What Really Happened Behind The Scenes Of ‘I Dream Of Jeannie’

After witnessing the success of Bewitched, network executives at NBC dreamed up I Dream of Jeannie. They wanted to duplicate Bewitched rise to popularity and double their earnings on shows about beautiful, magical women.

Just as expected, I Dream of Jeannie was an immediate hit. The series ran from 1965 to 1970. It received rave reviews and amassed a loyal fan following. For a while, it looked like this show could do no wrong until one episode made fans completely turn on the program.

Barbara Eden Was Pregnant During The First Season Of The Show

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Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images

When Barbara Eden played Jeanie in I Dream of Jeannie, she wore pretty revealing outfits— at least, revealing for the ’60s. It may surprise you to learn that in every I Dream of Jeannie episode in the first season of the show (other than the pilot) Barbara Eden was actually pregnant.

Producers found clever ways to hide her pregnant belly during filming. Barbara’s baby’s father was her first husband, stage, screen, and voice actor, Michael Ansara.

Barbara Eden Loved Working With The Lion

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Barbara Eden got to work with a real live lion during her time on I Dream of Jeannie. Apparently, Barbara loved working with the animal and found him easier to get along with than most of her male co-stars. When Hagman was nervous around the lion, Barbara reassured him and told him to “stand very still, lean forward very, very gingerly and stroke him as gently as you can.”

Hagman apparently proclaimed, “I’m not making friends with any [bleeping] lion!”

Larry Hagman May Have Had A Drinking Problem

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Photo by Maureen Donaldson/Getty Images
Photo by Maureen Donaldson/Getty Images

Drinking seems to be a common vice in Hollywood. Hagman wasn’t immune to the allure of alcohol. We may never know if Hagman was truly an alcoholic, but when he did drink, he acted pretty aggressively. He also began drinking more when he felt dissatisfied with how the show was being run.

This guy was always a little bit strange. One time he showed up to set wearing a full gorilla suit. Another time he scared a group of nuns on set with an ax that may or may not have been real.

How They Got Around Those Censors

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In the ’60s, it was considered extremely inappropriate for a couple to be seen sharing a bed. In many shows, married couples slept in side by side twin beds. In order to avoid getting in trouble with the censors, Jeannie had to be shown leaving the room every time Jeannie and Tony went into a bedroom together.

Most times she left the room by turning into a pink puff of smoke. Laws about what can and can’t be shown on television are much more relaxed now.

Too Cold To Function

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The first ever episode of I Dream of Jeannie was filmed on Zuma Beach in Malibu. The location was supposed to stand in for a deserted island somewhere off the coast of the South Pacific. In the episode, it looks like Jeannie is living it up in the sunshine in that crop top. In reality, this scene was filmed in the winter, and it was actually very cold that day.

Barbara Eden admitted that she was freezing during the entire scene, although she did also say that it was one of her favorite scenes to film.

Belly Buttons Are Too Scandalous For Television

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We already have some idea about how strict the censors were in the 1960s, but have you ever noticed that we never see Jeannie’s belly button on the show even though she’s constantly wearing crop tops?

Apparently, networks were fine with her sexy outfits as long as her belly button was never visible. We can’t have viewers knowing that Barbara was once a fetus who was attached to her mother via an umbilical cord. That would be obscene.

Barbara Ripped A Lot Of Clothes

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Barbara Eden liked to move around a lot in her Jeannie costume. The thing is when you move around in a costume that billowy, all those folds get caught up in your heels. That’s exactly what happened to barbara time and time again.

The show’s costume designers were constantly repairing Barabara’s costumes because she ripped them so often. Sometimes the clothes were so ripped by the end of a shoot that the whole costume had to be retired.

A Fire Destroyed The Entire Set

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Sadly, after I Dream Of Jeannie was canceled, the entire TV set was burned to the ground. Producers realized that it would be very expensive to store all of the furniture and larger props they used for the show, so they burned whatever the cast didn’t want to take.

Back in the day, this was a very common practice in Hollywood. Luckily, Barbara Eden saved her original lamp from the inferno. Imagine how much all of those set pieces would be worth now…

Where Is Jeannie’s Original Bottle Now?

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After the show ended, Barbara Eden actually held on to the bottle that Jeannie came out of on the very first episode of the show. She held on to it for a while, and then in 2011, she donated it to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Before donating it, she said, “I have the original bottle. It was in the office for a long time and then people said you know, ‘That shouldn’t be around, there’s only one,’ So I put it in the bank (in a vault) but it’s on its way to the Smithsonian.”

