Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Dawn Wells Had ‘No Family, No Husband, No Kids and No Money’ – ‘Gilligan’s Island’s Fans Paid Her Debts

Busayo Ogunjimi
Feb 18, 2022
12:20 P.M.
Share this pen
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmail

Dawn Wells was a famous movie star who attained impressive fame and fortune. However, she faced financial issues in her last years and needed help. Find out how she got help.

Advertisement

Before her death, Dawn Wells was popularly known as an American actress. The star had a career in Hollywood that spanned several decades, including many accolades and honors for her impact in the entertainment industry. 

During the early stages of her movie career, Wells took minor roles in productions like "77 Sunset Strip," "The Roaring 20s," and "It's a Man's World."

However, her career leaped in 1964 when she was cast as Mary Ann Summers in "Gilligan's Island." After three seasons, the show was canceled in 1967; she moved on with her career, landing other roles and getting several offers. 

In her book "What Would Mary Ann Do?: A Guide to Life," the actress wrote candidly about an offer she received which was very tempting. 

Advertisement

Wells revealed that she was offered $500,000 to pose topless. At that point, the star thought of the numeric things she could do with the money. But in the end, Wells turned down the offer.

Even though the offerers claimed that everything would be airbrushed, she said she could not appear topless in front of the photographer, whom she did not know, hence her decision. Here's more to learn about Dawn Wells, including her life outside of work.

Dawn Wells as Mary Ann and Natalie Schaefer as Mrs. Howell in a scene from the 1960s television comedy "Gilligan's Island." | Source: Getty Images

Advertisement

INSIDE WELLS'S LOVE LIFE 

Wells enjoyed a successful career in the movie industry. However, the same cannot be said of her personal life, especially her love life. 

In the entirety of her lifetime, the "It's a Man's World" actress walked down the aisle once, and the lucky man was talent agent Larry Rosen. On February 8, 1936, he was born in Newark, New Jersey. 

Cast of TV Show "Gilligan's Island" in a publicity shoot. | Source: Getty Images

Advertisement

Apart from being a talent agent, Rosen was also a writer and producer known for "Jennifer Slept Here," "Summer Playhouse," and "Mr. Merlin." 

He and the late movie star tied the knot in 1962, but their union was short-lived. They called it quits a few years later in 1967 but remained friends afterward. 1967 was a very challenging year for Wells. 

Dawn Wells as Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan's Island in 1964. | Photo: Getty Images

Advertisement

Not only did she divorce Rosen, but the actress also lost her dad, who used to own the Las Vegas Thunderbird Hotel. In addition, "Gilligan's Island," the production that skyrocketed Wells's career, got canceled. 

WELLS'S RELATIONSHIP ON SET 

However, the actress left the program with many memories and friends. During an interview, Wells gave a list of co-stars with whom she shared a connection on set. 

Dawn Wells appearing on "The FBI" episode "The Attorney" circa 1970. | Source: Getty Images

Advertisement

The actress mentioned Bob Denver, Russell Johnson, Tina Louise, and Alan Hale Jr. According to Wells; the latter was more like a father to her. Even though Wells shared a close bond with her colleagues, she explained that the relationships were not romantic. 

Although the fundraising campaign listed $194,000, fans raised more than $205,000.

Dawn Wells at the Hollywood Walk of Fame, March 7, 2008. | Photo: Getty Images

Advertisement

WELLS AND TOM

The actress noted that she never found anybody she wanted to settle down with. But later in life, she was involved in a relationship with a man named Tom.

Wells described Tom as a special man who touched her soul, mind and being. The duo were best friends for years before their romance began. 

In her book "What Would Mary Ann Do?: A Guide To Life," Wells explained that at some point, she began losing people and naturally turned to the people she knew.

Dawn Wells on September 26, 2013 in North Hollywood, California | Source: Getty Images

Advertisement

Turning to her best friend saw the start of a memorable romance. Wells and Tom dated for 15 years, and the former valued the relationship so much that she moved to Nashville because of him. Surprisingly, the lovebirds never married or lived together.

Wells's decision to live separately was based on her values. Tom had two daughters, and the actress believed that it was not ideal to sleep with a man who was not her husband under the same roof as his kids, even though they were adults.

It went as far as Wells not sharing a room with Tom when his mother or children were around. The actress learned the act of restraint at a young age; she was at Stephen's College, a private women's college in Columbia, Missouri.

Advertisement

Dawn Wells in a publicity shoot for TV series "Gilligan's Island" | Source: Getty Images

In her book, Wells explained that her father never understood her desire to go to an all-female college. He always thought it would keep his daughter isolated, but Wells said it was the opposite. It was liberating because she did not compete with boys.

Advertisement

There, she could have a relationship with anybody she wanted without distractions or interference from men. According to the actress, college turned out to be the place that opened her eyes to many possibilities.

Dawn Wells and Tina Louise attend the cocktail party for the "CBS at 75" television gala at the Hammerstein Ballroom November 2, 2003. | Source: Getty Images

Advertisement

WELLS'S CAREER AND TOUGH TIMES 

Although Wells was mainly known for her role in "Gilligan's Island," she believed that her career was even better after the show. After starring in the sitcom, the actress said she landed other roles before delving into the theater.

Wells said she featured in over 100 productions, including "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "Menopause: The Musical." Wells revealed that all the money she made as a working actress was from her movie career.

But, according to the icon, she felt lucky to have earned a comfortable life throughout her adult life from acting. Sadly, in the later years of Wells's life, she faced difficult situations.

Advertisement

Russell Johnson, Dawn Wells, Sherwood Schwartz and Bob Denver in front of the "SS Minow" on February 3, 2004. | Photo: Getty Images

In August 2018, Wells's friend and Hair Stylist, Dugg Kirkpatrick, started a GoFundMe page to help her out of trouble which began in 2008.

Advertisement

Kirkpatrick explained that as a result of the financial crisis in 2008, Wells lost everything, including her life savings, with a good portion of the $194,000 listed to alleviate penalties by the IRS.

Also, Wells had suffered a broken knee while recovering from a life-threatening surgery that came close to killing her. Furthermore, the actress had no family and lost her home.

Actors Barbara Eden and Dawn Wells arrive at the 'Academy Of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films 2012. | Photo: Getty Images

Advertisement

She needed to move into a smaller assisted living facility, but they refused to accept her because of her $180,000 debt. Wells's compounding problems caused Kirkpatrick to start the GoFundMe page.

Although the fundraising campaign listed $194,000, fans raised more than $205,000. Wells expressed her gratitude via a Facebook post. Wells said she was wowed by the show of kindness and affection from fans.

The woman also thanked her friend for creating the page and helping her with common issues. Wells said she thought she was taking the proper steps to ensure her golden years, but she wound up with no family, no husband, no kids, and no money.

Advertisement

Actress Dawn Wells of "Gilligan's Island" participates in The Hollywood Show held at Burbank Airport Marriott Hotel & Convention Center on October 6, 2012. | Photo: Getty Images

However, she was grateful to God for giving her fans and friends who cared. Wells cleared her debt and paid her hospital bills, but she eventually passed away in Los Angeles in December 2020.

She died at 82 from causes related to coronavirus and will always remain one of the beloved actresses loved by fans worldwide.

Advertisement