Russell Johnson
Birth Date:
November 10, 1924
Birth Place:
Ashley, Pennsylvania, USA
Famous for:
His role as The Professor (Roy Hinkley) on TV series Gilligan's Island (1964-1967)
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Gilligan's Island


“It used to make me upset to be typecast that way but as the years have gone on, I have given in. I am the Professor and that's the way it is. The show has brought a lot of joy to people and that's not a bad legacy.” Russell Johnson (referring to his role on “Gilligan's Island”)

Actor Russell Johnson is best known for portraying the Professor on the television sitcom “Gilligan's Island” (CBS, 1964-1967). He reprised the role in the TV films “Rescue from Gilligan's Island” (1978), “The Castaways on Gilligan's Island” (1979) and “The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island” (1981) and voiced the character in two animated spin-off series titled “The New Adventures of Gilligan” (1974) and “Gilligan's Planet” (1982). He won a Pop Culture Award at the 2004 TV Land Awards for his work on the classic show, which he shared with costars, creator Sherwood Schwartz and his producer son Lloyd J. Schwartz. Johnson first gained notice for portraying Ky Walker in “For Men Only” (1952) and Marshall Gib Scott in the western series “Black Saddle” (1959-1960) before landing his signature role on “Gilligan's Island.” A veteran TV guest star, Johnson has appeared in numerous television series, including “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “The Twilight Zone,” “The Outer Limits,” “Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law,” “The Jeffersons,” “Dynasty,” “Dallas,” “MacGyver,” “Knots Landing” and “Roseanne,” to name a few. He also acted in the soap operas “Days of Our Lives” (1980) and “Santa Barbara” (1991) and various TV films. His film credits include “It Came from Outer Space” (1953), “Attack of the Crab Monsters” (1957), “Invitation to a Gunfighter” (1964), “The Man from Independence” (1974), “Three Days of the Condor” (1975), “Hitch Hike to Hell” (1977), “Off the Wall” (1983) and “Blue Movies” (1988).

Purple Heart

Childhood and Family:

One of seven children, Russell David Johnson was born on November 10, 1924, in Ashley, Pennsylvania. Following his father's death, 8 year old Russell and his brothers were sent to Girard College, a private boarding school located in Philadelphia. Formerly an average student, he made the National Honor Roll Society by the end of high school. After graduating, he joined the Army Air Corp in World War II and received a Purple Heart (among other honors) after his plane was shot down. He later used the GI Bill to fund his acting studies at the Actors Lab in Hollywood.

Russell has been married three times. He was married to Edith Cahoon from 1943 to 1948. He then married actress Kay Cousins Johnson on July 23, 1949, and would remain with her until her death on January 20, 1980. The pair shared two children, David and Kim (an actress). He married Constance Dane on May 18, 1982, and has a stepchild named Courtney Dane. On October 27, 1994, Russell's son, David, passed away at age 39 of AIDS.

Black Saddle


Russell Johnson joined the United States Army Air Forces as an aviation cadet in 1942 and rose to the officer's rank of Second Lieutenant within two years. He flew in B-25 Mitchell bombers on 44 combat missions. In March 1945, his plane was shot down over the Philippines. He was injured and later received the Purple Heart. Johnson was also honored with the Good Conduct Medal, the Air Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three service stars, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one service star, and the World War II Victory Medal. He was honorably discharged on November 22, 1945, with the rank of First Lieutenant. He next joined the U.S. Air Force Reserves and received his final discharge from the military in August 1957.

Johnson turned to acting after he was discovered by actor and director Paul Henreid and used the G.I. Bill to enroll in acting school. To support himself and his family, he worked as a cab driver and at a pen making company. His first television acting job came with a small role in the 1950 episode “Man Without a Country” of “Fireside Theatre.” Two years later, he experienced his first film break when he landed the villainous role of Ky Walker in “For Men Only” (1952), a drama directed by and starring Paul Henreid.

Johnson went on to appear in various movies during the 1950s, including “Law and Order” (1953), a western starring Ronald Reagan, “It Came from Outer Space” (1953), a science fiction film helmed by Jack Arnold that starred Richard Carlson, Barbara Rush and Charles Drake, “This Island Earth” (1955), an adaptation of the 1952 science fiction novel of the same name by Raymond F. Jones, and “Attack of the Crab Monsters” (1957), where he costarred with Richard Garland and Pamela Duncan. He also appeared in the Jack Arnold directed “The Space Children” (1958) and played Eddie Nelson in “Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki” (1955), which starred Marjorie Main as Phoebe 'Ma' Kettle and Percy Kilbride as Pa Kettle.

Meanwhile on the small screen, Johnson made guest appearances in “Adventures of Superman” (1953), “City Detective” (1954), “The Lone Ranger” (1955), “Kings Row” (1955), “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin” (1956), “Crossroads” (2 episodes, 1955-1956), “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (1957), “Steve Canyon” (1958), “Rescue 8” (1958) and “Riverboat” (1959), among other shows. He also appeared as Lefty in an episode of “Hallmark Hall of Fame” called “The Touch of Steel” (1955). Johnson's first television break arrived when he won the costarring role of Marshal Gib Scott on “Black Saddle,” a western series that ran on ABC from January 10, 1959, to May 6, 1960. The show starred Peter Breck as Clay Culhane, an ex-gunfighter who turned into a lawyer after his brothers were killed in a gunfight.