It Wasn’t A Very High Tech Prop

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That purple genie bottle looked pretty cool on camera, but would you believe that the prop was actually made out of an old Jim Beam decanter from 1964? The prop department spent hours hand painting and decorating it. It cost hundreds of dollars to create. Because of the time and money that went into the bottle, everyone in the cast was very careful with it.

The original is still around today thanks to all of that extra care. That style of Jim Beam bottle doesn’t exist anymore. The company stopped making them in the ’90s.

Awkward Cancellation News

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Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images

I Dream of Jeannie had a good run, but it was canceled after five seasons in 1970. Apparently, Larry Hagman didn’t get the memo. He was on vacation in South America after the fifth series ended. When he got back from his trip, he wanted to get something that he left in his dressing room.

The guard at the studio told him that I Dream of Jeannie wasn’t in production anymore. Well, that’s super awkward.

A New Theme Song For A New Season

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I Dream of Jeannie didn’t have a theme song when it first premiered. In fact, it didn’t have a theme song for its entire first season. When the second season of the show debuted, audiences got to hear the I Dream of Jeannie theme song for the first time.

There were some other changes made when the show returned for a second season. The second season was shot in color while the first season was shot in black and white.

The Original Fake Wedding

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In order to try and increase viewership for I Dream of Jeannie, NBC’s publicity department staged a fake wedding for Eden and Hagman just one week before the wedding episode of the show was set to air. TV writers from around the country were invited to the fake wedding to make it look like Eden and Hagman had many guests.

Fans absolutely hated this publicity stunt. They could tell that the wedding was insincere and they ended up turning on the characters and the actors. The show was canceled shortly after the infamous wedding episode.

Barbara Eden Hated The Wedding Too

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Barbara Eden knew that the wedding episode would be a disaster. She was totally against the idea of Tony and Jeannie getting married. Firstly, Jeannie wasn’t even human. Secondly, the show was all about the build-up of sexual tension between Jeannie and Tony. Once the pair got married, all of that tension would go away.

Plus, according to the show’s mythology, genies can’t be photographed. Somehow they still had a professional photographer at the wedding. The horrendous scene couldn’t be forgotten and the show was canceled shortly afterward.

How Barbara Really Feels About Jeannie

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Barbara Eden always saw Jeannie as mischeivious and boyish. She even once referred to her character as a “tomboy.’ Fans didn’t agree with her though. They saw Jeannie as the epitome of femininity.

Larry Hagman also had some insights into his character. During an interview, he said, “Here’s a guy who’s square and there’s this beautiful, gorgeous woman putting the make on him all the time and he says, ‘no, no, no I have my career…’”

Barbara Did Double Duty

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Strangely, many viewers of I Dream of Jeannie didn’t realize that it was actually Barbara Eden herself who played Jeannie’s evil twin sister, whose name was also Jeannie. Fans often asked who played evil Jeannie, not realizing that it was just Eden in a dark wig.

Why would two sisters both be named Jeannie? That must have been really confusing during family dinners. It wasn’t uncommon for one actor to play multiple roles back in the ’60s.

An Animated Show Replaced The Live-Action Version

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Three years after I Dream of Jeannie ended, Hanna-Barbera released an animated version of the show called Jeannie. It was loosely based on the original live-action series and it ran from 1973 to 1975.

Mark Hamill (AKA Luke Skywalker) did voice work for the show as did Joe Besser, Julie McWhirter, and Bob Hastings, and other talented voice actors. The show was a success, but it was never as iconic as the live-action version.

How Larry Hagman’s Character Progressed Over The Years

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Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Actor Larry Hagman played United States Air Force Captain Tony Nelson, who is also a NASA astronaut on I Dream of Jeannie. This character spent his days working for the government and his nights with the beautiful and mysterious Jeannie.

At the beginning of the series, Tony was uptight and reserved. He was usually too focused on his demanding career to have any fun. As he show went on, he warmed up a bit, especially around Jeannie.

Larry Hagman After Jeannie

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Photo by Desiree Navarro/FilmMagic
Photo by Desiree Navarro/FilmMagic

After I Dream of Jeannie ended, Hagman went on to star in a bunch of TV and movie projects throughout the 70s. His most famous post-Jeannie role came in the 1980s when he starred in the primetime soap opera Dallas.

Hagman earned two Emmy nominations and four Golden Globe nominations for his work on that show. More recently, he appeared in Nip/Tuck and The Simpsons. Unfortunately, Hagman passed away in 2012 due to throat cancer that spread to the rest of his body.

