Biography

Having served as a bombardier in World War II, Russell Johnson used the GI Bill to finance his studies at the Actor's Lab. Between performing assignments, Johnson supported himself by driving a cab and working the assembly line at a ballpoint pen factory. His first movie break (indeed, his first movie) was in director Paul Henreid's For Men Only (1952), an exposé of barbaric college-fraternity initiation ceremonies; Johnson was suitably loathsome as the sadistic frat leader who is exposed as a snivelling coward in the climax. The balance of the 1950s found Johnson appearing in several fondly remembered science fiction efforts like It Came From Outer Space (1953), This Island Earth (1955), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1956) and The Space Children (1958). He carried over this relationship with the Unreal into his classic performance as an anguished time-traveller desperately attempting to prevent Lincoln's assassination in the 1961 Twilight Zone installment Back There. In 1964, Russell Johnson took his first steps into TV sitcom immortality when he assumed the role of "The Professor" (aka Roy Hinkley) in Gilligan's Island, a role that he'd continued to essay on and off for the next two decades in Gilligan cartoons and TV-movie spin-offs. Johnson worked in television through the 1980s and early '90s before retiring from acting; he died in 2014 at age 89. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi