Fascinating Secrets About The Iconic ’60s Sitcom ‘I Dream Of Jeannie’
I Dream Of Jeannie was an American sitcom with a comedic twist. It was a fantasy premise that delighted audiences, both old and young. The premise was that an astronaut found a genie in a bottle; they fell in love, got married, and had a lot of fun adventures.
It’s hard to believe the show ran for only five seasons because it left a cultural impact that delighted thousands of households. If you’re a fan of 60s television, there must be a special place in your heart for I Dream Of Jeannie.
No Closed Doors
If you look closely, whenever Jeannie goes to bed, she never does so accompanied by her husband—and if they do, she immediately leaves. Odd right? Well, in the 1960s, this was no coincidence, thanks to the stringent television censorship laws of the time.
The Hays Code was a rigorous set of guidelines that regulated the “moral” content in film and television. By today’s standards, it’s odd and doesn’t make sense, but if we look back, you’ll find that it was common for couples to have twin beds or even separate bedrooms.
Genie Problems Unveiled
According to interviews, Barbara Eden, who played Jeannie, was entirely against the episode where Jeannie gets married to Major Nelson. It would break the internal logic of the show where genies can’t be photographed. Spoiler alert: they had their wedding pictures taken, and the fans weren’t pleased.
Another issue was that Jeannie wasn’t human, and it didn’t make sense in the show’s continuity. But the absolute worst part of getting Jeannie and Major Nelson married was that it would break the romantic tension of the show that had so intricately built. And eventually, it did. Unfortunately, this wasn’t received well by the audience. Although her dress was beautiful!
Before the internet era, people didn’t have it easy—they had to double-check facts, which was a hefty task. Nowadays, it’s only a search bar away. So when rewatching older shows, it’s always fun finding facts that aren’t true. The writers probably didn’t bother opening their encyclopedia for a family-friendly fantasy show.
In one episode, Major Anthony Nelson tells Jeannie about his wonderful trip to the Italian city of Rome but then clarifies that because she’s been in her bottle for 2,000 years, she probably remembers it by the name of “Gaul.” The problem is Gaul wasn’t in modern-day Rome. It was located in modern-day France and some parts of Belgium.
From Anthony To Tony
Major Anthony Nelson’s character is one of the central character arcs in I Dream Of Jeannie, as well as one of the most compelling. Played originally by Larry Hagman, the uptight NASA Astronaut and U.S. Air Force Captain seemed only to be interested in his job and career. The contrast between Anthony and the funny and naive Jeannie was a great point of tension in the show.
However, as the story evolved, he became more affectionate and easygoing. Finally, the strict Anthony relaxed into becoming the loving Tony. His character evolution was very endearing for fans of the show. Eventually, he decided to marry Jeannie.
Larry Hagman The Legend
After starring in I Dream Of Jeannie, Larry Hagman’s career skyrocketed. He became a very well-regarded and professional actor. Although he was in many sitcoms that didn’t do justice to his skills, he gained much recognition when he landed the role of J.R. Ewing in the highly regarded T.V. show, Dallas.
With ups and downs but many memorable roles, Larry Hagman remains one of American television’s most recognizable faces (and, in his latter years, eyebrows). The beloved actor, unfortunately, passed away in 2012, leaving a legacy of great stories.
Secret Baby Bump
Here’s a fact that not many know about! When the show aired in 1965, people didn’t know what to expect, but it was received with great clamor. The beautiful genie in pink harem pants was very fun. Because of censorship, it didn’t seem weird that Jeannie wore covered garments.
This was also helpful because Barbara Eden was pregnant at the time of filming, and her baby bump was easily covered. In the following seasons, she started wearing more revealing costumes (for the time’s standard), which caused some controversy, eventually giving way to the iconic pink genie suit with a bare belly.
Nothing Lasts Forever, But This Was Weird
The show was officially canceled after its fifth season, after a series of decisions from both producers and writers. They felt it was the best for everyone. The producers decided to keep it quiet until they could determine their next move.
