Bob Denver

Active - 1959 - 2004  |   Born - Jan 9, 1935 in New Rochelle, New York, United States  |   Died - Sep 2, 2005   |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Before becoming a comic actor, Bob Denver had previously worked as an athletic coach and history and math teacher at Corpus Christi Children's School of Pacific Palisades, CA. The puckish Denver first gained popularity when, at age 24, he played half-baked hipster Maynard G. Krebs on TV's The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Before the first season was over, after completing only four episodes, "Maynard" would leave Dobie Gillis when he was drafted into the Army. This contingency was written into the Gillis series by having Maynard answer Uncle Sam's call to arms, and then by having Maynard return to the show after Denver was classified 4-F due to a neck injury. When Dobie Gillis was canceled in 1963, Denver let it be known that he was available for non-beatnik parts, only to be immediately cast as a young bongo-playing bohemian in the theatrical feature Take Her, She's Mine. The following year, Denver was finally able to shake the Maynard image when Jerry Van Dyke turned down the opportunity to play the lead in the simplistic sitcom Gilligan's Island. Denver stepped into the role of eternally bumbling castaway Gilligan, making it firmly and uniquely his own for the next three years.

Denver's first post-Gilligan's Island project was the unsuccessful Phyllis Diller film vehicle Did You Hear the One About the Traveling Saleslady? (1968). In 1968, he was back to the weekly sitcom fold as cabdriver Rufus Butterworth, best pal and business partner of restaurateur Bert Gamus (Herb Edelman), on The Good Guys. This show ended after two seasons, whereupon Denver scored a personal and professional triumph as Woody Allen's replacement in the long-running Broadway comedy Play It Again, Sam. With Gilligan's Island attaining cult status in the early '70s, it was only natural that Denver cash in on the phenomenon, first as star of the Gilligan-like syndicated sitcom Dusty's Trail (1974), then as cohort to Chuck McCann on another "castaway comedy," the 1975 Saturday-morning kiddie show Far out Space Nuts. He also provided the voice to his animated likeness on a brace of cartoon series, The New Adventures of Gilligan (1974-1976) and Gilligan's Planet (1980), and reprised Gilligan in the flesh in a trio of made-for-TV features based on the original series. He also revived Maynard G. Krebs, older but no wiser, in a pair of abortive Dobie Gillis revival pilots.

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  • Before breaking into acting, worked as a cashier in a grocery store across from Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, as a mailman for the U.S. Postal Service and as a high-school gym teacher.
  • Originally aspired to become an attorney.
  • Breakout role came in 1959, when he joined the cast of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis as Maynard G. Krebs.
  • Drafted in 1959, just after he started work on Dobie Gillis; the Army didn't accept him due to a neck injury sustained in a car accident years earlier.
  • Landed iconic role of Gilligan on Gilligan's Island in 1964, playing "little buddy" to Alan Hale Jr.'s Skipper. 
  • Replaced Woody Allen in the lead role in his 1970 Broadway play, Play It Again, Sam
  • Penned a memoir in 1993, Gilligan, Maynard & Me.
  • Along with wife Dreama, hosted a radio show called Weekend With Denver and Denver.