Actor Bob Denver dies at 70

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Actor Bob Denver, best known for his roles as "Gilligan" on Gilligan's Island (1964-1967) and "Maynard G. Krebs" on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959-1963), died Friday at the age of 70.

Denver gained popularity on Dobie Gillis, playing the title character's best friend, a beatnik. The show, which ran for four years, was Denver's first major acting role. It is said that the popular cartoon Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! was based on the show, and Denver's role of Krebs was the inspiration for the character "Shaggy".

Denver's real fame, however, came with the role of "Gilligan", a kind but naive and incompetent bumbler stuck on an island with six other castaways. Nearly every episode involved a plot to get off the island; however, Gilligan always ended up causing the plot to fail, in one way or another. The show, which ran for three years, gained popularity through perpetual reruns. "It was the mid-'70s when I realized it wasn't going off the air," Denver said in 2001.

After the cancellation of Gilligan's Island, Bob Denver starred in Dusty's Trail, a clone of Gilligan's Island, set in a wagon train in the old American West. It was also created by Sherwood Schwartz, the creator of Gilligan's Island and other sitcoms like The Brady Bunch. Dusty's Trail featured a one-to-one match with Gilligan's Island characters (Gilligan became Dusty, while the actress, Ginger, became the dance hall girl, and the farm girl, Maryanne, became the school marm, and the rich Howells became a rich rail baron and wife, etc.). Bob Denver was the only actor in common. The show never caught on and was quickly canceled.

In May, Denver underwent quadruple bypass surgery, and was subsequently diagnosed with cancer. He died of complications from his cancer treatment at Wake Forest University Baptist Hospital in North Carolina.

Denver is survived by his wife and four children.