You may have noticed a bit of dust as construction on the new Lagoon Production Support Building is well underway. This building, containing three floors of production support space and two floors of parking, will be named for the shallow, oval shaped lagoon originally built on that site in 1952 for the Republic Pictures film Fair Wind to Java. The film, starring Fred MacMurray and Vera Ralston (wife of Herbert Yates, President of Republic Pictures), recreated the eruption in Indonesia of the volcano Krakatau in 1883, with notable miniatures created by legendary special effects guys the Lydecker brothers.
But of course the most notable use of the lagoon was as the outdoor setting of Gilligan’s Island from 1964-1967. Sherwood Schwartz, the creator, attributed the idea for the show to a public speaking class at Yale, where he had to give a one-minute speech about the one item he would like to have if he was stranded on a desert island. Initially they tried shooting the show in Malibu, but fog caused too much downtime. So the lagoon was refurbished and voilá. The show usually spent half of every day shooting at the lagoon, with occasional breaks for noise from the 101 Freeway. The waterfall was just a spigot turned on and off at the top of the hill. During the winter months, the lagoon hovered around 40°, so Bob Denver had to wear a wet suit under his clothes.
Most of the cast did not particularly like having to go in the lagoon and it was rumored around the lot that when they would occasionally drain the lagoon, bicycles and bodies were found at the bottom. Bicycles true, bodies only myth.
Gilligan’s island cast at the lagoon
New Construction of the CBS Lagoon Building
The lagoon is far left just below the cliffs in this 1955 photo of Republic Studios
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW!
Sure you all know the tour was only supposed to be three hours, and you probably know that MaryAnn was a farm girl from Kansas, and if you’re really a fan you might even know that The Skipper’s real name was Jonas Grumby. Well, I’ve gone deep into the dark internet (ok, not really, just Googled some stuff) and found some really fun facts that you might not know about everyone’s favorite group of coconut loving castaways.
The ship, The S.S. Minnow, was actually named after FCC Commissioner Newton Minow who was responsible for the famous dubbing of TV as “a vast wasteland.” Show creator Sherwood Schwartz obviously wasn’t a big fan of Commissioner Minow or his opinions.
Some pretty famous people were in the running for the castaways:
• Carroll “Archie Bunker” O’Connor was up for the part of (can you guess?)… The Skipper.
• Dick’s little brother, Jerry Van Dyke was Schwartz’ first choice to play Gilligan. Jerry passed on the role, thinking the show would never catch on, and instead went on to the TV classic My Mother The Car, which was canceled after one season.
• We nearly got Raquel Welch as Mary Ann. I’m wondering what the BFF dynamic would have been if Raquel had to try to be the plain Jane to Tina Louise’s Ginger.
• Speaking of that dynamic, Jayne Mansfield actually turned down the role of Ginger. Jayne and Raquel stranded on a deserted island with three single guys. The Professor probably would have put even less effort into getting them saved. (Really? A coconut radio, no problem, but a rescue beacon is simply out of your wheelhouse?).
• And finally, speaking of The Professor, Dabney Coleman lost out on the job to Russell Johnson. Dabney went on to co-star in dozens of hit movies over the decades, while it seems like Russell co-starred in at least 43 Gilligan’s Island movie sequels.
If you watch the opening shot of the titles closely, you’ll notice that as the Minnow leaves port in Hawaii, there are several flags flying at half-mast behind it. That’s because this shot was filmed on the day of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
According to Sherwood Schwartz, Gilligan’s first name was Willy.
And just to make you love everyone’s favorite Little Buddy a little more, Bob Denver was the one who, um, ‘convinced’ studio execs to re-score the theme song and add the lyrics “the Professor and Mary Ann” to the end in the second season by threatening to disallow the use of his name in the titles if they didn’t. You go, Gilligan!!