Life on an island isn’t easy, but neither is making a television show. If one actor can’t make a particular shot then it can shut down an entire production. Some actors are famous for using this as a powertrip. But then there’s Alan Hale Jr.
Hale played The Skipper on Gilligan’s Island and he was famous amongst the cast and crew to weather any problem to get his scenes films. Bob Denver, who played his little buddy Gilligan recalls a time when Hale fell from a tree while filming a scene and landed awkwardly on his arm. Despite being in obvious pain, Hale leaped up and did it again. And again, Denver recalled.
The very next scene they shot was Hale — with a broken arm — carrying a load of coconuts and Gilligan.
No one on the cast or crew realized that Hale was seriously injured, and he never let on that he was in pain. In fact, no one would even find out for weeks. The show’s creator Sherwood Schwartz recalled the first time he learned about the injury in the book Inside Gilligan’s Island.
Schwartz noticed Hale’s arm was swollen and discolored at a wrap party weeks later. He asked Hale what was wrong, and The Skipper nonchalantly said “Oh, I broke it a few weeks ago.” Schwartz was dumbfounded. “How’d you carry on filming?” he asked.
“It wasn’t easy,” Hale laughed.
There is an episode in the first season where a breakaway bamboo ladder malfunctioned and cut a deep gash into Hale’s ear. He had the medical staff bandage it up and got the costume department to find a way to incorporate the bandage into his costume so he could hide it from the camera. This was all in an effort so the crew wouldn’t need to shut down until he healed.
The Show Almost Didn’t Cast Bob Denver as Gilligan
Gilligan’s Island creator Sherwood Schwartz was struggling to cast the role of Gilligan. He had a few options, but the one he didn’t want was Bob Denver. He felt Denver had too many fans from previous shows and couldn’t play “second banana.”
Denver was beloved for his role of Maynard G. Krebs on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Schwartz didn’t want Gilligan to outshine the rest of the cast.
“From time to time, a co-star, a ‘second banana,’ actually becomes more important on a series than the actual star of the show,” he wrote in Inside Gilligan’s Island. “This happened with the Fonz on Happy Days, with Mr. Spock on Star Trek, and with Bob Denver on Dobie Gillis. Audience research and fan mail clearly indicated there were thousands of Bob Denver fans.”
But Denver really wanted the role of Gilligan, and he got his talent agent to set up some meetings with Schwartz. Those went well, and Schwartz realized Denver was perfect for the role. Judging by the show’s success, he made the right call.