The usual story is that Tina Louise had it in her contract that no one be billed after her in the opening. The two prime positions were first (the lead) and last (the featured star, too significant to be lost in the list.) Louise’s billing is offset by the words ‘And also starring.’ Jim Backus gets ‘Also starring’ without the ‘and,’ suggesting that he is equal to Bob Denver (billed as ‘Starring’) and Alan Hale, yet lesser than Louise.
The parts of the Professor and Mary Ann were in flux- with the actors being cast late in the process- and relegated to end theme status. Bob Denver reportedly threatened to have his name moved to the end of the show if Dawn Wells were not added to the opening. They were shown together, offset by the word ‘featuring.’ This, of course, meant that Louise lost her ‘final name in the credits’ status. But by the second season she must have figured out that a show called ’Gilligan’s Island’ was about Gilligan more than it was about Ginger.
Mysterious are the ways of billing. Check out the way actors are billed in the Harry Potter movies, and see how often it has little to do with how large their roles are. A large chunk of it is simply alphabetical, but why are Tom Felton and Mathew Lewis still relegated to a lower tier than that? Again, it’s not the size of their roles.
John Zakour and Scott Roberts