Barbara Eden with Wendy Leigh. Jeannie Out of the Bottle. New York: Crown Archetype, 2011.
The author was an actress whose entertainment career began by winning the Miss San Francisco contest. She then sang and did comedy at Ciro’s nightclub, who hired her even though a shoe flew off during her dance audition. The other dancers made fun of Eden’s church attendance. She found the cruelty of the other dancers so distressful she was glad when she was fired.
Eden found an agent who changed her name from Barbara Huffman to Barbara Eden. She won a role performing skits and singing on “The Johnny Carson Show”. She discovered Carson drank to calm his nerves. His nervousness was never visible to audiences.
Eden appeared on the cover of “Parade” magazine. She then won a part on “The Ann Southern Show”. Southern got wardrobe to make Eden appear less attractive when they appeared together. Eden was upset at Southern’s rudeness.
Eden appeared in several movies and TV series. She had a small role on the TV series “The West Point Story” and then had a role in the movie “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?”
Eden did an episode of “I Love Lucy”. She found Lucille Ball, unlike Southern, encouraging. Ball told Eden to “let the cameras love your face. Don’t look away from it.” Lucille Ball asked wardrobe to make Eden appear more appealing.
She did two seasons and 55 episodes of the TV series “How to Marry a Millionaire”, based upon a movie. Eden had the role Marilyn Monroe had in the movie. Eden received top billing. During this period, she met Senator John Kennedy, who gave her his phone number. She tore it up.
Eden met and married actor Michael Ansara, star of the TV series “Broken Arrow”. This distressed another suitor such that he attempted suicide,
Eden was cast in the movie “Flaming Star” with Elvis Presley. Elvis told Eden he avoided mobs by staying indoors and watching TV. He was a “Broken Arrow” fan. Elvis confided to her that his agent, Colonel Tom Parker, received too high a percentage yet he credited Parker with his fame and felt he was worth that percentage. In this movie, Eden had to ride a horse. She had never been on a horse before, yet she learned.
Eden filmed the movie “From the Terrace” with Paul Newman. She found Newman put other actors at ease and was good to work with. Eden found Newman was insecure about his height as he felt he was too short.
Eden appeared in the movie “Five Weeks in a Balloon” with Red Buttons and a lion. The lion at times would roam the set. People were wanred not to move much so the playful lion wouldn’t jump on them. The lion once almost jumped on Eden before the trainer and Red Buttons rescued her from possible harm or death.
While Eden was filming the movie “Five Weeks in a Balloon”, her stand-in was also Marilyn Monroe’s stand-in at a nearby set. Eden was pleased when her stand-in informed her that Marilyn Monroe wanted to meet her. She found Marilyn Monroe the most beautiful, glowing person ever. Yet Eden also realized she did not want to be a star that that, as she found most stars she met weren’t happy. She found Elvis Presley felt very vulnerable and was surprised when Elvis tried to seduce her. Paul Newman, she discovered, had a complex about not feeling handsome enough. Lucille Ball constantly fought with her unfaithful husband Desi Arnaz. Eden always remembered when her mother taught her when she faced trouble at age four, which was that she should “rise about it.”
Eden found many entertainment people as eccentric. Irwin Allen, a director, would fire a gun instead of yelling “cut”. Another senile director would stumble in front of the filming camera while directing.
Eden starred with Tony Randall in “Seven Faces of Dr. Lao”. Randall and Eden played gin rummy on the set. Randall was a big winner until she realized Randall could see her cards in a mirror.
Eden appeared in the movie “All Hands on Deck”. She found director Norman Taurog someone who yelled and bullied people.
Eden filmed the movie “Brass Bottle” with Burl Ives. She discovered Ives was kind until he suddenly lunged at her. She avoided his advances. She also found Warren Beatty was filming nearby. She found Beatty scary and avoided his advances as well.
Eden filmed two episodes of the TV series “Rawhide”. Ironically, she wore a costume similar to what she would wear on “I Dream of Jeannie”.
Sidney Sheldon, who was creating and producing the new TV series “I Dream of Jeannie” asked Eden to play the role of Jeannie. Sheldon then asked to see if there were chemistry between her and actor Larry Hagman. Hagman wanted to prove he could have a career as notable as his mother, Mary Martin, had. Eden and Hagman found their acting styles connected.
