Natalie Schafer (Lovey Howell) in her earlier days as an actress in the film Dishonored Lady
Image: Screen shot, public domain
Gilligan's Island is a television wonder that has seldom been off the air since its first run from 1964-1967. The celebrated sitcom has been paid lots of attention over its years of airing and syndication, with numerous books and articles making it the focus. Our own John Farrier wrote a factoid list about Gilligan's Island in February of last year that was quite well received; now Mental Floss has released a new list that is a good companion to John's in that it has very little duplication of information.
One point of interest from the new list has to do with Natalie Schafer, who played the millionaire's wife Lovey Howell. The item reads as follows:
6. THE MILLIONAIRE’S WIFE REALLY WAS A MILLIONAIRE.
Natalie Schafer, who played Mrs. Lovey Howell—and allegedly only accepted the invitation to play Mrs. Howell because it meant a free trip to Hawaii to film the pilot—was a real-life millionaire. During her marriage to actor Louis Calhern, the couple had invested heavily in Beverly Hills real estate at a time when a house on Rodeo Drive could be purchased for $50,000.
When she died in 1991, Schafer bequeathed a large chunk of her fortune to her favorite teacup poodle (she had no children), with instructions for that money to be donated to the Motion Picture and Television Hospital after the pooch’s passing. Said hospital now has a "Natalie Schafer Wing." Rumor has it that Schafer also left a tidy sum to Gilligan’s Island co-star Dawn Wells (Mary Ann), who lived with and helped care for Natalie as she battled breast cancer.
Read other facts about Gilligan's Island, including a fascinating bit about Schafer and stunt work on the series, in this article.