Before the Lone Ranger, Coop, Duke, the Cartwrights and the Barkleys, the heroes to many a future Western fan growing up in the 1960s were Herman Munster and Gilligan. Bob Denver who immortalized the role of the latter, had a tremendous appeal to youngsters with his innocent, unassuming demeanor and clumsy display as the oft down-trodden sailor and sidekick to Alan Hale, Jr.’s skipper.
A talented comedian and actor, Denver had kids rapped around his finger, on screen and off. While attending Loyola-Marymount University in Los Angeles where he was bitten by the acting bug, Denver worked as a children’s basketball coach. Later, he landed a role as television’s Dobie Gillis that grabbed the attention of youths and teenagers everywhere. But when he subsequently set sail for a three-hour tour that translated into three seasons of the ever-popular Gilligan’s Island, he had us locked in for good. Had it not been for the head honcho at CBS who was mad about another show called Gunsmoke, who knows how long the seven castaways might have remained stranded?
It should be noted that Denver enjoyed a role in 1963’s Take Her, She’s Mine, singing and playing the guitar (and badly) to the bafflement of rolling-eyed Western stalwart James Stewart.
Denver had a Western series of his own—also a comedy—Dusty’s Trail (1973-1974). Denver teamed with Western veteran Forrest Tucker and led a wagon train through 26 episodes, with segments of this sadly short-lived show getting pieced together and released three years later as a film called The Wackiest Wagon Train in the West.
Bob Denver epitomizes the word “icon.” He will be sorely missed. He is survived by his lovely wife Dreama and four children.