The classic sitcom I Dream Of Jeannie rubbed viewers the right way between 1965 – 70. Barbara Eden played the title character across 5 seasons, with Larry Hagman as military man Tony Nelson.
It may have been a simple and fun show but a lot happened behind the scenes. Read on if you wish to find out fascinating facts about I Dream Of Jeannie…
It was inspired by ‘Bewitched’
I Dream Of Jeannie wouldn’t exist without Bewitched. The adventures of Elizabeth Montgomery’s nose-twitching Samantha led NBC to hire their own female fantasy figure.
Creator Sidney Sheldon liked the basic concept of the 1964 genie movie The Brass Bottle, so devised his own take. The genie in this case was male and played by Burl Ives. Co-starring was none other than Barbara Eden!
Barbara Eden’s midriff was hidden during the first season
Jeannie’s exposed torso is a well-remembered part of the show. But for the first season, it was noticeable by its absence.
How come? Eden was expecting. According to Mental Floss, she “confirmed her pregnancy on the very day that I Dream Of Jeannie was picked up.” The team needed to obscure her bump in various ways, “including adding several extra veils to her Jeannie costume.”
Once son Matthew was born the belly was out, though the outfit stopped short of her navel. Such brazenness was forbidden in Hollywood at the time!
Creator Sidney Sheldon was an award-winning Hollywood heavyweight
Before Jeannie, Sidney Sheldon won an Oscar for his screenwriting (The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, 1947). He co-wrote the 1948 classic Easter Parade, starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire. Sheldon also did the screenplay for Annie Get Your Gun (1950). Many of his musicals were staged on Broadway and on the big screen.
Larry Hagman hit the bottle… and we don’t mean Jeannie’s bottle
Hagman was far removed from the strait-laced Tony Nelson. In fact, his nickname outside work was the “Mad Monk of Malibu.”
Eden described some raucous behavior in the 2011 memoir Jeannie Out of the Bottle (with Wendy Leigh). Her co-star reportedly disliked what he saw as mediocre scripts. Champagne and pot were used to ease the pain.
“Those on the set recall Hagman showing up to filming wearing a gorilla suit once,” writes Past Factory, “and bringing an ax to the studio another time.” This weapon, possibly a prop, was allegedly wielded in front of some nuns.
Eden later revealed that visitors were banned following an incident involving 10 nuns. “Larry takes one look at the nuns, grabs an axe … and swings it around his head so ferociously that he could easily have killed someone,” Eden recalled to CheatSheet “As he swings it, he lets out a torrent that includes every single foul swear word I’ve ever heard, and some I haven’t — right in the stunned nuns’ faces.”
The genie’s bottle had its own secret
The famous vessel Jeannie emerges from is actually a re-purposed bottle of Jim Beam whiskey bourbon. No wonder the character was so intoxicating.
Is Jeannie a genuine genie? Even the show isn’t clear
In the days before fandom ruled the roost, TV shows weren’t so hot on story continuity. Case in point – Jeannie’s status as a human.
While introduced as a mortal woman turned into a genie by the Blue Djinn, later seasons made Jeannie a full-blooded wish granter.
The most detailed description comes in print. Al Hine’s 1966 novel of the series states she is a genie called Fawzia and lived in Tehran hundreds of years ago with her family.
Carole King submitted a theme song and was turned down
I Dream of Jeannie’s famous theme was added in the second season. Sidney Sheldon wanted to replace its jazz waltz predecessor, composed by Richard Wess.
However, the show could have had a theme written by music legend Carole King! She and partner Gerry Goffin submitted a track. For an unknown reason, Sheldon never put it on air.
Barbara Eden Reunited with Larry Hagman on ‘Dallas’
Eden and Hagman continued their working relationship after I Dream Of Jeannie had the stopper put on it.
A year later they starred in the TV movie thriller A Howling in the Woods. The cast included Vera Miles (Psycho) and future Cagney & Lacey star Tyne Daly.
However, a more high-profile reunion happened during Hagman’s small screen smash in Dallas. Now world-famous for playing J.R. Ewing, the actor welcomed his former genie back as the astonishingly named Lee Ann De La Vega.
J.R. had of course done wrong by De La Vega, a former lover. Eden wasn’t granting wishes that time, but wanting revenge. Her maiden name was Nelson, a nice in-joke for Jeannie fans.
There was an animated series starring Mark Hamill
Did you know Jeannie met Luke Skywalker? This wasn’t some crazy crossover by the way but a short-lived cartoon from the iconic Hanna-Barbera studio.
A few years prior to picking up a lightsaber, Mark Hamill voiced Corey Andrews, Jeannie’s new master. In line with the younger audience, Andrews was a hip young surfer.
Jeannie herself underwent a revamp. Her hair color changed and Julie McWhirter took over the role from Barbara Eden. Why? Blame Scooby-Doo. The New Scooby-Doo Movies featured star names such as Dick Van Dyke, Sonny & Cher, and Phyllis Diller. When the fun was over the money ran out. Maybe this was the reason Hamill multi-tasked and sang the Jeannie theme song?
Jeannie jumps the shark
TV shows “jump the shark” when past their prime, as a notorious episode of Happy Days demonstrated.
For the final season of I Dream Of Jeannie, genie and master tied the knot. The move wasn’t welcomed by viewers or the stars themselves. Despite the far-out premise, Eden and Hagman took their character motivation seriously.
A network stunt where the actors posed for wedding snaps made things worse. Country Music Family writes: “according to the show’s mythology, genies can’t be photographed, yet they still had a professional photographer at the wedding.”
This development was widely seen as a low point. I Dream Of Jeannie vanished in a puff of smoke soon after.