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January 16, 2014 3:01 PM   Subscribe

Russell Johnson, beloved of many as Professor Roy Hinkley of Gilligan's Island, has died at the age of 89. Perhaps lesser known among Johnson's achievements, he flew 44 B-25 bombadier missions as an Air Force Second Lieutenant. In March, 1945, he was shot down over the Philippines, earning a Purple Heart. By the time of his Honorable Discharge later that year, he had earned the rank of First Lieutenant, and had earned the Air Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three service stars, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one service star, and the World War II Victory Medal. In 2004, Johnson gave a 2 hour interview to the Archive of American Television, detailing his guest roles on The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, as well as the role for which he is best remembered.
posted by MissySedai (64 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:01 PM on January 16


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posted by parki at 3:03 PM on January 16


Dave Madden, aka Ruben Kinkaid also died today.
posted by Keith Talent at 3:05 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


Interesting that I didn't realize that the character had a name, he was always referred to as "The Professor".

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posted by HuronBob at 3:06 PM on January 16


Thinking about that character, he really was the prototypical 50s/60s "scientist". Master of all topics, competent engineer, etc. A role model for future geeks everywhere.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:09 PM on January 16 [7 favorites]


And then there were two.
. for the Professor
posted by rocket88 at 3:09 PM on January 16


Only Ginger and Mary Ann are left. :(
posted by jquinby at 3:10 PM on January 16


A grave injustice was corrected when the theme song was updated to "the professor and Mary Ann." He was my favorite on that show when I was a kid.

God speed, Mr. Johnson.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:12 PM on January 16 [5 favorites]


Death, the island from which no man escapes.

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posted by GuyZero at 3:12 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Not to take anything away from him, but those medals are all routine, except the Purple Heart.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:13 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Damn. I dug the Professor.

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posted by Thorzdad at 3:14 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


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On his behalf: "What's this “…and the rest” crap!?!"
posted by mosk at 3:18 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


On his behalf: "What's this “…and the rest” crap!?!"

Heh. In the latter seasons, the lyrics were changed to include an awkward "The Professor and Mary Ann." But, yeah, I always thought that was a big slight.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:24 PM on January 16


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posted by umberto at 3:25 PM on January 16


On his behalf: "What's this “…and the rest” crap!?!"

Supposedly, Bob Denver insisted that they change the song on their behalf.
posted by KingEdRa at 3:27 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


(_)

[MetaFilter obituary dot cobbled together from a coconut]
posted by New Frontier at 3:30 PM on January 16 [26 favorites]


"He was my favorite on that show when I was a kid."

Me, too. His character was a role model for me in many respects, not just for being a scientist. The Professor was almost always even-tempered and generous with the others, forgiving of their numerous foibles. He was resourceful and forward-looking.

And this wasn't just how the character was written. Russell Johnson played the character with a gentleness, a competence and intelligence that wasn't overbearing. That's why he's a beloved character.

I watched a documentary on Gilligan's Island one time and I recall a bit about Johnson finding out that he was especially a favorite of the show's gay fans, and he seemed a little puzzled by it, but pleased in a very good-natured way. It seemed quite of a piece with how he played the Professor and I thought at the time that much of what makes the Professor such an appealing character may well have come from Johnson's personality and not the writing.

Farewell, Mr. Johnson.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:30 PM on January 16 [11 favorites]


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posted by NedKoppel at 3:35 PM on January 16


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posted by misterbee at 3:37 PM on January 16


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posted by mikelieman at 3:43 PM on January 16


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posted by trip and a half at 3:48 PM on January 16


Thinking about that character, he really was the prototypical 50s/60s "scientist". Master of all topics, competent engineer, etc. A role model for future geeks everywhere.

Indeed. Some of my earliest memories were of watching that show on primetime, and marvelling at his competence and composure. My parents bought me a set of technical encyclopedias (jet engines and the like) as I was learning to read - it started off as struggling to pronounce the captions under the pictures and diagrams and ended with a degree in engineering and a career in IT with a side hobby of small engine mechanic and electronics tech.

I've been watching the re-runs on MeTV and I'm just struck with how straight up handsome he is.

A . seems much too small.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:49 PM on January 16 [4 favorites]


I've been watching the re-runs on MeTV and I'm just struck with how straight up handsome he is.

Yeah, I had a huge crush on him as a kid. Super smart AND good looking!

I still go for good looking nerds.
posted by MissySedai at 3:58 PM on January 16 [9 favorites]


Not to take anything away from him, but those medals are all routine

Routine for people who flew 44 bomber missions anyway. Don't know about you but that's something missing from my résumé.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:59 PM on January 16 [12 favorites]


The Professor was my favorite, too: smarter than the rest of the castaways (but never pushy about it); cool, calm, and always willing to do more than his share.

Smooth sailing, Mr. Russell.
posted by easily confused at 4:03 PM on January 16 [5 favorites]


"And his coffin will be made entirely of coconuts. Thank you."
posted by SansPoint at 4:05 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


Only Ginger and Mary Ann are left. :(

Worst tontine ever.
posted by ZeusHumms at 4:09 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


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posted by Gelatin at 4:17 PM on January 16


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posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 4:20 PM on January 16


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posted by cazoo at 4:21 PM on January 16


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posted by tommasz at 4:26 PM on January 16


My brother got to shepherd Mr. Johnson around a science fiction convention one time (He appeared in some great schlocky '50s movies like "Attack of the Crab Monsters"). My brother said Russell was a great guy to be around. People continually came to his table and said he was their inspiration for their current careers in science, medicine, or technology. Hearing this never failed to delight The Professor.

