Last Updated: February 5, 2024
Richest CelebritiesActors
Net Worth:
$50 Thousand
Oct 18, 1938 - Dec 30, 2020 (82 years old)
5 ft 4 in (1.63 m)
Actor, Entrepreneur
United States of America
💰 Compare Dawn Wells' Net Worth

What was Dawn Wells' Net Worth?

Dawn Wells was an American actress who had a net worth of $50 thousand at the time of her death in December 2020. Dawn Wells was best-known for playing the role of Mary Ann on "Gilligan's Island", a role that became iconic. She began her professional on-camera career appearing in guest starring roles on such television shows as, "77 Sunset Strip", "Maverick", "Bonanza", and "The Cheyenne Show". She also appeared in small roles in the films "Palm Springs Weekend", and "The New Interns". In 1964, Dawn was cast in the role that would make her a star, as Mary Ann on "Gilligan's Island". She went on to play the role for the duration of the show's run, and then reprised it in multiple "Gilligan's Island" specials. She then enjoyed a prolific and enduring theater career. Dawn died on December 30, 2020 at the age of 82. She reportedly died from COVID-19.

Financial Problems

In September 2018, it was revealed that one of Dawn's friends launched a GoFundMe page to help the former star raise $200,000 to pay an unexpected hospitalization. Dawn reportedly suffered from an accident that broke her knee and may have required two months of hospitalization. Dawn had apparently been dealing with financial problems since the 2008 recession and was seeking "$194,000 to alleviate penalties by the IRS (which are compounded daily) and to pay her hospital costs." She was living in an assisted living facility and already lost her home due to her debts.

Gilligan's Island Salary & Royalties

Dawn Wells and her cast-mates were paid a salary of $750 per week while working on the show. That's the same as making around $7,300 per week in today's dollars. Assuming each season required 40 weeks (there were 36 episodes in season one, 32 in season two and 30 in season three), that would have worked out to an annual income of $30,000. That's the same as making around $300,000 in today's dollars.

Contrary to popular belief, Dawn Wells and her cast-mates did not receive any significant income in the form of residuals. As Dawn explained to a reporter in 2014:

"A misconception is that we must be wealthy, rolling in the dough, because we got residuals. We didn't really get a dime… Sherwood Schwartz, our producer, reportedly made $90 million on the reruns alone."

Early Life

Wells was born on October 18, 1938 in Reno, Nevada to parents Evelyn and Joe Wesley Wells. Her father owned a local Reno construction company called Wells Cargo. Wells attended Reno High School and, after graduating, attended Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. While there, she majored in chemistry before deciding to transfer to the University of Washington in Seattle. She joined the Alpha Chi Omega sorority while a student and graduated with a degree in theater arts and design in 1960.

Early Success

Dawn Wells first brush in the spotlight came in 1959 when she was crowned Miss Nevada. She represented her state in the Miss America 1960 pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey. She then moved to Hollywood and started landing small roles in films and television shows throughout the early to mid-1960s. In 1961, she appeared in "Wagon Train," "The Everglades," "The Cheyenne Show," "Maverick," "77 Sunset Strip," and "Tales of Wells Fargo." In 1962, she appeared in "Hawaiian Eye," "Bonanza," "It's a Man's World," and "Lawman." The following year, she appeared in "Palm Springs Weekend," "Ripcord," and "Laramie."

Gilligan's Island

In 1964, Wells caught her big break when she was cast in Sherwood Schwartz's "Gilligan's Island" as character Mary Ann. The show premiered on CBS in September of 1964. The series followed the adventures of seven castaways as they tried to survive a shipwreck on an island. The series ran for 98 total episodes. All 36 episodes of the first season were filmed in black and white and were later colorized for syndication. During its time on air, the show received generally positive reviews until the third season ended in 1967. The show then grew in popularity among audiences after syndication. Wells' character was particularly popular among male audiences, along with the other young female character, Ginger. A popular debate at the time among men was over whether they preferred Mary Ann or Ginger, as Mary Ann was considered to be quite wholesome in comparison to the more saucy and seductive Ginger.

After "Gilligan's Island" ended, Wells reprised her role for a number of reunion movies: "Rescue from Gilligan's Island," "The Castaways on Gilligan's Island," and "The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island." She also voiced her character in the reunion cartoon spin-off, "Gilligan's Planet."

Wells' career was very much defined by her role in "Gilligan's Island," even years later. In 1992, she reprised her character in an episode of "Baywatch." The following year, in 1993, she published "Mary Ann's Gilligan's Island Cookbook" along with co-writers Ken Beck and Jim Clark, with a foreword by Bob Denver, who had played the leading role in "Gilligan's Island." In 1997, she starred as Mary Ann in a music video for the song "Mary Ann" by the pop-punk band Squirtgun. The song is about the singer's infatuation with Mary Ann and her wholesomeness. The video reached the top 40 of MTV's Alternative Music charts. In 2004, she consigned her original gingham blouse and shorts that she had worn as Mary Ann. The outfit sold for over $20,000. In 2014, she released a book called "What Would Mary Ann Do? A Guide to Life." She co-wrote the book with Steven Stinson and it was released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of "Gilligan's Island."

Dawn Wells net worth

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Outside of Gilligan's Island

While "Gilligan's Island" did dominate Wells' career, she also had roles in a few other films and shows after it was over. In 1975, she appeared in the film "Winterhawk." She later appeared in other films like "The Town That Dreaded Sundown," "Return to Boggy Creek," "Soulmates," "Forever for Now," and "Super Sucker." She also appeared in the 2012 comedy horror film "Silent but Deadly."

Wells' focused much of her attention after "Gilligan's Island" concluded on developing a theater career. As of July 2009, she had appeared in nearly 100 theatrical productions. She spent the majority of the 1970s and 1980s touring in shows, notably the second national tour of Neil Simon's "Chapter Two" in the role of Jennie Malone. She also appeared in the second national tour of "They're Playing Our Song" in the role of Sonia Walsk. In 1985, she had a one-woman show at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Personal Life and Death

In October of 1962, Wells married Larry Rosen, a talent agent. The couple did not have any children together and decided to divorce in 1967. She never remarried.

Wells devoted much of her time to charitable work. She operated an organization called Wishing Wells Collections, which made clothing for people for limited mobility. She was also the founder of the Idaho Film and Television Institute, a non-profit educational organization that aimed to improve education, economic development, and technical training in Idaho. She also supported the Denver Foundation, a West Virginia charity chaired by Dreama Denver, the widow of Wells' former co-star, Bob Denver.

She had a few health issues as she got older. In 2018, she suffered from a fall and a GoFundMe page was set up to help her cope with the expense of her medical bills. In June of 2020, Wells' manager revealed that she was suffering from dementia. On December 30, 2020, Wells died from COVID-19-related causes in Los Angeles.

Dawn Wells Career Earnings

  • Rescue from Gilligan's Island
    $60 Thousand
  • Gilligan's Island
    $1.6 Thousand/week
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