Natalie Schafer

Natalie Schafer

In the film Dishonored Lady (1947)
Born (1900-11-05)November 5, 1900
Red Bank, New Jersey, U.S.
Died April 10, 1991(1991-04-10) (aged 90)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Cause of death Liver cancer
Occupation Actress
Years active 1927–1990
Spouse(s) Louis Calhern
(m. 1933–1942; divorced)

Natalie Schafer (November 5, 1900 – April 10, 1991) was an American actress, best known as Eunice "Lovey" Wentworth Howell on CBS's sitcom Gilligan's Island (1964–67).

Early life and career

Schafer was born in Red Bank, New Jersey.[1] Her family moved to Manhattan not long after her birth.[2] She was the eldest of the three children of Jennie Elizabeth (née Tim) and Charles Emanual Schafer,[3][4] both of German Jewish descent.[4] She began her career as an actress on Broadway before moving to Los Angeles in 1941 to work in films.

Schafer appeared on Broadway in 17 plays between 1927 and 1959, often playing supporting roles. Most of these appearances were in short-run plays, with the exceptions of Lady in the Dark (1941–42), The Doughgirls (1942–44), and Romanoff and Juliet (1957–58). She was seen in a revival of Six Characters in Search of an Author, directed by Sir Tyrone Guthrie (1955–56). She appeared in stock and regional productions of plays, including an off-Broadway production of The Killing of Sister George, with Claire Trevor in the title role.

Schafer appeared in many films, usually portraying beautiful sophisticates, but she is best known for playing the role of Lovey Howell on Gilligan's Island. She reprised her role in made-for-television spin-off films after the show ended, along with the animated spinoff, Gilligan's Planet, in 1982.[5]

She was a guest star on many television series, including Goodyear Playhouse/Philco Playhouse: (The Sisters, with Grace Kelly, 1951), I Love Lucy (1954), Producers' Showcase ("The Petrified Forest", 1955), Guestward, Ho! (1960), The Beverly Hillbillies (1964), Mayberry RFD (1970), The Brady Bunch (1974), Three's Company, The Love Boat, and Phyllis (1976). In 1971–72, Schafer joined the cast of the CBS daytime-serial, Search for Tomorrow as Helen Collins, mother of Wade and Clay Collins. Immediately following, she played Augusta Roulland on another daytime soap, Love of Life. Her final performance was in the 1990 television film I'm Dangerous Tonight.[5]

Personal life

Schafer in September 1990, less than a year before her death

Schafer was married to actor Louis Calhern from 1934–42; they had no children. Long after their divorce, the two appeared together in the 1956 film Forever, Darling.[5]

Schafer was legendarily secretive about her age, never even telling Calhern. The year 1912 was generally given as her birth year for many years, which few believed, yet her actual year of birth (which was not discovered until after her death) of 1900 shocked even her intimate friends. She was reportedly also a breast cancer survivor, a fact she withheld from her fans and friends.[6]

Her investments, particularly in real estate, made her a multi-millionaire. Differing sources state that most of this fortune was bequeathed to either her Gilligan's Island co-star Dawn Wells, or to care for her dogs. Wells did not comment on that but did claim, on Vicki Lawrence's talk show, Vicky!, that Schafer spent her last years living with Wells, who was her caretaker. Wells also stated that one of Schafer's favorite things on Gilligan's Island was "falling through quicksand".


Schafer died of liver cancer in her Beverly Hills home, aged 90.[1] She was cremated; her ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean, off San Pedro's Point Fermin Light.

She bequeathed between $1.5 million and $2 million to the Lillian Booth Actors Home to renovate the hospital's outpatient wing, which was renamed, in 1993, the Natalie Schafer Wing.[7][8]

Partial filmography


  1. 1 2 "Natalie Schafer, 90, Actress Who Played In 'Gilligan's Island". The New York Times. April 13, 1991. Retrieved June 16, 2011.
  2. ""New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909" database". Retrieved March 18, 2016.
  3. "United States Census, 1910" Charles Schafer, Manhattan Ward 12, New York, New York; retrieved July 31, 2012.
  4. 1 2 Profile,; accessed March 18, 2016.
  5. 1 2 3 Natalie Schafer at the Internet Movie Database
  6. Michael Karol (2004). Funny Ladies; retrieved July 31, 2012.
  7. Frank Manning (December 14, 1994). "Hospital Marks Opening of Wing". Los Angeles Times.
  8. "The Lillian Booth Actors Home: History of the Home". Retrieved September 13, 2014.
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