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Thurston J. Howell, III is a character on the CBS television sitcom Gilligan's Island, which was in first-run from 1964 to 1967, and has been rerun ever since in syndication.

Howell, portrayed by veteran character actor Jim Backus, is so wealthy that he took tens of thousands of dollars in cash and several changes of clothing with him for what was intended to be only a three-hour boat tour in Hawaiimarker, one of the sillier premises of the show. Howell is a stereotypical member of the Northeastern White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Yankee elite—a resident of Newport, Rhode Islandmarker and a graduate of Harvard Universitymarker. His wife, Lovey, portrayed by Natalie Schafer, is conscious of social strata, yet seems to be a good-hearted woman with a deep sense of noblesse oblige allowing her to interact with the other passengers and crew, though they are all her social inferiors. One of the implied humorous points of the show is that Thurston continually fails to realize that all of the Howells' money is essentially useless to them on the island. On the other hand, the other castaways apparently tolerate the fact that he refuses to do any work. One of the most unusual aspects of his character is that, even though he is married, he sleeps with a teddy bear that he calls "Teddy". (The Howells also slept in twin beds, this being the 1960s)

Howell was included on Forbes Magazine's 2006 list of the 15 richest fictional characters. Just how much money he had was never specified, but he was shown as owning several large corporations. When asked what happened to him during the Great Depression, his wife says that he lost most of his money and "became just a millionaire." Among his assets were a diamond mine, a coconut plantation, a railroad, an oil well, and in Coloradomarker—which included all of downtown Denvermarker—that he bequeathed to his fellow castaways in his will.

Backus' characterization of Howell is very similar to that he used for Hubert Updike III, a character he portrayed on the radio version of The Alan Young Show in the 1940s.

Other references

There is also a rap artist called Thirstin Howl III whose stage persona emulates the cash-flush Gilligan's millionaire.

Thurston Howell is the name of Henry Gibson's character in the movie Magnolia. His name is only mentioned in background conversation. Howell's character was based on real-life millionaire Stanley Howell of Eastonmarker, Pennsylvaniamarker. Stanley Howell owned and operated a chain of hemp rope manufacturing companies until the late 1940s when the last of the plants went out of business.


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