When Eden filmed the pilot of “I Dream of Jeannie”, she felt it was not likely going to be picked as a series. She also thought her role as a genie would be better awarded to a Middle Eastern woman than to her, a blonde.
Visitors were not allowed on the “I Dream of Jeannie” set after actor Larry Hagman, who abused alcohol and drugs, swung an axe at visiting nuns with the axe cutting some cables. Hagman became frustrated that he was obtaining the star credentials he hoped the series would bring him. He expressed this frustration once by urinating on the set.
The NBC network censors were concerned about the series. They saw the show as a series about a single man living with a single woman.
Hagman sought to be a star and fought to influence the show. He was on about four fifths of the time. He was paid $150,000 a year, which was a high salary for TV work then. Hagman hated the scripts and was frequently ad libbing, which displeased the director Gene Nelson.
Eden was pregnant during 11 episodes of “I Dream of Jeannie”. She filmed up to her eighth month of pregnancy. Camera angles hid her pregnancy.
“I Dream of Jeannie” filmed 132 episodes over five years. Some moralists condemned the show for its innuendos. Some feminists condemned it because the characters were a master and a slave. Eden notes that Jeannie always got what she wanted and that Jeannie controlled the relationship.
Eden’s son watched the show and had trouble understanding why his mother couldn’t turn people into frogs in real life when she could on TV.
Hagman was demanding on the set. The crew was upset by his demands. Hagman, though, always appeared on set and performed well. Hagman would accept acting criticism only from costar Hayden Rorke, a friend of Hagman’s mother. A therapist tried to calm Hagman by telling him to smoke marijuana and drink champagne.
Groucho Marx made a guest appearance on “I Dream of Jeannie”. He didn’t want his usual fee and to have to pay taxes on it. He did the appearance in return for a new TV set.
Bill Daly’s role as Roger Healey was initially meant to be a minor role. Yet Daley’s comedic skills were recognized and his role expanded.
The show helped boost public awareness of NASA. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin made a guest appearance.
The censors would not allow Eden to show her bellybutton. With great fanfare, it was supposed to finally be shown on “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In.” The censors prevented even that from happening.
After the show was canceled, Eden appeared in Las Vegas. She spent three years billed with Shecky Greene. Performing there proved eventful. She was bothered by death threats and stalkers. At times, she required police or security protection. She even had a man die of a heart attack while she was singing.
Eden starred in the movie “Harper Valley PTA” in 1978, which was 14 years after her previous movie. The success of the movie led to a TV series of the same name which lasted for 29 episodes. Sherwood Schwartz, along with his son Lloyd, produced the first season. New producers handled the second season. These producers concentrated more on smoking marijuana than on working. The show suffered and was canceled after the second season.
Eden filmed a pilot for a TV show “Stone Street” that was not bought by any network. She played an undercover police vice squad officer. While filming past a real X rated theater, the real life ticket agent was given a line. The ticket agent confided to Eden she didn’t want to remain a ticket agent. Eden encouraged her to never give up. The ticket agent, Ellen Barkin, went on to find a successful acting career.
NBC presented “I Dream of Jeannie: 15 Years Later”, a two hour sequel. Hagman was starring in “Dallas” and his role was given to Wayne Rogers. She was allowed to show her belly button.
Eden guest starred on four episodes of “Dallas”, reuniting her with Hagman. She enjoyed the experience. NBC then did a TV movie “I Still Dream of Jeannie” with Major Nelso in space and thus absent from the script. Ken Kerchival from “Dallas” was cast with her in this TV movie.
Eden filmed the movie “Dead Man’s Island” with William Shatner. She found Shater, contrary to rumor, fun to work with.
A detriment to an acting career is what it does to a family. When Eden married, her husband Michael Ansara was the family TV star. As her career grew and his faded, her husband became troubled by this. Her working required her to be away a lot. Her son Matthew resented her absences. Matthew started smoking marijuana at age ten. He went into drug rehabilitation eight times. He would steal money to get drugs. He died from a heroin overdose at age 35.