Bill Daily Brought Roger To Life

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Actor Bill Daily played Roger Healey on I Dream of Jeannie. This character was Tony’s friend and co-worker. Healey wasn’t in every episode of the show, but he made quite a number of appearances on-screen during the course of the series.

His role on the show was to give us information about Tony’s character. Tony often had to hide Jeannie’s true nature and abilities from Roger. Bill Daily would later go on to play Howard Borden on The Bob Newhart Show. He also played Larry the psychiatrist on the oddball sitcom “Alf.”

William (Hayden) Rorke As Dr. Bellows

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I Dream of Jeannie had a relatively small cast. The only other regular cast member (aside from Barbra, Larry, and Bill) was William Rorke who played NASA psychiatrist Dr. Bellows.

Before starring in I Dream of Jeannie, William Rorke made his film debut in the This Is the Army, starring future president Ronald Reagan. Unfortunately, William Rorke passed away in 1987 at the age of 76. He was diagnosed with a form of cancer known as multiple myeloma.

Phil Spector Appeared On The Show (Before He Went To Jail)

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Before Phil Spector was convicted of second-degree murder, he made a career for himself as a music producer and he appeared on an episode of I Dream of Jeannie. He plays himself in the episode in which Jeannie attempts to become a singer.

Phil Spector has been in jail since he was convicted of murder in 2009. Actress Lana Clarkson was accidentally killed in Spector’s mansion in 2003 when the two of them were handling a firearm.

I Dream of Jeannie Was Based On A Movie

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The producer of I Dream of Jeannie, Sidney Sheldon loved the movie The Brass Bottle so much that he decided to turn it into a TV show. That movie starred Tony Randall, Burl Ives, and the one and only Barbara Eden.

Sheldon loved the idea of a sexy female genie and he thought that other people might like it too… once a week on their TV sets. So the show isn’t exactly a slightly altered replica of Bewitched.

Why It Stayed In Black And White For So Long

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The first season of I Dream Of Jeannie was kept in black and white even though most other shows of the same genre had moved on to color film. This is because many of the “magic” effects in the show were difficult to pull off in color. Once the production team figured out how to do the effects in color, they transitioned to color film.

Apparently, I Dream of Jeannie was the last TV show to broadcast a black and white episode.

Can You Spot The California Landmarks?

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I Dream of Jeannie was supposed to take place in Florida, however, the show was clearly filmed in California. If you watch closely, you can even see the Hollywood Hills in the background of some of the episodes.

The exterior of the building that served as Roger Healey’s office was actually the main building at the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, north of Los Angeles. We’ll just pretend that Florida looks like California.

I Dream Of Jeannie Lane

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I Dream of Jeannie took place in Cocoa Beach (even though it was filmed in California). Twenty- seven years after the show’s final episode ended, Barbara Eden paid a visit to the real town of Cocoa Beach. She spoke at the Kennedy Space Center, and at the event, the mayor of Cocoa beach unveiled an “I Dream of Jeannie Lane” street sign.

Eden told Senior Life, “They allowed me to put on the boots and the coveralls and go right into the capsule itself, and that was awe-inspiring, just wonderful.”

Jeannie’s Bottle Wasn’t Always Purple

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In the first season of the show, Jeannie’s bottle was actually green It had a painted gold leaf pattern on it to give it an antiqued look. When the show moved from black and white to color, they got a new purple bottle.

Most fans didn’t even notice the change because there was no way to know the color of the bottle in the original black and white version of the show. Producers thought the purple would pop more against the other colors on set.

Reruns Were More Popular Than Original Airings

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I Dream of Jeannie performed well in its prime, but it was never a top-rated show— at least, not when it debuted. It did do very well in reruns, though. While appearing as reruns on New York’s WPIX channel, the TV series won its time period with a 13 rating and a 23 share of the audience.

Even after the show got canceled, reruns of the show continued to outperform programs that were still on the air.

Stretching The Truth About NASA Astronauts

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Even though NASA still has a space museum in Florida, by the time that I Dream of Jeannie started filming, astronauts no longer trained in the sunshine state. By the ’60s, NASA astronauts had moved on from Florida to the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas. That center is now called the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.

I Dream of Jeannie is a fictional series, though, so we forgive them for bending the truth a little bit.

The Story Behind The Title

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I Dream of Jeannie sounds like a clever name for a TV show whose main character is a genie named Jeannie, but this title is more than just a play on words. I Dream of Jeannie is also the first line in a parlor ballad from 1854 titled “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair.”

This show contains so many references to other forms of media such as movies, TV shows and, songs. Our Jeannie doesn’t have light brown hair, though.

