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Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett reflect on MST3K's final broadcast.

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Russell Johnson, RIP

johnson Actor Russell Johnson, best remembered as the Professor from TV’s “Gilligan’s Island,” died Jan. 16, of kidney failure at his Washington State home with his wife Constance and daughter Kim by his side. He was 89.
MSTies will remember him as doomed, headstrong Dr. Steve Carlson in the movie “This Island Earth,” which was featured in MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000: THE MOVIE, and as drunken lout Joe Gamble in the movie in episode 906-THE SPACE CHILDREN.
MSTies will also recall that Johnson, along with his “This Island Earth” co-star Rex Reason, appeared in person (along with Kim Cattrall) at the 1996 ConventioCon in Minneapolis.
(One memorable moment: a question from the audience asked if the smoky tubes Cal and Ruth are placed in were actually bongs, as the riffers suggested. Reason didn’t know what that was, but Johnson did, and his attempt to explain it to Reason had the audience rolling.)
Other movies in which Johnson appeared included 1953’s “It Came From Outer Space,” 1957’s “Attack of the Crab Monsters,” 1952’s “For Men Only,” 1955’s “Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki,” 1957’s “Rock All Night,” 1977’s “Fatal Chase” and 1982’s “The Great Skycopter Rescue.” Johnson was also on the 1959 TV series “Black Saddle” (starring Peter Breck), and he did the voice of the Professor for the 1974 animated series, “The New Adventures of Gilligan.”

32 Replies to “Russell Johnson, RIP”

  1. BIG61AL says:

    This so sad. He was a much beloved actor. :star:


  2. Smoothie of Great Power says:

    Date’s incorrect. He died Jan. 16th.

    Sadly, the riff of “And his coffin will be made entirely of coconuts,” from This Island Earth takes on a whole new meaning. And I just realized that his character died in both of his MST3K appearances.

    R.I.P. Professor, you were always more than “And the rest” to us.


  3. Twiggins says:

    Actually he died today, January 16, 2014. January 23rd would be next Thursday.


  4. BIG61AL says:

    He was also a decorated WWII veteran. :flagus:


  5. Sampo says:

    Date fixed. Sorry about that.


  6. Damned sad news. RIP Professor.


  7. ck says:

    A loss, but he lived to almost 90 and apparently was able to get around
    for quite a while (making appearances at shows). So what was the other
    MST3000 appearance other than The Space Children? Seems like I should
    recall it.


  8. Invasion of the Neptune Man says:

    RIP Professor and thank you.


  9. MikeK says:

    My favorite actor on Gilligan’s Island and always a welcomed sight in any movie that he was in. R.I.P.


  10. sauron says:

    He was the best of the ‘all the rest’.


  11. Dang. He was a familiar presence in science fiction of the 50s. It Came from Outer Space, This Island Earth, Attack of the Crab Monsters. He also appeared in a couple Twilight Zone eps and an Outer Limits. He should have been given some starring roles before ending up in the typecast purgatory of Gilligan’s Island fandom.


  12. MSTie says:

    RIP, Professor. You were my favorite on the island, but I always did have a weak spot for the smart, bookish ones.


  13. JohnnyRyde says:

    FYI, Mike posted a nice tribute on his Facebook page. Unfortunately, whenever I post a link a get an “Error connecting to database” page. So maybe if I put spaces in the URL, you guys can follow the link:

    www. facebook. com/mikeatrifftrax/posts/775946912421565:0?stream_ref=1

    (Edit: Okay, that worked. Just cut-n-paste the link and remove the space before the “f” in facebook and before the “c” in com.)


  14. radioman970 says:

    I shed tears. He and the rest of the castaways are like family. Up there with the original Trek crew, and the people of Mayberry.

    RIP Professor. Your fans will all miss you. And our thoughts are with your family.

    You did your damnedest to get everybody off that miserable island…and after each time you couldn’t you helped everybody remain comfortable with whatever they needed that could be made out of a coconut. And to take up for you… everybody always asks why you didn’t just fix that little hole in the boat? I always have to say, He DID by gum! (or glue, that is) just actually watch the black & white episodes and you will see where he did. But the thing flew apart and the boards went everywhere… ! YOU try to rebuild a boat after that happens. :p


  15. VeryDisturbing says:

    This is such sad news. Oh my gosh…
    I remember him from 2-episodes of the Twilight Zone, too ( ‘Back There’ and ‘Execution’ ).
    My sincere condolences to his family and friends.

    Goodbye ‘Professor’. You were enjoyed.



  16. Kenneth Morgan says:

    Today, I was flipping through the channels and turned on MST3K-TM on Cinemax. I tuned in just in time to see him get zapped. Eerie.

    Sad news, though. And he was great at ConventioCon II.


