Russell Johnson, 89, best known as “The Professor” on Gilligan’s Island, died January 16.
While by no means excluding his role on Gilligan’s Island from sf/fantasy, his credits also included numerous traditional genre productions – Ray Bradbury’s It Came From Outer Space (1953), two episodes of Twilight Zone (“Back There” and “Execution”), and the Outer Limits episode “Specimen: Unknown.”
He also played a nuclear physicist in This Island Earth (1955). And after that film was reprised as the movie-within-the-movie in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (1996), Johnson was brought to the 1996 MST3K ConventioCon Expo Fest-a-Rama 2: Electric Bugaloo where he proved to have a surprisingly faannish sense of humor. When asked about Gilligan’s Island by someone in the MST3K convention audience he told this anecdote —
I was at a speaking engagement for MIT … and I said … the Professor has all sorts of degrees, including one from this very institution [MIT]! And that’s why I can make a radio out of a coconut, and not fix a hole in a boat!
[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]