berry. Between the end of Dobie Gillis and the start of Gilligan's Island, Denver appeared in an episode of The Farmer's Daughter and in the final episode of The Danny Thomas Show. He also had a one-episode role replacing the actor who played Dudley A. "Dud" Wash, the fiance of Charlene Darling of the Darlings, on The Andy Griffith Show which was aired March 30, 1964. This was done by the network to promote Denver's face and make him more familiar to the viewing audience, since Gilligan's Island was about to go on air.
Following the cancellation of Dobie Gillis, Denver landed the title role on the sitcom Gilligan's Island, which ran for three seasons (1964–67) on CBS, and became a staple of later syndication. His role as the well-meaning but bumbling first mate among a small group of shipwrecked castaways became the one for which he is most remembered. During the run, Denver privately went out of his way to help his costars who warmly appreciated his efforts, such as successfully demanding that Russell Johnson and Dawn Wells be included in the series' opening credits and insisting that Wells get an equal share of the show's publicity with Tina Louise. A decade after the show was cancelled, Denver played Gilligan in the made-for-TV reunion movies Rescue from Gilligan's Island (1978), The Castaways on Gilligan's Island (1979), and The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island (1981). He also lent his voice to the animated series The New Adventures of Gilligan and its sequel Gilligan's Planet. During the 1980s, he re-created the character of Gilligan for numerous cameo appearances, including episodes of ALF, Meego and Baywatch, as well as a bartender in the 1987 film Back to the Beach.
After Gilligan's Island, Denver went on to star in other TV comedy series, including The Good Guys (1968–1970), Dusty's Trail (1973) (a show similar to Gilligan's Island, involving a lost wagon train headed to California), and the Sid and Marty Krofft children's program Far Out Space Nuts (1975). Four episodes of Dusty's Trail were later combined to create a feature film, The Wackiest Wagon Train in the West (1976).
Denver's other TV roles included guest appearances on multiple episodes of Love, American Style, The Love Boat, and Fantasy Island. In 1983, he starred in the television pilot The Invisible Woman as the bumbling mad scientist uncle of the title character.
Denver's first feature film appearance was in the service farce, A Private's Affair, with Sal Mineo in 1959. Credited as "Robert Denver", he had a small role in the 1963 Jimmy Stewart film, Take Her, She's Mine, playing a beatnik poet working at a coffee shop. Denver also appeared in the 1964 beach film For Those Who Think Young with Tina Louise prior to the development of Gilligan's Island.
Other films in which Denver appeared include Who's Minding the Mint? (1967), The Sweet Ride (1968) and Did You Hear the One About the Traveling Saleslady? (1968) with Phyllis Diller. In 1983, he appeared in the TV movie High School U.S.A..
In 1970, Denver replaced Woody Allen in the original Broadway production of Allen's hit comedy Play It Again, Sam, earning praise from New York Times critic Clive Barnes for conveying "a genuine clown-like wistfulness" that Barnes had found lacking in Allen's own performance in the starring role.
Later in his life, Denver returned to his adopted home of Princeton, West Virginia, and became an FM radio personality. He and his wife, Dreama, ran a small "oldies format" radio station, WGAG-LP 93.1 FM. He also earned a small income making public appearances, often costumed as Gilligan. In 1992, he played Gilligan to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation for a West Virginia fundraiser for the organization.
Denver was arrested for having a box of marijuana delivered to his home in 1998. He originally said the box had come from Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island, but he later refused to name her in court and testified that "some crazy fan must have sent it." The police reportedly found more of the plant and related paraphernalia in Denver's home. He pleaded no contest and received six months' probation.
Denver died September 2, 2005, at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He had been receiving cancer treatment and had undergone heart bypass surgery earlier that year.