The level of secrecy from the producers was so great that when Larry Hagman returned to the studio from his holiday after shooting season five, he was told by a security guard of all people that the show had been canceled. Imagine his confusion!
A Kindred Spirit To All Creatures
One of the craziest things that ever happened on set was during the filming of season one when they recorded “The Americanization of Jeannie,” where Barbara Eden’s character plays with a real-life African lion!
Even though the actress was pregnant then, she wasn’t scared at all, and petted the giant feline with lots of care. But, unfortunately, her co-star, Hagman, wasn’t having as good a time as she was and couldn’t stay calm during the filming of the episode.
Bill Daily's Early Days
The actor Bill Daily is perhaps best known for his role on I Dream of Jeannie. Daily played Roger Healey, the colleague and best friend of Major Nelson. Daily’s character is the only person who eventually knew who Jeannie really was.
In the early years, Daily’s storyline was about his friendship with Hagman’s character. He provided a lot of comedic relief and Nelson spent a lot of time trying to keep Healy’s character from discovering the truth about Jeannie.
Bill Daily's Later Years
Later in his life, Daily took a role on the popular TV show The Bob Newhart Show. In the series, he played a neighbor of the Hartley family, Howard Borden. On the TV show Alf, Daily also played the role of Larry the psychiatrist.
For his role on Alf, Daily earned a bit of a cult following. He also reprised his Roger Healey role in the two I Dream of Jeannie reunion movies. Daily passed away in 2018, and his family released statements several days later.
The Story Behind the Theme Song
The show has an iconic and much-loved theme song, but the first season didn’t have a song at all, as it turns out. When Season 2 was released, the audience got to hear the theme song for the first time.
The song was written by Hugo Montenegro and Buddy Kaye. A little-known fact is that Carole King and Gerry Coffin wrote a theme song for the show, but Sidney Sheldon didn’t like it. It was the second one he rejected before deciding on the final one.
William Rorke (Hayden)'s Early Days
William “Hayden” Rorke used the name Hayden as a stage name because it was his mother’s maiden name. However, it was his role as Dr. Bellows, the NASA psychiatrist, that made him famous. The show had a very small cast of characters, and “Dr. Bellows” was one of the most beloved.
Before his role in I Dream of Jeannie, Hayden had an uncredited film debut in a movie called This Is the Army, which starred an actor named Ronald Reagan. Of course, Reagan went on to become president.
William Rorke (Hayden)’s Later Years
In his role as Dr. Bellows, William Hayden played his last TV role. However, he did have other small roles in various films over the years, including in the hit movie Pillow Talk, which starred Doris Day and Rock Hudson.
Hayden died in 1987 after suffering from multiple myeloma, which is a form of cancer. The actor received high praise from Barbara Eden, who called him a “prince” in her memoir. Rest in peace, Dr. Bellows, and thank you for entertaining us so well.
The Episode That Caused the Show's Cancellation
Everyone knows that Major Nelson and Jeannie eventually got married, much to Jeannie’s delight. However, it was actually that episode that caused the show to end up getting canceled. NBC staged a fake wedding for Hagman and Eden before the show aired.
It was not only the actors who hated the wedding episode, but fans weren’t in love with it either. They felt the wedding was not sincere, and it caused fans to turn away from the beloved show.
What the Actors Thought About the Characters
Regarding Jeannie, Barbara Eden says she always viewed Jeannie as a “tomboy” of sorts, although fans disagreed. Larry Hagman said in an interview that he thought Tony Nelson was “square” and didn’t understand why he wasn’t romantically interested in Jeannie.
The fact is that the plot of the show centered around Jeannie’s obsession with “Master” and her attempts to make him fall in love with her. It appears that Major Nelson was all about work and had minimal interest in romance.
The Last Network Show Filmed in Black and White
The first season of I Dream of Jeannie was shot in black and white, and it was the only season that was. Subsequent seasons were in color, and that’s a good thing. However, this show holds the distinction of being the last network TV show to be in black and white.
