Russell Johnson as "The Professor"
|Born:||November 10, 1924|
|Birthplace:||Ashley, Pennsylvania, U.S.|
|Also known for:||"Gilligan's Island"|
|Character played:||The Professor|
Russell Johnson is an American actor and writer best known for playing the part of The Professor on the CBS-TV series Gilligan's Island, ultimately returning to reprise the role in Rescue from Gilligan's Island, Castaways on Gilligan's Island and The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island as well as lending his voice to The New Adventures of Gilligan and Gilligan's Planet. He also reunited with surviving cast members in Surviving Gilligan's Island.
Born Russell David Johnson on November 10, 1924, Johnson had a long film career before starring in the series. His Hollywood acting career began in 1952 with the college fraternity hazing exposé film, "For Men Only," and in "Loan Shark," also released in 1952 and starring George Raft. He was a close friend of Fifties Western film star Audie Murphy, and appeared with him in three of his films, "Column South" and "Tumbleweed" in 1953 and "Ride Clear of Diablo" in 1954. His early roles were primarily in Westerns, such as "Law and Order" with Ronald Reagan, and in Science Fiction, such as "It Came from Outer Space" (1953), "This Island Earth" (1955), "Attack of the Crab Monsters" in 1956 and "Space Children" in 1958). He also appeared in "Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki."
During the 1950s, he guest starred on Rod Cameron's syndicated crime drama TV series, "City Detective." He played the head of a gang of crooks in an episode of "Adventures of Superman," which was filmed in 1951 but not broadcast until January 1953. He was also cast on the religion anthology series "Crossroads" and "The Californians." He also appeared three times in the series "Jefferson Drum" and twice on "The DuPont Show" with June Allyson. He also co-starred with William Shatner in a 1961 episode of "Thriller." Before "Gilligan's Island" he starred in the short-lived Western series, "The Dakota," and in the series premiere of the series, "Breaking Point," which starred Paul Richards and Eduard Franz.
Johnson subsequently auditioned for and received the role of the Professor on "Gilligan's Island," replacing actor John Gabriel from the pilot. The role became his most popular acting credit in his career; after the series was cancelled, he found himself partially typecast, playing more academic or sophisticated roles in future appearances on television. Although he initially had reservations over being identified by fans as the Professor, he eventually made his peace with the role and started appearing at conventions talking about his role as the Professor, even to the point of playing characters making fun of his character's futile attempts at trying to get the castaways off the island. He went on to star in the TV shows "The Big Valley," "Death Valley Days," "The Invaders," "Lassie," "Ironside," "That Girl" and "Gunsmoke." He appeared perhaps most notably in the mini-series "Vanished." He also appeared uncredited in the Robert Redford spy thriller, "Three Days of the Condor," with Robert Redford, a film based on the 1971 novel by Fletcher Knebel. Through the Eighties, he reunited with his "Gilligan" cast members in a few TV shows. He reunited with Alan Hale, Jr., Bob Denver and Dawn Wells in an episode of Alf. In 1987, he guest-starred on "Newhart" playing a lodge member who watches "Gilligan's Island." In the episode, when actor Peter Scolari escorts Johnson from the room, Russell says "I want to see how it ends!" but Scolari tells him that the Castaways would stay on the island. He also reunited with Denver, Wells and Louise on an episode of Roseanne, with the casts of both series playing each other's roles.
Following the reunion movies, Johnson published his memoirs, "Here on Gilligan's Isle" in 1993. After the death of Bob Denver, he was one of three original surviving cast members of "Gilligan's Island," the other two being Tina Louise, who played the part of Ginger Grant, and Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann. He passed away from kidney failure at his home in Bainbridge Island, Washington on January 16, 2014, at the age of 89. He was the last surviving male cast member from the show.