Barbara Eden: A 'Jeannie Out of the Bottle'


CAMERAMAN: "But that was you, sir!"

(I suppose that I Dream of Jeannie director was a minor improvement over director Irwin Allen, with whom I worked on a couple of movies, although at the time I didn't quite see it that way. Irwin wasn't senile, just wildly eccentric, and imagined that he was Cecil B. DeMille. Instead of yelling "cut," he would fire a gun into the air.)

Toward the end of a day of working on I Dream of Jeannie with that senile, tyrannical old movie director barking ludicrous orders at us incessantly, I am close to tears. So, during a short break in the fi lming, I run off the set and hide behind a piece of scenery, far removed from all the action. And I stay there, sobbing away as silently as possible, while my makeup pours down my cheeks and all the crew and cast run around trying to find me.

Of course, Larry, a clever man in all sorts of ways, is the one to fi nally fi nd me in my hiding place. He puts his arms around me gently and says, "Don't cry, Barbara. That's my act!" Bless his heart! I am simultaneously touched and surprised—touched that Larry is being so kind to me, and surprised that he is being so honest about his on- set emotional breakdowns, which sometimes actually did culminate in him crying in front of all of us.

But I Dream of Jeannie wasn't just a hotbed of drama and intrigue. It was also a comedy, and Larry and I had plenty of fun along the way as well. A classic Larry story involves the two of us and a lion named Simm, a veteran of The Addams Family, who appeared with us in an episode entitled "The Americanization of Jeannie." The plot has Jeannie begging Captain Nelson to allow her to bring her former pet into the house. Not knowing what kind of pet Jeannie means, he agrees, only to be confronted with a fully grown male African lion.

Let me Jeannie- blink back to what really happened behind the scenes. As chance would have it, I've worked with lions before on a couple of Fox movies, and now I consider myself somewhat of a lion expert. So before we shoot our scene with the lion, I take Larry aside, advise him to make friends with the lion, and explain how. "Here's what you do, Larry. You have to stand very still and let the lion smell you. Then, when he's fi nished doing that, you should lean forward very, very gingerly and stroke him as gently as you can. That way, he'll get to know you and everything will be fi ne," I say helpfully. Larry's reaction? "Dream on, Barbara. I'm not making friends with any f—— lion!" He strides back to his dressing room.

At that moment, the lion trainer leads the lion onto the set. Larry and I were supposed to sit on the couch, and at a certain point in the script the lion was meant to stick his big paws over the back of the couch.

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