Continuity Errors All Over The Place

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Continuity errors are still happening decades after the 1960s, but nowadays, TV shows go through so much more post-production. Back in the day, many of the editing errors were just left in.

For example, in one episode of I Dream of Jeannie, Tony goes to Rome, Italy, and tells Jeannie that she probably knew it as “Gaul.” Only Tony was wrong. Gaul was the Roman name fro France, not Italy.

Jeannie And Tony Together Again After Twenty Years

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In 1990, twenty years after I Dream of Jeannie was canceled, Barbara Eden appeared in a five-episode arc on Dallas. Larry Hagman was a series regular on Dallas. He played J.R. Ewing on the show.

In her final episode, Barbara’s character admits that her maiden name was “Nelson,” which was a funny jab at that wedding between Jeannie and Tony that everybody hated. These two weren’t afraid to laugh at themselves. That’s what makes them so likable.

Barbara Eden Almost Didn’t Get Cast Because Of The Color Of Her Hair

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We all know Jeannie as a bubbly blonde, but Barbara Eden’s blonde hair almost prevented her from getting the role in the first place. The producers of I Dream of Jeannie wanted the show to look different from Bewitched. They thought a non-blonde actress would make the shows just different enough.

When Eden auditioned for the role, producers fell in love with her. They almost didn’ cast her because she was blonde, but then they couldn’t find anybody more qualified to play Jeannie.

Larry Hagman Earned The Nickname, “The Mad Monk Of Malibu”

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Larry Hagman was known for his eccentric and outlandish behavior. This actor wasn’t exactly normal. He was given the nickname “The Mad Monk of Malibu” because of how strangely he acted. One time, he rode his for his Harley-Davidson to the grocery store while wearing a chicken suit. He also allegedly put bourbon on his cereal.

As he got older, Larry mellowed out a bit. He wasn’t as “Mad” in the ’90s as he was in the ’60s.

Jeannie’s Origin Story Doesn’t Make Any Sense

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In the first season, the show explains that Jeannie wasn’t always a genie. She was a young human woman who refused to marry the powerful Blue Djinn. As punishment, she was forced to live in a bottle for the rest of her life.

That’s not Jeannie’s only origin story, though. Later, the show provided an alternate explanation for Jeannie’s powers. In this version, Jeannie and her family were always genies, but she was just forced to live in a bottle after disobeying the Blue Djinn.

The Man In Blue Was Barbara Eden’s Real Husband

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On the show, The Blue Djinn was played by Barbara’s real-life husband, Michael Ansara. It must have been difficult for him to play the bad guy opposite his wife (who was playing a woman who refused to marry him).

If you go back and watch the scenes between Jeannie and the Blue Djinn, you may catch a little romantic spark between the two actors. We hope Tony didn’t get too jealous. At least Jeannie agreed to marry him (even if it didn’t go over well).

There Weren’t Many Other Women On The Show

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Barbara Eden was pretty much the only female actor on the show for the entirety of its run. There were a few other female characters who appeared from time to time, but for the most part, Jeannie had the men all to herself.

Barbara Eden could definitely carry the show as the female lead, but it would have been nice if Jeannie had some female friends to talk to. We got to see Jeannie’s sister, but Eden played that character too.

Barton MacLane’s Sudden Disappearance

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Barton MacLane was one of the series regulars on I Dream of Jeannie, but towards the end of the show’s run, he suddenly disappeared from the program. Unfortunately, MacLane was battling pneumonia when he suddenly passed away in 1969.

MacLane was best known as a character actor who made various appearances on TV and film. He was a celebrated actor before he died, and the entire cast of I Dream of Jeannie felt his absence when he passed.

Barbara Eden Suffered A Tragic Loss Of Her Own

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Barbara Eden was married to Michael Ansara from 1958 until 1974. During the first season of I Dream of Jeannie, Barbara was pregnant with the couple’s first child, a son named Mathew. Tragically, in 2001, Matthew died of a drug overdose. Eden and Ansara announced their loss to the press, but they didn’t go into much detail about what happened.

Years later, Eden told the public that Mathew had been struggling with addiction for quite some time.

The Nelson Home Is Still Standing

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The home that served as the exterior of the Nelson home in I Dream of Jeannie is now used as the Ranch Operations office at the Warner Brothers Ranch in Burbank, California. The house is still standing and it’s still very functional.

The house has been renovated since the ’60s, but from the outside, it still looks like it did 50 years ago. Superfans of I Dream of Jeannie have been able to visit the house in the past.