The theme song also had an iconic animation sequence that was drawn by Friz Freleng, who also did work for Looney Tunes. Freleng created iconic characters like Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird, and Yosemite Sam.
Barbara Eden's Pride in Jeannie
While some stars don’t like being typecast because it can be bad for their career, Barbara Eden didn’t mind one bit. She’s proud of her role in I Dream of Jeannie and the show’s success. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Eden explained that Jeannie wasn’t human, but it was a “fantasy.”
She explained that the whole “master” thing was often misconstrued as well, clarifying that the character was a genie and that’s what genies do. They serve a master. Eden added that you can’t compare a genie to a “career girl.”
Larry Hagman and His Relationship with Alcohol
Tons of actors and famous people have suffered from problems with alcohol and drugs, and Hagman is one of them. As it turns out, he wasn’t completely happy with the show and seemed to drink more with every season.
Witnesses say that Hagman exhibited some bizarre behavior while filming, and even came on set once wearing a gorilla suit. Also, he once appeared on the show’s set with an ax and proceeded to go on a profane tirade that terrified a group of nuns.
The Scandalous Belly Button
We have already explained the bedroom rules that couples on TV had to follow years ago, but there was another rule that the series had trouble with. The network censors wouldn’t let Jeannie’s belly button show, for some strange reason.
It seems crazy in this day and time, but back then, Jeannie wasn’t allowed to show her belly button. The cast had a hard time making sure it was never seen. In fact, the first woman to show her navel on TV in the U.S. was Yvette Mimieux in 1964.
Jeannie's Evil Twin Sister
Interestingly, many fans didn’t realize that Barbara Eden was playing her evil sister, and many fans even wrote to Barbara asking her who played the dark-haired actress. The fact is, Eden played both roles.
One thing that made it confusing is that the evil twin sister was also named Jeannie. Back in the day, there was more of an innocence, it seems, because people didn’t realize it was Eden playing both roles. Now, it’s more common for actors to play multiple roles in the same film.
Freezing Cold First Episode
The first episode of I Dream of Jeannie was filmed in Malibu, California on Zuma Beach. In the show’s storyline, the beach represented a South Pacific deserted island, but it was actually right down the road in California.
However, it was much colder than it looked. In an interview, Eden revealed that the show was her favorite episode of the entire series, but that it was “freezing” the whole time as they were filming in the middle of winter. Her skimpy clothing for sure didn’t keep her warm.
Phil Spector Before Being Convicted of Murder
Long before he was convicted of murder, Phil Spector was a music producer, singer, and songwriter of wide acclaim. In an episode of I Dream of Jeannie, Jeannie was attempting to become a singer, and Spector appeared on the episode.
Interestingly, in the credits to the show, Spector was said to have played the character of “Steve Davis.” However, during the show, he was continuously referred to as his actual name, Phil Spector. He had been in prison since 2009, but he died of COVID-19 in 2021 at age 81.
Barbara Eden's Destroyed Costumes
It may have looked like Barbara Eden was living an easy life as Jeannie, but the fact is, she was so physical in her costumes that they were constantly getting caught on the heels she wore on her feet. That’s easy to imagine because the billowy pants would do that.
Anytime her costumes were ripped, they had to be replaced. It was a lot of work for the costume designers who worked on the show. As a result, when the show stopped filming, there were very few remaining costumes. One of them survived and Eden wore it to a charity gala in 2013.
The Heavily Protected Original Genie Bottle
Did you ever wonder what happened to the original genie bottle from I Dream of Jeannie? As it turns out, Barbara Eden held onto the bottle for years. She eventually donated it to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
The bottle is one of the most popular and famous TV props in television history. Before she donated it, Eden said that it was in her office for a long time. People suggested to her that the precious artifact shouldn’t be just sitting around, and she put it in a bank vault until she donated it.
The Secret Behind the Genie Bottle
One thing that fans didn’t know was that the bottle wasn’t actually an expensive prop. It was made out of an old Jim Beam whiskey decanter from the early 1960s. The 1964 decor item was the simplest solution the props department could find.
