Who can forget the sassy melody of the I Dream of Jeannie theme song, the colorful opening animated sequence, or the sight of the effervescent Barbara Eden making sourpuss Larry Hagman's life miserable? Since its debut in 1965, the series delighted audiences with the antics of Jeannie, a 2,000 year old genie and the astronaut, Tony Nelson, that became her begrudging master when he discovered her bottle on a beach.
Though it only lasted five years, it has become an enduring television classic, and a time capsule for some of the ideas and concepts of the mid 20th century in America. At the time of its premier, it was considered incredibly risque for two unmarried young people to live together, especially with the sort of iconic outfit that Jeannie strutted around in. Thanks to its widespread syndication, generations of fans have been enjoying it in re-runs for over fifty years. Below are 10 hidden details everyone missed when it aired, derived from Barbara Eden's compelling autobiography Jeannie Out of the Bottle.
10 BARBARA EDEN WAS MARRIED TO THE EVIL DJINN THAT TRAPPED JEANNIE
Although sometimes the writers posited that Jeannie had always been a genie, her original origin story involved an evil blue djinn that trapped her in her genie bottle. Why? As she tells Major Nelson, it's because when she was a mortal woman, she refused to marry him, so he turned her into a fellow genie with magic and trapped her in the bottle for all eternity.
In reality, Jeannie (Barbara Eden) was married to the actor Michael Ansara that played the evil blue djinn! Because of his high cheekbones and aquiline countenance, he was often cast as Native Americans in movies or in this case, a 2,000 year old djinn from the Ancient East.
9 JEANNIE'S BOTTLE WAS JIM BEAM BOURBON DECANTER
As beautiful and exotic looking as Jeannie's bottle was, its origins were actually much closer to home than you might think. It owes its majestic elongated shape to a 1964 holiday decanter for Jim Beam bourbon, which was spied by a producer for the series in a shop window around the time that production was going into development.
Originally a smoke-green color, and brought out as a limited edition Christmas offering by Jim Beam, it was taken to the prop department to be turned into Jeannie's home. The "Beam's Choice" emblem was removed, and it was given a fresh coat of purple paint, and a hefty amount of gold foil.
8 JEANNIE'S NAVAL WAS BANNED
Even in the "Swingin' '60s", the television landscape was a lot more conservative than it is today. I Dream of Jeannie was already considered a risky show to create, especially given the erotic undertones of a scantily clad female genie living with her "master", a single unmarried man in his home.
One of the biggest points of contention between the creative department and the producers was the amount of skin Jeannie was showing with her costume. Mid-drift was allowed, but the second the naval area popped out, the producers were going to slap the writers with hefty fines. It did on occasion get revealed when she moved, and the film had to be manually fixed.
7 JEANNIE'S DISAPPEARANCES WERE STRATEGIC
Viewers tuned in to watch Jeannie strut around in her costume, Major Nelson get mad at her good-intentioned (but no less exasperating) antics, and try to predict if this was the episode when they'd finally get together. Jeannie was always depicted as being crazy about her master, but Captain Tony always seemed hesitant to reveal his true feelings.
The fun of the show came from the sexual tension, and watching situations become erotically charged between the two leads without crossing any boundaries maintained by the producers. This meant that whenever a moment got too hot and heavy, Jeannie would strategically disappear in a puff of pink smoke in the nick of time.
6 NASA WAS PORTRAYED INCORRECTLY
Captain Tony Nelson (later Major Nelson) was portrayed as being an astronaut, despite the fact that there was a heavily militarized way that his involvement was characterized. He wore uniforms and articles of clothing that weren't similar to anything real astronauts would wear, which included patches that no astronaut would have been given.
Another aspect that was incorrect was the amount of militarized vocabulary as well as phrases that were used by Captain Tony and the rest of the male characters. You don't hear a lot of "Yes, Sir!" and, "No, Sir!" in NASA, being known as a scientific organization and not a military group.
5 LARRY HAGMAN WAS AN ALCOHOLIC ON SET
In her autobiography, Barbara Eden went into the difficulties of working with her co-star, the late Larry Hagman, on the set of I Dream of Jeannie. He would frequently show up to the set drunk, unable to concentrate on his lines, and throw tantrums if he didn't get his way about particular scenes.
This would not only make uncomfortable working conditions for her, but any guest stars they brought to the series. Sammy Davis Jr. appeared in an episode where he was already dealing with massive amounts of backlash during the Civil Right movement, yet almost came to blows with Hagman on set based on some disparaging remarks Hagman was making.
4 BARBARA EDEN WAS PREGNANT DURING SEASON 1
It's hard to believe that during the first season of filming, Barbara Eden was prancing around in one of the most revealing outfits on prime time television while being pregnant with her first child! The costume department had to work miracles altering her garments over the season to accommodate her growing belly.
She frequently had scarves, shawls, or other pieces of fabric draped across her mid-section, but other than that, it was incredibly hard for viewers to tell because she kept herself so trim throughout her pregnancy. Sadly, her son died at age 35 from an overdose, which she says she has never been able to get over in the years since.
3 A STAFF WRITER ALSO WROTE FOR BEWITCHED
I Dream of Jeannie often got compared to another popular series in the mid '60s involving a perky blonde - Bewitched. If you think that the shows shared a similar premise, about the antics of a supernatural female living with her vexed human male costar, there's a reason for that!
Bad blood existed between the series because writers and producers on both sides would accuse each other of stealing plotlines, dialogue, and certain mannerisms (Jeannie's blinking to enact wishes and Samantha's nose twitch for instance), but little did they know there was a staff writer writing for both of them! He was immediately fired from I Dream of Jeannie and the similarities ended.
2 JEANNIE'S HAIR WAS FAKE
While Jeannie's flaxen locks piled into a high pony tail are a signature part of her iconic look, they weren't in fact her real hair. Barbara Eden's hair was only four inches in length, cut into a stylish pixie. Her natural hair was blonde, however, and she had to stand her ground to have the hair pieces she wore match it.
Producers wanted her to be a brunette, especially given the comparisons to Bewitched, but she refused. Therefore, she had to spend the hours in the hair and makeup chair for stylists to pile all the necessary hair pieces and falls on her head, which took a lot of work considering they only had a few follicles to attach to.
1 JEANNIE AND MAJOR NELSON WEREN'T SUPPOSED TO BE MARRIED
At the end of the series' five seasons, Jeannie got her happily ever after with Major Nelson. The pair finally tied the knot, in what producers thought would be the payoff for all the emotional investment viewers had put into watching the show and waiting for them to get together. Wrong!
Barbara Eden begged producers not to have them get married, because the sexual tension between them was a driving force behind the show. She was ultimately correct, as after Jeannie and Major Nelson got hitched, ratings plummeted, and the show was suddenly canceled (no one even told Larry Hagman, who showed up to the studio lot and found himself locked out).