“Acting is my first love.” Dawn Wells
An American actress since 1960s, Dawn Wells reached stardom with her signature role of Mary Ann Summers in the CBS television sitcom “Gilligan’s Island” (1964-1967). She has reprised her character in the various Gilligan’s Island reunion specials and on several episodes of television series. In the 1990s, she also spoofed her character on a commercial for 1-800-COLLECT. Since “Gilligan’s Island,” The former Miss Nevada has preformed in numerous theatrical productions and has many TV credits to her name. She also has dotted her resume with performances in many movies like Winterhawk (1975), Boggy Creek (1977), Soulmates (1992), Forever for Now (2004) and Cyber Meltdown (2005).
“Just because a woman is over 50 does not mean she no longer has anything to offer. If anything, we have so much more to offer! We have lived life, we get better with age. I do my best work now in my 60s. Sure, I could retire; but what would I do? Play Bingo? I think not!” Dawn Wells
Dawn currently remains busy by managing an ongoing “boot camp” in her ranch in Driggs, Idaho. Founded in 1998, the Dawn Wells’ Film Actors Boot Camp is for the already trained actor looking to make the transition from the amateur to the professional actor. An Artist in Residence at several Universities, she also mentors young actors and travels to colleges all across the U.S. to teach Master Classes. Dawn, whose father once had the Las Vegas Thunderbird Hotel, is also a flourishing business woman. She owns her own clothing line for people with disabilities named “Wishing Wells Collections” and she recently established her own skin care line, “Classic Beauty.”
On a more personal note, the 5-foot-6½-inch beauty married Larry Rosen, an ex-agent, from 1964 until 1967.
Childhood and Family:
In Reno, Nevada, Dawn Wells was born on October 18, 1938. Her father was a developer and real estate owner and her mother was a home maker. She had a happy upbringing. As a child, Dawn and her mother used to grew their own vegetables and fruits in their garden and she rode horses. She was the class treasure, President of the debate team as well as an honor rolls student in her high school years.
After completing high school, Dawn, whose nickname is Pooter, went to the prestigious Stephens College Columbia, Missouri to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. But, as soon as she discovered acting, the medicine major transferred to the University of Washington, where she graduated in 1960 with a Degree in Theater and was a member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority.
Dawn was married to Larry Rosen in 1964, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1967. Her former husband was an agent.
A wholesome beauty from Reno, Nevada, Dawn Wells was crowned Miss Nevada in 1959 and was in the 1960 Miss America pageant. After college, she made her way to Hollywood to seek prominence. Wells started appearing in guest roles in such television series as “Maverick,” “77 Sunset Strip,” “Everglades” (all 1961), “It’s a Man’s World” and “Hawaiian Eye” (both 1962) as well as “Laramie” (1963). In 1963, she also made her first film appearance as girl at Police Station in Palm Springs Weekend, a comedy/drama directed by Norman Taurog and starring Troy Donahue.
“Mary Ann has been such a big part of my life these past 40 years, it’s really impossible to get away from it. But, why would I want too? Everywhere in the world that I go I am greeted with love. Some kids who watched the show back then are still watching, but with their grandchildren now. That is a really wonderful thing! As an actress I have succeeded, I created a character that meant something to some people and it has lasted. So, I refuse to ignore it and run away from it.” Dawn Wells
Wells’ big breakthrough arrived a year later when she won the role of Mary Ann Summers on the Classic TV sitcom “Gilligan’s Island” (CBS, 1964-1967). As castaway Mary Ann, the actress conveyed a convinced wholesomeness while still exhibiting a little sexual appeal with her eye-catching clothes she wore. When the series went into syndication, its fame with younger kids rocketed, and Wells became a household name.
After the show left the airwaves, Wells declined to be a jobless actor. She made guest appearances in a number of television shows like “The Invaders” (1967), “The Wild Wild West” (1968), “Bonanza” (1968) and “The F.B.I” (1969) and starred in several films such as the independent film Winterhawk (1975), opposite Michael Dante, as a Western colonist kidnapped by a Native-American chief, Tom Moore’s family Return to Boggy Creek (1977) and the horror The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1977). Additionally, she performed in countless theatrical productions, such as the National Touring Company of “They’re Playing Our Song!.”
The huge popularity of Mary Ann kept Wells in public eye. She returned to portray the coveted role for the made-for-television films Rescue from Gilligan’s Island (1978), The Castaways on Gilligan’s Island (1979) and The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island (1981). When “Gilligan’s Planet” went into an animation series in 1982, Wells was also hired to voice the character. Moreover, in the 1990s, she spoofed her character on a commercial for 1-800-COLLECT and also reprised her role in episodes of such popular television show as “Baywatch” (1992). 1990s also saw roles in such films as Soulmates (1992), TV’s All Time Favorites (1995, TV) and Lover's Knot (1996) .
In addition to running her successful clothing company, Wells continues to contribute to the entertainment business and persistently gives back to the acting community. In 2003, she did tours of the production Eve Ensler’s Award Winning “The Vagina Monologues” and “Love Letters,” along side Adam West. A year later, she launched and founded The Spud Film Institute in Idaho and Wyoming and hold the first ever Spud Drive in Film and Music Festival, that same year. Still in 2004, she played Sylvia in the comedy/romance movie Forever for Now, opposite Jefferson Arca, Becca Ayers, Heather Ayers and Kipley Wentz, and starred in Cyber Meltdown, the next year.