- The Silent Service (1957, TV Series): "The Tang's Last Shot" - Murph
- A Private's Affair (1959) - MacIntosh
- The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959-1963, TV Series) - Maynard G. Krebs
- Dr. Kildare (1963, TV Series): "If You Can't Believe the Truth..." - Dr. Paul Garrett
- The Farmer's Daughter (1963, TV Series): "An Enterprising Young Man" - Lieutenant Tenner
- Take Her, She's Mine (1963) - Alex
- The Andy Griffith Show (1963, TV Series) segment: "Divorce, Mountain Style" - Dud Wash
- Gilligan's Island (1964-1967, TV Series) - Gilligan
- Make Room for Daddy (1964, TV Series): "The Persistent Cop" - Herbie
- For Those Who Think Young (1964) - Kelp
- I Dream of Jeannie (1967, TV Series): "My Son, the Genie" - Harold
- Who's Minding the Mint? (1968) - Willie Owens
- The Sweet Ride (1968) - Choo-Choo Burns
- Did You Hear the One About the Traveling Saleslady? (1968) - Bertram Webb
- The Good Guys (1968-1970, TV Series) - Rufus Butterworth
- Love, American Style (1970-1973, TV Series) segments:
- "Love and the Eat's Cafe" as Sam Cosgrove
- "Love and the Baby Derby"
- "Love and the Cake" as Jeffrey
- "Love and the Hitchhiker" as Earl
- Dusty's Trail (1973-1974, TV Series) - Dusty
- The New Adventures of Gilligan (1974-1975, Animated TV Series) - Gilligan
- Far Out Space Nuts (1975, TV Series) - Junior
- Whatever Happened to Dobie Gillis (1977, TV Short) - Maynard G. Krebs
- Rescue from Gilligan's Island (1978, TV Movie) - Gilligan
- The Castaways of Gilligan's Island (1979, TV Movie) - Gilligan
- The Love Boat (1979-1982, TV Series) segments:
- "A Dress to Remember" - Norman Lomax
- "Alas, Poor Dwyer/After the War/Itsy Bitsy/Ticket to Ride/Disco Baby" Part 1 & Part 2 - Jason Markham
- Fantasy Island (1980-1983, TV Series) segments:
- "Love Island/The Sisters" - Tim Kearns
- "The Magic Camera/Mata Hari/Valerie" - Don Winters
- "House of Dolls/Wuthering Heights" - Francis Elkins
- "Eagleman/Children of Mentu" - Morris Binstock
- The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island (1981, TV Movie) - Gilligan
- Twilight Theater (1982, TV Movie) - Various Characters
- Scamps (1982, Unsold TV Pilot) - Oliver Hopkins
- Gilligan's Planet (1982, Animated TV Series) - Gilligan
- The Invisible Woman (1983, Unsold TV Pilot) - Dr. Dudley Plunkett
- High School U.S.A. (1983, TV Movie) - Milton Feld
- Back to the Beach (1987) - Bartender
- The New Gidget (1987, TV Series): "Somewhere Over the Rerun" - Gilligan
- Alf (1987, TV Series): "Gilligidge Island" - Gilligan
- Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis (1988, TV Movie) - Maynard G. Krebs
- Baywatch (1992, TV Series): "Now Sit Right Back and You'll Hear a Tale" - Gilligan
- Roseanne (1995, TV Series): "Sherwood Schwartz--A Loving Tribute" - Jackie (uncredited)
- Meego (1997, TV Series): "Mommy 'n' Meego" - Gilligan
- "TV's beatnik is a Square at heart". The Age. June 14, 1962. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
- Straight Dope staff (Lileth). "Was the "Gilligan's Island" theme song tampered with?". The Straight Dope. Cecil Adams. Retrieved 2006-04-04.
- "Gilligan's Island (Gilligan's Island Tidbits section)". The Fifties Web. Retrieved 2006-04-04.
- Adam Bernstein, "Bob Denver, 70; Brought Goofy Comedy to Role as TV's Gilligan", The Washington Post, September 7, 2005.
- "Tour planned for children's group". The Sunday Times-Sentinel. 12 April 1992.
- Gilligan's Dreams Archived March 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. Dana Stevens at slate.msn.com, September 6, 2005
- Martin, Douglas (September 7, 2005). "Bob Denver is dead at 70; Star of Gilligan's Island". The New York Times. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
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