However, they still had to spend a lot of money to have it decorated, which included hand-painting. Supposedly, it cost them hundreds of dollars to get it looking just right. Because of this, everyone was very careful with the bottle.
The Monkees Show Up
For one episode, a fictitious band called “The Monkees” showed up. The band had their own TV show in real life, and it aired on the same network that Jeannie aired on. Because of this, they were able to pull this cameo off and deliver a great episode.
In one episode on the band’s TV show, they discovered a genie lamp. Davy Jones, one of the stars of the show, said, “Imagine that, wrong show.” It was a great pairing and served to advertise both shows.
The Burning of the Set
When the show was abruptly canceled, the entire set of I Dream of Jeannie was burned down to the ground. Why did they do this? Well, the producers knew that it was going to be expensive to try to store this set’s props, so they just destroyed it to save themselves the hassle.
Apparently, this was something that was commonly done back in those days. However, not everything was destroyed, since Barbara Eden got one of her costumes out along with her beloved genie bottle.
The 1985 I Dream of Jeannie Movie
In 1985, Columbia Pictures Television decided to produce a reunion movie for NBC based on the TV show. The movie was titled I Dream of Jeannie…Fifteen Years Later and the plot centered on Major Nelson getting a promotion.
The promotion caused a huge rift between Nelson and his wife (Jeannie) because it involved Nelson going back into space for one more flight. The problem was that he was going with a female astronaut. The pair’s teenage son, T.J., had to help save the marriage.
A Parlor Ballad from the 1850s
The show’s title isn’t just a play on words for the word “genie,” which made the fantasy show what it was. There was actually a song in 1854 called “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair,” which was written by Stephen Foster.
The opening line of Foster’s song is “I dream of Jeanie with the light brown hair.” It’s a lot of fun to know that the TV show named the main character “Jeannie” as a reference back to a song written in the 1850s. That shows some really creative thinking from Sidney Sheldon, but he did however add an “n” to the name and allow her to be blonde.
Jeannie Almost Wasn't a Blonde
Barbara Eden is a gorgeous blonde and did a great job playing a blonde genie. However, her hair color nearly cost her the role that she became famous for. The producers wanted to distance themselves from Bewitched and they looked for a non-blonde actress for the role of Jeannie.
Fortunately, it was Barbara Eden’s personality, warmth, humor, and sexiness that got her the role, making the hair color incidental. The casting team agreed that Eden’s talent for the role just couldn’t be beat.
More About the Lions
We’ve already shared the story about Barbara Eden trying to convince a cranky Larry Hagman to make friends with a lion, but there was another lion story that surfaced. Reportedly, at one time, the lion let out a gigantic roar and every man on the set fled the area.
The guys were convinced the lion was going to gobble them up, but reports say that Barbara Eden didn’t even flinch. She supposedly just walked up to him and calmed him down so that they could get back to filming.
Inspiration From The Brass Bottle
The I Dream of Jeannie producer Sidney Sheldon saw a movie called The Brass Bottle that had the same storyline as the show he envisioned. It was this movie that served as the inspiration behind the hit TV show.
Sheldon reportedly liked the idea of a gorgeous female genie and an astronaut, so he started creating his show around the same premise. Some people think the show was a ripoff of sorts of the other hit show at the time, Bewitched, but that’s not the case.
A Bewitched Writer Gets Fired
While Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie were two hit fantasy sitcoms of the 1960s competing against each other, they shared more in common than you may think. They actually shared a writer named James S. Henderson.
Henderson got fired from the writing staff of Bewitched after it was discovered that he had been writing for both shows at once. If you happen to pick up any similarities between the two shows, this might be the reasoning. Henderson was responsible for creating “Jeannie II,” the evil twin sister of the title character.
The Reason Season 1 Was Black and White
It wasn’t just technology that kept I Dream of Jeannie in black and white for the first season. One reason it was kept in black and white was because the “magic” trick used to create the smoke was challenging to pull off in color.
The trick required special photographic effects that were later tweaked so that the show could move to color. Also, the network reportedly didn’t want to pay the extra $400 it would have cost per episode to film in color. Can you say “low budget”?