After “Black Saddle” ended, Johnson appeared in episodes of “The DuPont Show with June Allyson” (2 episodes, 1960), “Thriller” (1961), “The Twilight Zone” (2 episodes, 1960-1961), “The Deputy” (1961), “Ripcord” (1961), “Hawaiian Eye” (1961), “Alcoa Premiere” (1961) and “The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor” (1961). He was also seen in episodes of “Route 66” (1962), “The Wide Country” (1962), “Ben Casey” (1962), “G.E. True” (1962), “The Dakotas” (1963), “The Eleventh Hour” (1963), “Empire” (1963), “Laramie” (5 episodes, 1961-1963), “Rawhide” (1963), “Breaking Point” (1963), “77 Sunset Strip” (1963) and “The Outer Limits” (1964). He did not return to series television as a regular until he landed the role of Professor Roy Hinkley on the sitcom “Gilligan's Island.” Created by Sherwood Schwartz, the show, which follows the amusing adventures of seven castaways shipwrecked on a deserted island, received strong ratings during its run from September 1964 to September 1967 and would continue to gain popularity through syndication. Costars of the series included Bob Denver, Alan Hale, Jr., Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, Tina Louise and Dawn Wells.

Johnson resumed his film career by appearing in “A Distant Trumpet” (1964, as Captain Brinker), “Invitation to a Gunfighter” (1964, as John Medford) and the “The Greatest Story Ever Told” (1965), which starred Max von Sydow as Jesus. He also made guest appearances in “The Invaders” (1967), “The Big Valley” (1968), “Felony Squad” (1968), “Death Valley Days” (1968), “Lassie” (1969, as John Bradley) and “The F.B.I.” (3 episodes, 1968-1970) and received a supporting role in the dramatic feature “Cry for Poor Wally” (1969), for director Marty Young.

In the early 1970s, Johnson portrayed Cliff Thomas in the NBC television movie “The Movie Murderer” (1970) and received the recurring role of Brenton Grant on the ABC series “Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law” (6 episodes, 1971-1973). He went on to act in a number of made for television films during the decade, including “Vanished” (1971), “The “Horror at 37,000 Feet” (1973), “Beg, Borrow, or Steal” (1973), “Aloha Means Goodbye” (1974), “Adventures of the Queen” (1975), “You Lie So Deep, My Love” (1975), “Collision Course: Truman vs. MacArthur” (1976), “Nowhere to Hide” (1977) and “The Ghost of Flight 401” (1978). He reprised his coveted role of Professor Roy Hinkley on the animated series “The New Adventures of Gilligan” (1974) and in the TV films “Rescue from Gilligan's Island” (1978) and “The Castaways on Gilligan's Island” (1979). Johnson also guest starred in such television series as “That Girl” (2 episodes, 1970), “San Francisco International Airport” (1970), “The Young Lawyers” (1971), “Marcus Welby, M.D.” (1971), “O'Hara, U.S. Treasury” (1971), “Ironside” (1972), “Gunsmoke” (1972), “Mannix” (1974), “Cannon” (2 episodes, 1974-1975), “Mobile One” (2 episodes, 1975), “McMillan & Wife” (1977), “Police Story” (1978), “The New Adventures of Wonder Woman” (1978) and “Lou Grant” (1978). In between, he acted in the feature films “The Man from Independence” (1974, starred Robert Vaughn), “Three Days of the Condor” (1975, directed by Sydney Pollack and starred Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway), “Hitch Hike to Hell” (1977, as Captain J.W. Shaw), “MacArthur” (1977, as Admiral Ernest J. King) and “The Great Skycopter Rescue” (1978, as Professor Benson).

In 1980, Johnson joined the cast of the NBC daytime soap opera “Days of Our Lives” as Harold Rankin and recreated the role of the Professor on the made for TV film “The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island” (1981). He also voiced the role on “Gilligan's Planet” (1982), the second animated spin-off of the television series. Johnson next played Mac Steel in “The Jeffersons” episodes “Death Smiles on a Dry Cleaner: Part 1 and 2” (both 1982) and Earl Thompson in two episodes of “Dynasty” (1986). He also had one episode roles in “Beyond Westworld” (1980), “Bosom Buddies” (1981), “Dallas” (1986), “MacGyver” (1986), “Fame” (1987), “Newhart” (1987), “ALF” (1987), “Knots Landing” (1987), “Mathnet” (1988), “Monsters” (1988) and “My Two Dads” (1989). His movie credits included “Off the Wall” (1983, starred Paul Sorvino), “Robotech II: The Sentinels” (1986, served as a narrator) and “Blue Movies” (1988, as Mr. Martin).

In 1991, Johnson portrayed the role of Roger Wainwright on the NBC soap opera “Santa Barbara.” The next year, he costarred with Melissa Gilbert, Matthew Lawrence, Michael Gross and John Cullum in the CBS film “With a Vengeance,” which was directed by Michael Switzer, and guest starred as Mark in “Roseanne” (1995). After playing General Cho in the video game “Hellbender” (1996), he appeared as the Professor on an episode of “Meego” titled “Mommy ''n' Meego” (1997), which marked his last acting gig to date.

In 2004, Johnson was awarded TV Land's Pop Culture Award thanks to his work on “Gilligan's Island.” Three years later, he received a TV Land nomination in the category of Greatest Gear or Admirable Apparatus for the countless things made of bamboo in “Gilligan's Island.”

“Old actors never die, they don't even fade away. They're always available.” Russell Johnson


  • TV Land: Pop Culture Award, “Gilligan's Island,” 2004

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Russell Johnson Dead: 'Gilligan's Island' Professor Dies At 89
SP_COP - January 16, 2014 -
Russell Johnson, who played the professor on "Gilligan's Island," died this morning (Jan. 16) at 89 years old.Johnson died at his home in Washington state of natural causes, his agent told The Wrap. H...
© Retna
SP_COP - January 16, 2014 -
Russell Johnson, who played Professor Roy Hinkley on the hit television show "Gilligan's Island," passed away Thursday at age 89, reports.Johnson suffered kidney failure at his Washington s...
© Retna