Saturday, January 18, 2014

R.I.P. Russell Johnson (The Professor).

Russell Johnson, forever known as “The Professor” on GILLIGAN’S ISLAND, passed away on January 16, 2014, at the age of 89. 

Johnson’s Professor Roy Hinkley, and the rest of the cast (-aways) of GILLIGAN’S ISLAND have achieved such iconic status that they need no further introduction. 

Oddly, Russell Johnson did not appear in the pilot for the very series he would become indelibly identified with.  The Professor there was played by an actor named John Gabriel – but Johnson's version of The Professor was added for the first broadcast episode of GILLIGAN’S ISLAND, and there he would remain. 
Beyond his “tropic island nest”, Russell Johnson was known for westerns (Four appearances on GUNSMOKE and three on WAGON TRAIN) and numerous big and small screen products of fantasy, sci-fi, and horror. 

Something of a regular presence in ‘50s Sci-Fi cinema, Johnson had a key supporting role in Jack Arnold and Universal’s ultra-classic 3D fifties-fear-fest “It Came from Outer Space” (1953). 

Jack Arnold's aliens teach The Professor a "lesson"!
He also appeared in “This Island Earth” (1955), and Jack Arnold’s “The Space Children” (1958). 

All in all, he'd probably prefer "Gilligan's Island" to "This Island (Earth)"!

March, 2014 Update:  For one additional ‘50s Sci-Fi Film role of significance, please go HERE!  

Of course, GILLIGAN’S ISLAND would reunite Russell Johnson with Jack Arnold, who directed many episodes of that series. 

Did The Professor just see a "Jack Arnold monster"? 
On TV, he was seen on such genre series as:





·         THE INVADERS

And a special mention for:

 where, in the excellent horror episode
he appears alongside William
Shatner -- with both actors on the
verge of the respective TV roles
that would eternally define
them and their careers! 
The things that lie ahead...
Rest in peace, Russell Johnson… and thank you for all the great moments -- on and off The Island!  


Anonymous said...

As is usually the case, I can't really add much, just the usual comments about how I enjoyed his work over the years. Of course, he's best known for "Gilligan's Island," but SF fans will also remember "It Came From Outer Space" and "This Island Earth." I also remember seeing him as a prosecutor in an episode of "Owen Marshall," and was impressed that he could play the antagonist as well as the sympathetic characters. I also saw him in a made-for-TV 1970's movie called "Nowhere to Hide," or maybe it was "Nowhere to Run." He played Lee Van Cleef's boss in the US Justice Department. (It was about the US Marshals doing witness protection, and it was in a documentary style, very similar to "Dragnet." It was probably a backdoor pilot; I don't know if Johnson would have been a regular cast member if it had become a series.) And, besides thanking him for the great moments on and off the island, I would also thank him for his service. Johnson was in the Air Corps during World War Two. -TC

Joe Torcivia said...

Thank you, TC, for the additional credits AND for informing us of Mr. Johnson's Air Corps service! Who says you “can’t really add much”!

Anonymous said...

Another bit of esoteric trivia: about a decade before Robert Redford, Johnson played the Sundance Kid in a western, "Badman's Country" (1958). That name-dropping "B" movie had Pat Garrett (George Montgomery), Wyatt Earp (Buster Crabbe), Bat Masterson (Gregory Walcott), and Buffalo Bill Cody (Malcolm Atterbury) teaming up to catch Butch Cassidy (Neville Brand) and his gang.

Joe Torcivia said...

Wow! This film must have truly been a look-in on one of those “Alternate Earths” that DC Comics used to have! And they probably do again in “New 52”, for all I know. Maybe even Jonah Hex and Bat Lash were there!

Russell Johnson (and not Robert Redford) was Sundance.

Neville Brand (AKA Texas Ranger “Reese Bennett” LAREDO - and not Paul Newman) was Butch.

Gene Barry was not Bat Masterson, and Hugh O’Brian was not Wyatt Earp (Let alone STAR TREK’S Ron Soble – of “Spectre of the Gun” and MY “first Earp”) – and “Flash Gordon” was!

Funny thing is, Barry would be Bat Masterson by the fall of that year (…with a still-unforgettable theme song, BTW), and O’Brian actually was Wyatt Earp at the time!

Also, in the Newman / Redford version, wasn’t it some sort of “superstar posse” that relentlessly trailed Butch and Sundance after their unfortunate and aborted train robbery? (“Who ARE these guys?”) Perhaps it WAS Pat Garrett, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and Buffalo Bill Cody! That WOULD be some posse, all right!

I’ve GOTTA see that movie someday!

Anonymous said...

In the 1969 movie, Butch and Sundance are relentlessly hounded by the super-posse, which supposedly includes a marshal named Joe Lefors and a Native American scout called Lord Baltimore. Lefors (some accounts say Leforce or Le Force) was a real person, but Baltimore was fictional. In the movie, the outlaws seem to be in awe of Lefors, but he did not have a fearsome reputation IRL. The only notable arrest he ever made was that of hired gunman Tom Horn, who did not resist arrest. (And that arrest may have been for a crime that Horn did not commit; some historians believe Horn was framed.) In fact, posses led by Lefors usually came back empty handed. And, in real life, Cassidy and Sundance easily eluded that posse after the train robbery.

Joe Torcivia said...

Joe Lefors and Lord Baltimore! That’s right! Thanks for reminding me!

The railroad probably paid less than if they had Pat Garrett, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and Buffalo Bill Cody anyway! And they rid themselves of Butch and Sundance once and for all, even with that scaled-back posse! Talk about Win-Win for the Choo-Choo Guys!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Wyatt Earp, Russell Johnson played Ronald Reagan's younger brother in "Law and Order" (1953). The movie used fictional names for the characters, but they were obviously based on the Earp brothers. -TC