An actor who was a familiar presence on television in the 1960s through his role on one of the decade’s most high-profile sitcoms has died. People magazine reports that Russell Johnson, known for his role as the Professor on "Gilligan’s Island," died today at his home in Washington at 89.
His agent, Michael Eisentstadt, reported that Johnson was with his wife, Constance, and daughter Kim when he died. The actor had reportedly been in good health, and his death came quickly, according to Eisentstadt.
"I spoke to him right before the holidays and he did an autograph job," the agent said." He had just done that and he was fine."
"Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on the show, posted a picture of herself, Johnson and Bob Denver, who played Gilligan, to Facebook to express her grief," the article reports, quoting Wells writing on the site: "My 2 favorite people are now gone. The Professor [passed] away this morning. My heart is broken."
Bob Denver, who played Gilligan, died in 2005, and was preceded in death by other "Gilligan’s Island" cast members. Of the original castaways, the only other survivor besides Wells is Tina Louise, who played Ginger. "Gilligan’s Island" aired on CBS from 1964-1967.
Before landing the role on "Gilligan’s Island," Johnson had a prolific career in movies and early television, including appearances on the TV shows "Adventures of Superman," "The Lone Ranger," "Circus Boy," "Wagon Train" and "Twilight Zone." He was a regular on the Western "Black Saddle" from 1959-1960.
Film appearances for Johnson early in his career tended to be in B-Westerns and science-fiction movies, among them "Ride Clear of Diablo," "It Came From Outer Space" and Roger Corman’s "Attack of the Crab Monsters."
After "Gilligan," Johnson kept up a busy schedule of TV guest appearances into the 1990s, including roles on "Dynasty," "Newhart," "ALF" and "Knots Landing," among many other shows.