Russell Johnson was an actor best known as “The Professor” on the CBS television sitcom Gilligan’s Island. He was one of three remaining cast members from that series, the last surviving male. In his early days, he became a close friend of Audie Murphy and later appeared with him in three of his films, Column South and Tumbleweed in 1953 and Ride Clear of Diablo in 1954. Johnson’s Hollywood career began in 1952, with the college fraternity hazing exposé For Men Only, and with Loan Shark, also released in 1952 and starring George Raft. His early roles were primarily in westerns and science fiction such as It Came from Outer Space (1953), This Island Earth (1955), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1956), and The Space Children (1958). In the late 50s he guest starred on the NBC western series, The Californians. He was best known for playing Professor Roy Hinkley referred to as “The Professor”), the very knowledgeable polymath who could build all sorts of inventions out of the most rudimentary materials available on Gilligan’s Island, but, as Johnson himself pointed out, could not fix the hole in the boat. The show aired from 1964 to 1967, but has been shown in reruns continuously ever since. After Gilligan’s Island he appeared in several dramatic series and also uncredited in the Robert Redford spy thriller Three Days of the Condor (1975), and on the soap opera Santa Barbara. An episode of CBS’s sitcom Newhart featured the Beavers (a men’s organization) watching a Gilligan’s Island episode on television. When they are suddenly evicted from the room, one of them, portrayed by Johnson, protests, “I want to see how it ends!” He is assured that the castaways never get off the island. Johnson was 89.
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