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Poor Maynard Crebbs! Not Smart Enough to Play Gilligan?


What brilliant acting would it take to give the role an appropriate mixture of pathos and depth? Could Sir Lawrence Olivier even manage the task, requiring a poignancy even Shakespeare couldn’t evoke? Could Selznick even hope to design the scenes on a scale worthy of such a deep philosophical script? And while we’re at it, whatever happened to Mary Ann and the Skipper?

As it turns out, Maynard Crebbs, a/k/a Bob Denver nearly didn’t get to be the lovable, bumbling icon for one of the most popular, and in my Dad’s often stated opinion stupidest sitcom ever to infect the airways. It appears that the powers that be thought that Denver’s playing the role of the beatnik, Maynard Crebbs in an earlier sitcom, “The Many Loves of Doby Gillis”, ill-equipped him to star as GILLIGAN, for whom a deserted tropical island in someone’s Hawaiian backyard also was named.

The role was first offered to Jerry Van Dyke, who refused the offer, preferring to expend his considerable talent on such challenging material has appeared in “My Mother The Car Who Dropped Me On My Head!”

Sooo anyway, Sherwood Schwartz, the guy who should have been indicted for writing “Gilligan’s Island” in the first place got off on a technicality and decided to “do lunch” with Denver. Apparently, Schwartz was surprised that Denver didn’t require a handler to keep him from swinging on the chandeliers , and that his knowledge of Keats, Shakespeare, and Yates not only qualified him to teach high school before he took on the demanding and subtle Crebbs role but might also qualify him to take on the challenging and sensitive poet’s persona that Gilligan was meant to evoke.

Fortunately, Denver did know his “A, B, Cs” and didn’t throw his food against the walls or drink out of the catsup bottle during his interview with Schwartz. The rest, as you fellow Baby Boomers know, is television history.

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