Thursday, January 16, 2014

R.I.P. Russell Johnson

   Growing up I had a handful of heroes from television. Robert Armstrong/Carl Denham in the original KING KONG (1933), Jack Webb, Robert Vaughn, Hugh Beaumont, and Russell Johnson. When I was shaping myself into a man, those five were my major role models. When I wasn't wearing a suit, my mode of dress for several years consisted of tan slacks and a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up just to my elbows. This was a conscious copying of Russell Johnson's most famous and beloved character, Professor Roy Hinkley on the timeless teleseries Gilligan's Island.

   Mr. Johnson is dead at 89.

   Although he had a long career as a character actor, it remains fact that the Professor is the role he'll always be remembered for. And for good reason, he played the part so perfectly! It was his character's encyclopedic well of knowledge that always impressed me, and I tried to learn a little bit about everything so I could so I too could sound so intelligent. I never came close!

   Johnson would play "the Professor" for three seasons, and go on to revive the character in two animated spin-offs, The New Adventures of Gilligan and Gilligan's Planet, as well as three feature films (RESCUE FROM GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, THE CASTAWAYS ON GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, and THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS ON GILLIGAN'S ISLAND). He would also join fellow returning cast members to play the part again on a particularly well-loved episode of ALF.

   Of course, Mr. Johnson acted in so many other things! The character actor did a fair number of westerns and lots of television work. Genre fans, meanwhile, remember him for such well-loved 50's science fiction epics as IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, THIS ISLAND EARTH, THE SPACE CHILDREN, and ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS

   Goodbye and God bless, Russ. Rest In Peace. 

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