The Color Changing Bottle
The famous bottle that Jeannie lived in when she wasn’t up serving Tony wasn’t just one color. It was changed to a different color when the show went from black and white to alive with color. Originally, the bottle was smoky green with an antique look.
The bottle even had a gold-leaf pattern at first. However, when they took the show to color TV, the bottle got a paint job to make it purple. For seasons two through five, the bottle stayed purple.
The City of Cocoa Beach Created a Special Day in Eden's Honor
Barbara Eden went to the Kennedy Space Center in 1996 to speak at a special event called “Jeannie Day.” Twenty-seven years prior to this, the last episode of I Dream of Jeannie aired. The mayor of Cocoa Beach, Joe Morgan, even named a street in honor of the show.
During the event, Eden toured the facility and even a space shuttle. She was delighted that they allowed her to put on coveralls and boots and go into the capsule. She described the experience as “awe-inspiring.”
The Truth About NASA Astronauts
I Dream of Jeannie was centered around Florida, which was supposedly where the astronauts went to work at the time. However, that was purely fictional and isn’t true. By the time the show aired, NASA’s astronauts were already training at Houston’s Manned Spacecraft Center.
Now, the center is called the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. Since the show was fictional, they could be a bit loose with the truth. That worked out well in this case. Florida sounded good at the time.
The ‘Charmed’ Jeannie Reference
I Dream of Jeannie is a pop culture classic that remains popular even today. Although the show went off the air decades ago, young people still love watching it now and there have been many references to the show in popular culture.
One reference happened in the popular supernatural TV series called Charmed. There was an episode called “I Dream of Phoebe” where the main character turned into a genie. Instead of a pink costume, she wore a blue costume. Everyone loves Jeannie and the charm of this show lives on.
Jeannie's Appearance on The Brady Bunch
If you happened to catch the sequel to The Brady Bunch called A Very Brady Sequel, you may have noticed one very special guest appearance. Barbara Eden actually revived her Jeannie role for the special, and she showed up at the second wedding of Mike and Carol Brady.
Interestingly, the actress who played Marcia on The Brady Bunch was in an early episode of I Dream of Jeannie. She played a young patient in the “My Master, the Doctor” episode in Season 1.
Barbara Eden's Real Husband Pays a Call
In one episode of I Dream of Jeannie, there was a character called “The Blue Djinn.” This character was played by none other than Barbara Eden’s real-life husband, Michael Ansara. Some fans love going back and re-watching this episode knowing that the couple was actually married.
The show had tons of great opportunities for bit players and guest star cameos, and that’s part of what made sitcoms so fun back in those days. Imagine playing the bad guy next to your wife’s role. Good times!
Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman Reunited on Dallas
When Larry Hagman was filming the TV show Dallas in 1990, he enjoyed a five-episode arc with Barbara Eden. She appeared on the show as the character named Lee Ann De La Vega. However, she of course couldn’t go without a reference to I Dream of Jeannie.
In the final episode in which Eden appeared, she admitted that her maiden name was “Lee Ann Nelson.” It was a hilarious reference to her Jeannie character, and also took a fun jab at the marriage between Tony and Jeannie.
Barbara Eden’s Later Years
The end of I Dream of Jeannie didn’t mark the end of Barbara Eden’s fame, although the role did define her career in many ways. She returned for two “Jeannie” movies and landed other roles on TV, including Harper Valley, PTA.
As we’ve mentioned, Eden also returned to TV again opposite Larry Hagman in 1990. She has written a memoir, “Jeannie Out of the Bottle,” that hit the New York Times Best Seller List. Eden has also done several other shows, including musical comedies.
The Nelson Home
Of course, the home where Tony Nelson lived with Jeannie is no longer being used to film the show, but the original house is still standing. These days, the home, which sits on the Warner Brothers Ranch in Burbank, California, is used as the office for Ranch Operations.
Although there have been some minor changes to the house over the years, for the most part, it remains unchanged, even after 50 years.