Everything I've read about him today just makes me like him more. I love his attitude shown in this quote:

"It used to make me upset to be typecast that way. But as the years have gone on, I have given in. I am the Professor, and that's the way it is. The show has brought a lot of joy to people, and that's not a bad legacy" -- Russell Johnson, referring to his role on Gilligan's Island (1964).
posted by marxchivist at 4:26 PM on January 16 [12 favorites]


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On his behalf: "What's this “…and the rest” crap!?!"

A line also immortalized in MST3K: The Movie. They riffed This Island Earth in which Johnson played Steve Carlson.
posted by youknowwhatpart at 4:29 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


We used to play Gilligan's Island among the neighborhood kids. I was always the Professor. He was my favorite TV character and a major role model. I agree with what others have said that the warm humanity and unassuming confidence of the character was in large part due to Russell Johnson's personality that came through.

He is why I went into academia. The first day I was in a college chemistry lecture and one of my students called me "Professor", it was as if the heavens opened up and a golden beam of pure, radiant bliss shone on me. If life is about following your bliss, I had finally found mine.

Rest in Peace, Professor.
posted by darkstar at 4:34 PM on January 16 [12 favorites]


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posted by BlahLaLa at 4:42 PM on January 16


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For a show which was pretty much aiming for cartoon stereotypes, it would've been so easy for them to have gone with a Jerry Lewis type. So glad they didn't. He was one of my formative nerds.
posted by condour75 at 5:02 PM on January 16


Perfect quote.
posted by saber_taylor at 5:03 PM on January 16


The Professor was one of my early heroes. He made due with what he had, built what needed building, and, with the exception of the boat, he could fix anything. Plus, you just know he and Maryann were doin' it.

RIP, Mr. Johnson/Hinkley.
posted by bondcliff at 5:06 PM on January 16


A friend reposted Dawn Wells' comments on fb: "Russell was a true gentleman, a good father, a great friend, and "the rest". I love him and shall miss him."

Thanks for the memories, Professor.
posted by headnsouth at 5:11 PM on January 16 [4 favorites]


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I borrowed his book, Here on Gilligan's Isle, from our local library some years back and enjoyed it. He apparently got a real kick out of the number of people who he met who said they went on to study science or engineering because of watching his character on Gilligan's Island.
posted by fings at 5:25 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Here's that Gilligans's Island Documentary

Another fan.
posted by readery at 5:53 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


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posted by Kangaroo at 6:07 PM on January 16


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posted by Cash4Lead at 6:09 PM on January 16


. . . ime after time after time, there's no such thing as zombies . . . by the way how did I get wet?


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posted by Herodios at 6:25 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


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posted by allthinky at 6:27 PM on January 16


For a show which was pretty much aiming for cartoon stereotypes . . .

Not stereotypes: archetypes.

My brother got to shepherd Mr. Johnson around a science fiction convention one time (He appeared in some great schlocky '50s movies like "Attack of the Crab Monsters").

Well, no he was probably there because he was in It Came from Outer Space, This Island Earth, and both The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.

Both of the Zone eps were pretty good ones.
 
posted by Herodios at 6:28 PM on January 16


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posted by Faint of Butt at 6:30 PM on January 16


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posted by Smart Dalek at 6:45 PM on January 16


When I was a kid I watched all of these re-runs. I was young enough that the first time I heard the question of did I like Mary Ann or Ginger I had no idea what they were talking about. My weirdest Gilligan's Island moment was viewing Robin Hood and Alan Hale Senior is friggin' Little John. Until the internet arrived and there was this infinite well of trivia at my fingertips and I learned that it was actually the Captain's father who in the resolution of small black and white screens was a dead ringer for his son.
posted by bukvich at 6:50 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Only Ginger and Mary Ann are left. :(

Eventually we will get God's response to the famous question.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:05 PM on January 16 [5 favorites]


Dawn Wells is on Facebook and her posts are public. Looks like she was close to Johnson and to Denver.
posted by vacapinta at 7:14 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


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posted by Renoroc at 7:36 PM on January 16


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posted by evilDoug at 7:38 PM on January 16


One reason I never bought that concept that the characters represented the Seven Deadly Sins is that Pride never really fit the professor. Competence and rationality aren't sins, after all.
posted by stargell at 8:26 PM on January 16


HuronBob: "Interesting that I didn't realize that the character had a name, he was always referred to as "The Professor"."

The Skipper (Jonas Grumby) was the same way.

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posted by Chrysostom at 9:13 PM on January 16


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posted by wrapper at 10:39 PM on January 16


When I was a kid I didn't have a lot of strict or consistent supervision re: age-appropriate television programming so I ended up with a lot of random assumptions about old show canon cobbled together from sometimes very unrelated things, the oddest of which was that for many years I insisted that the Professor and Gilligan had been kept in solitary confinement by the other castaways and were forced to eat insects and later escaped the island on a raft made of coconuts.

I didn't see Papillon again until I was in college and so much suddenly became clear.
posted by elizardbits at 11:19 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


The Skipper (Jonas Grumby) was the same way.

And nobody called Gilligan "Willy" - though Jonas Grumby and Roy Hinkley were both named in the pilot episode.

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Rest in peace, Professor.
posted by crossoverman at 2:51 AM on January 17


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posted by Mezentian at 4:27 AM on January 17


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posted by Sheppagus at 9:15 AM on January 17


Let's not forget he was also a tireless fundraiser for AIDS research.

Also, The Professor was the correct answer to "Ginger or Mary Ann?" from my point of view.

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posted by sonascope at 3:10 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


He's climbing that great Stairway to Gilligan's Island in the sky...
posted by dragonsi55 at 3:29 PM on January 17


. (sniff)
What? No, just something in my eye. Gotta go, hubby is singing the theme song in memorium.
posted by Gadgetenvy at 11:08 AM on January 18


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posted by Mitheral at 5:37 PM on January 18


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