Released to coincide with similar fantasy shows like Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie became a pop-culture classic in its own right. Indeed, the sitcom pushed boundaries when it debuted in 1965 and went on to have a successful five-season run. Half a century later, though, we reveal 20 surprising secrets about the show that its producers didn’t want you to know.
20. A fantasy movie inspired the show
Many critics have noted similarities between I Dream of Jeannie and ABC’s Bewitched, but Jeannie was nevertheless actually inspired by a 1964 movie. Following the series’ success, in fact, show runner Sidney Sheldon admitted that he had instead borrowed heavily from Tony Randall’s genie comedy The Brass Bottle. That film, moreover, even featured Barbara Eden in an early role.
19. Barbara Eden nearly lost her role
Though it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Barbara Eden filling Jeannie’s iconic costume, Sidney Sheldon had reservations about hiring her. Specifically, he didn’t want to cast anyone with blonde hair – to avoid similarities with Bewitched star Elizabeth Montgomery. Nonetheless, no other actress was as good as Eden, and she soon got the part.
18. Barbara Eden was pregnant during the first season
After years of smaller on-screen roles, Barbara Eden landed the role of a lifetime with Jeannie. However, the actress ran into one small problem when she began shooting the first season in 1965 – she was pregnant. As a result, then, Eden was covered in various veils that helped hide her burgeoning baby bump.
17. Censors had problems with Barbara Eden’s outfit
While Barbara Eden’s extra clothing may have dented her sex appeal, it undoubtedly made the show’s censors jump for joy. Indeed, stuffy NBC executives made puritanical demands on Eden’s famously revealing costume – most notably forbidding the star to show her belly button on screen. In addition, Eden’s legs were kept covered with baggy pantaloons.
16. Larry Hagman was difficult to work with
Besides problems with the censors, I Dream of Jeannie was also hampered by male lead Larry Hagman’s erratic behavior. A heavy drinker, Hagman often lost his temper and voiced his displeasure with the show’s staff in alarming ways. Most notably, he once urinated all over the set in response to one particularly disappointing script.
15. Hagman came to blows with Sammy Davis Jr.
It wasn’t just the show’s staff who were irritated by Hagman’s behavior, either. While shooting a season two cameo, for example, legendary singer Sammy Davis Jr. became enraged by his co-star’s antics. And, according to Barbara Eden’s book Genie Out of the Bottle, things got so heated that Davis Jr. actually threatened to kill Hagman.
14. Larry Hagman visited a therapist – and it only made things worse
As a result of his alcoholism and unruly attitude, Hagman was sent to a therapist by his producers. However, his intake of narcotics actually increased upon returning from the psychiatrist’s couch. On his doctor’s orders, Hagman started ingesting copious amounts of marijuana, LSD and champagne which he did – as Eden has glibly recounted – “in the interests of maintaining a calm serenity.”
13. The studio insisted on black and white
Despite I Dream of Jeannie’s now classic status, NBC originally had little faith in the show’s success. In fact, Sidney Sheldon revealed in his autobiography The Other Side of Me that studio execs didn’t expect the show to survive beyond a single season. Consequently, they forced him to shoot the show in black and white as a cost-cutting measure.
12. Producers had trouble filming special effects
Nevertheless, shooting in black and white had its advantages. Indeed, the show’s numerous special effects – including the puff of smoke from Jeannie’s bottle – were difficult to achieve in color, and the monochromatic film stock helped the FX department iron out its kinks. It also resulted in the series being the last U.S. network show shot in black and white.
11. The pilot episode was shot in winter conditions
Production on I Dream of Jeannie began in December 1964 with pilot “The Lady in the Bottle.” Much to the cast’s chagrin, though, the episode was partly shot on California’s Zuma Beach in the midst of a particularly bitter winter’s day. And Eden’s genie outfit probably didn’t afford much protection from the cold, either.
10. Jeannie’s bottle had humble origins
Though I Dream of Jeannie featured otherworldly themes, its most famous effects had extremely down-to-earth origins. In particular, the bottle that housed Jeannie was in reality a Jim Beam whiskey decanter painted to resemble a magic lamp. And, due to its fragile design, the prop kept breaking on set, which resulted in multiple copies being made.
9. Barbara Eden’s costumes kept ripping
Jeannie’s bottle wasn’t her only belonging that kept breaking. Indeed, Eden often tore her pantaloons by catching the hem in the heel of her shoe. Years later, moreover, the actress admitted that the only costume she managed to snag from set was a hat – possibly due to her habit of ruining everything else.
8. The show’s director played pranks on Barbara Eden
Despite the often tempestuous personality of Larry Hagman, the cast and crew frequently had fun on set. To illustrate, while filming a scene of Jeannie trapped in an oversized perfume bottle, the director called a break for lunch, leaving Eden alone on set. Her shouts for help were later incorporated into the final cut.
7. A lion once drove Larry Hagman from the set
Barbara Eden’s autobiography Genie Out of the Bottle contains many eye-opening on-set stories – most notably one between Larry Hagman and a trained lion named Simm. While Eden was comfortable in the creature’s presence, Hagman lost his cool when the cat let out an almighty roar. “Larry bolts off the set, out of the studio and into the street,” she wrote.
6. Bill Daily had trouble learning his lines
Besides the talents of Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman, I Dream of Jeannie also featured Bill Daily as astronaut Roger Healey. But while Daily was praised for his comic ability, he also suffered from dyslexia, which made it difficult for him to learn his lines. The star therefore often ad-libbed his dialogue and created some of the series’ best moments in the process.
5. The show poked fun at rival Bewitched
During its run, I Dream of Jeannie was often accused of stealing ideas from rival series Bewitched – particularly by that show’s producers. In response, the 1967 episode “Fly Me to the Moon” saw Tony and Roger training a chimp called Sam. Though never confirmed, many saw this as a none-too-flattering reference to Elizabeth Montgomery’s Bewitched character Samantha.
4. The show gave Jeannie conflicting origin stories
Any fan wondering how Jeannie got in the lamp shouldn’t look to the show for answers. Indeed, the character’s origins remain unclear throughout the series. In early episodes, we’re told that she was transformed into a genie for refusing to wed the Blue Djinn. However, later instalments simply state that she was actually born into a family of wish-granters.
3. Barbara Eden hated the fact that Jeannie and Tony got married
After five seasons of smoldering sexual tension, Jeannie and Tony finally got hitched in 1969’s “The Wedding.” However, the marriage disappointed Barbara Eden, who argued to the Daily Express that it ruined the “point of the show.” “This just turned her into a housewife – more like Samantha from Bewitched,” she added.
2. Nobody told Larry Hagman about the show’s cancelation
Following Jeannie and Tony’s wedding, interest in I Dream of Jeannie declined, and the network canceled the series in 1970. Unfortunately, nobody told Larry Hagman, who instead found out from the NBC studio security guard. “I halfway expected it,” he lamented to TV Legends. “But I expected some kind of formal, pleasant way of telling you you’re out of work.”
1. Producers burned the sets to the ground
Immediately after the series’ cancelation, I Dream of Jeannie’s producers set to work dismantling the show’s production. Rather than put everything into storage, though, they instead destroyed every prop and even burnt sets to the ground. However, Barbara Eden managed to keep one of the series’ magic lamps, which she later donated to the Smithsonian.