  17. Ang says:

    Today is my birthday and I was checking the site to see who was also born this day in MSTory and I see this sad news. I grew up watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island and the Professor was one of the first guys I ever had a crush on (and still do). I just picked up the GI dvds a few weeks ago in Walmart and have been enjoying them so much. I also just happened to find Russell Johnson’s book about his life and the show at a Half Price Books last weekend and it’s a fun read. I’ve got quite a few of his sci-fi movies (including both his MST appearances) and his Twilight Zone and Big Valley shows are good too. He was a good guy and will be missed by many. Bon voyage Professor!

    P.S. Gilligan’s Island is being shown on TV Land (beginning today) and they are showing a marathon on Monday. Talk about spooky timing.


  18. Russell Johnson was also a World War 2 hero, flying 44 combat missions before his B-25 was shot down.


  19. GornCaptain says:

    @2 Mr. Johnson’s character bought the farm in tv movie “The Horror at 37,000 Feet” as well. Always wished that film had been riffed. A once in a lifetime dream cast of so many iconic tv actors, the bots heads would have imploded.

    I always liked the Professor. He was often a beacon of sanity on the island, and made being smart look cool, at least to me.

    It would be wonderful if the ConventioCon appearances were recorded in their entirety, and Shout could put them on a future DVD set.


  20. GizmonicTemp says:

    Okay, I’m gonna go on record as saying that the stinger for Space Children was THE SCARIEST I’ve seen. The way Russ just stares at the camera. The broken trumpet. The fact that his character is really dead. SHIVER!!


  21. Kali says:

    I’m sure all the obits will make the joke that the Professor could make anything for the Castaways, but he could never fix a hole in a boat. Johnson himself had the best answer to that: “If you were stuck on an island with Ginger and Mary Anne, would you want to fix the boat?”

    The Professor was our first respectable nerd – he was the only character we always respected.

    Still, I always loved the line Mike did when we first saw Russell Johnson in This Island Earth: “What’s this ‘and the rest’ crap?”

    And he spent his last years on an island outside Seattle. Even he recognized the irony.

    Farewell, Professor. You will be missed.


  22. Luther Heggs aka Number 6 says:

    He was a good man and loved by all. It’s distressing to see an icon pass away.


  23. Joe Mannix says:

    R-I-P to Russell Johnson who seemed to be a great actor cast in projects beneath him, but it didn’t matter as he and the fans seemed to have a mutual affair of love and admiration!!

    Also, R-I-P to Dave Madden!!

    With the Professor and Reuben Kincaid passing, it must be a great day to be in eternity!!!!


  24. MSTie says:

    Nice article & photos here, about “Gilligan’s Island” in general. Corny, but what the heck.


  25. itsspideyman says:

    #11 I heard an interview with Russell Johnson when he was talking about his book “Here On Gilligan’s Isle” and asked about being typecast as the Professor. He said that for several years he was bitter, but then people from everywhere would come to him and tell him how much he was loved, and others said they became scientists because of seeing him on GI. Plus, when he had grandkids, they loved to watch him on GI and thought he was soooo cool.

    Blessings to you, oh Professor, to the man who could make a toaster out of coconuts!


  26. little winged potatoes says:

    An African or a European swallow?


  27. trickymutha says:

    In your honor sir- I watched both MST-TM, and, The Space Children.


  28. swh1939 says:

    RIP Russell … and Dave Madden … and Ruth Duccini. She passed away on the same day as Russell and Dave. She was a Munchkin in “The Wizard of Oz”, passing the day before the RiffTrax for “Oz” (which ironically contains a Gilligan’s Island riff about ‘and the rest’ … weird, yeah that’s what it is … weird).


  29. Magicvoice says:

    “Hey, what’s this ‘and the rest’ crap?”


  30. 1 adam 12 says:

    “I regret nothing!” RIP Russell Johnson. You were enjoyed.

    Also, if anyone’s seen the film “Dazed & Confused”, which is set in 1976, there is a bit towards the beginning where a group of high school girls are in the bathroom and one of them starts talking negatively about Gilligan’s Island. She basically asserts that the men get two different hot women, and the women get nothing: an old man, a middle-aged fat guy, a nerdy science-type, etc. One of her friends interrupts her by saying, and I quote, “The Professor is sexy.” I always hoped Russell saw that and it gave him a little happiness.


  31. Mr. B(ob) says:

    Russell Johnson’s appearance at the second MST3K Conventio-Con was one of its biggest highlights. He was hilarious and so nice to speak with. Farewell, Mr. Johnson.


  32. RIP, Russell. GILLIGAN’S ISLAND is one of my favorite shows.

    Russell returned for three TV movies, and both cartoons, the other being GILLIGAN’S PLANET.

    He was also the narrator of the short lived series ROBOTECH II: THE SENTINELS, which was eventually edited into a film. Not many Robotech fans know it was him.


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