When Bob Denver enrolled in Loyola Marymount College, he never dreamed of graduating as a thespian. Forced to audition by his speech teacher, Denver wound up winning the role of a nervous young sailor in the school production of The Caine Mutiny Court Martial. While Denver's was not a memorable performance, it certainly foreshadowed things to come. After graduating in the late '50s, Denver was doing odd jobs when he chanced upon an audition for a new TV series. With no professional experience, Bob Denver beat out 99 other young men for the role of Maynard G. Krebs, resident beatnik on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.
After four seasons, Dobie wrapped, and Denver made appearances in films such as For Those Who Think Young and TV shows including The Andy Griffith Show, Dr. Kildare and The Farmer's Daughter. Denver would achieve television immortality in his next role, as the Skipper's little buddy Gilligan on Gilligan's Island.
Being Gilligan became a double-sided coconut for Denver, who will forever be associated with the character. Once he left the island, Denver turned up in a number of comic roles, most of which had a resemblance to the slapstick antics of dimwitted Gilligan. His 1968 series The Good Guys attempted to put Denver in a Skipper/Gilligan relationship, as did the 1973 offering Dusty's Trail (a carbon copy of Gilligan's Island set in the Old West) and the 1975 Saturday morning show Far Out Space Nuts. Aside from guest appearances on I Dream of Jeannie, Love, American Style and Fantasy Island and a number of early '80s live theater roles, Denver's resume is largely comprised of Gilligan's Island and Dobie Gillis reunion shows. Like most of his surviving castaway castmates, Bob Denver has learned to live with his alter ego Gilligan, and embraces his fans by participating in revivals and appearing at public functions and autograph signings across the country.
While fiercely loyal, the wiry first mate to Skipper Jonas Grumby is the quintessential screwup. Gilligan means well, but is forever breaking radios, tripping over phone cables, making plates out of explosive material and passing out radioactive seeds without reading the package. If there is a way foil a plan, he will find it. More often than not, it involves falling into the lagoon.
Born in Pennsylvania, Gilligan worked at a gas station before joining the navy, where he saved the life of the captain and became his "little buddy." In gratitude, when the Skipper started his own charter business he hired Gilligan to be his first mate (despite his incompetence). Gilligan's childlike nature makes him the perfect errand boy to perform many of the menial tasks on the island, such as riding the Professor's generator bike, acting as manservant to Mr. Howell or collecting coconuts for the girls. It should be noted, some fans claim that Gilligan's first name is "Willy," though no one has been able to prove it.