Tina Louise (born February 11, 1934) is an American actress, singer, and author. She is best known for her role as the "movie star" Ginger Grant on the television situation comedy Gilligan's Island (1964-1967). Tina Blacker was born in New York City. She was raised by her mother, Betty Horn Myers (1916-2011), a fashion model. Her father, Joseph Blacker, was an accountant. The name "Louise" was supposedly added during her senior year in high school when she mentioned to her drama teacher that she was the only girl in the class without a middle name. He immediately picked the name "Louise" and it stuck. She attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. At the age of 17, Louise began studying acting, singing and dancing. During her early acting years, she was offered modeling jobs and appeared on the cover of several pinup magazines such as Adam, Sir! and Modern Man. Her later pictorials for Playboy (May 1958, April 1959) were arranged by Columbia Pictures studio in an effort to further promote the young actress. Her acting debut came in 1952 in the Bette Davis musical revue Two's Company, followed by roles in other Broadway productions, such as John Murray Anderson's Almanac, The Fifth Season, and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? She also appeared in such early live television dramas as Studio One, Producers' Showcase, and Appointment with Adventure.
In 1957, she and Julie Newmar appeared on Broadway in the hit musical Li'l Abner. Her album It's Time for Tina was also released that year, with songs such as "Embraceable You" and "I'm in the Mood for Love". Louise made her Hollywood film debut in 1958 in God's Little Acre. That same year the National Art Council named her the "World's Most Beautiful Red Head." She became an in-demand leading lady for major stars like Robert Taylor, Richard Widmark and Robert Ryan, often playing somber roles quite unlike the glamorous pinup photographs and Playboy pictorials she had become famous for in the late 1950s. She turned down roles in Li'l Abner and Operation Petticoat taking roles on Broadway and in Italian cinema and Hollywood. Among her more notable Italian film credits was the historical epic Garibaldi (1960), directed by Roberto Rossellini, that concerned Garibaldi's efforts to unify the Italian states in 1860. When Louise returned to the United States, she began studying with Lee Strasberg and eventually became a member of the Actors Studio. She appeared in the 1964 beach party film For Those Who Think Young, with Bob Denver, prior to the development of Gilligan's Island.
In 1964, she left the Broadway musical Fade Out – Fade In to portray movie star Ginger Grant on the situation comedy Gilligan's Island, after the part was turned down by Jayne Mansfield. However, she was unhappy with the role and worried that it would typecast her. The role did make Louise a pop icon of the era, and in 2005 an episode of TV Land Top Ten ranked her as second only to Heather Locklear as the greatest of television's all-time sex symbols.
After the series ended in 1967, Louise continued to work in film and made numerous guest appearances in various television series. She appeared in the Matt Helm spy spoof The Wrecking Crew (1969) with Dean Martin. Louise played a doomed suburban housewife in the original The Stepford Wives (1975), and both the film and her performance were well received.
She attempted to shed her comedic image by essaying grittier roles, including a guest appearance as a pathetic heroin addict in a 1974 Kojak episode, as well as a co-starring role as an evil Southern prison guard in the 1976 ABC TV Movie Nightmare in Badham County. Her other television films of the period included Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby (1976), SST: Death Flight (1977), Friendships, Secrets and Lies (1979), and in the prime-time soap opera Dallas, during the 1978-79 seasons. as J.R.'s secretary, Julie Gray, a semi-regular character.
The question "Ginger or Mary Ann?" is regarded to be a classic pop-psychological question when given to American men of a certain age as an insight into their characters, or at least their desires as regarding certain female stereotypes.