Was Barbara Eden Of 'I Dream Of Jeannie' The Queen Of '60s Sitcom Sirens?

Entertainment | October 31, 2017

Larry Hagman and Barbara Eden in 'I Dream Of Jeannie.' Source: IMDB, Getty Images

Midriff bared and peppy as the day is long, Barbara Eden on I Dream Of Jeannie seemed out of place on TV during the show's run, which lasted from 1965-70. Television networks have had notoriously conservative self-imposed standards -- how do we get Barbara Eden as Jeannie the genie, wearing (essentially) a bikini top in every episode?

Well, there were rules -- network brass actually had meetings and guidelines regarding Barbara Eden's physique, specifically how much could be shown. The midriff-baring was deemed acceptable as long as certain other nods to modesty were in place. Rule #1 was no belly button! You will never see Jeannie's navel on I Dream Of Jeannie, no matter how hard you squint at your screen. And the other practice to be observed: if you were giving the audience cleavage and midsection, you had to cover the legs. Jeannie's billowing harem pants are somewhat appropriate to the role, but they're also there so that she wouldn't be too sexy.

When Jeannie was in "street clothes" of course, the midriff was covered up so she was allowed to wear very short miniskirts. And wear them she did.

Well, someone thought that system worked. Audiences certainly didn't feel they were being deprived of Barbara Eden's charms, so everybody wins. In the '60s, television comedies were packed with beauties who continue to inspire passionate fandom to this day -- we're talking Elizabeth Montgomery (Samantha on Bewitched), Donna Douglas (Elly May on Beverly Hillbillies), Tina Louise (Ginger on Gilligan's Island), Dawn Wells (Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island), and many more. But viewer polls tend to crown Barbara Eden's Jeannie the sexiest TV sitcom babe of the decade. 

And let's not forget that Barbara Eden was a gifted comedic actress. So, she's aestherically pleasing, scantily clad, funny as heck, and gifted with supernatural powers -- can you really argue against her?

Jeannie Was An Older Woman

Jeannie, a Genie, was the Lady in the Bottle that every man dreamed of. Although, for fictional, handsome astronaut, Captain Tony Nelson (Larry Hagman), she was no dream. She was a real-life fantasy! Although most men are desirable of a younger woman, Tony found himself in the exact opposite position. Jeannie was 2,000 plus years old! Don’t let her age fool you though; she was beautiful, sexy and blond to boot!    

Captain Nelson Rescued Jeannie

Left: Larry Hagman, Barbara Eden, and Sammy Davis Jr. on 'I Dream Of Jeannie.' Right: Eden as Jeannie. Source: IMDB

Tony Nelson was a Captain in the United States Air Force. While on a one-man mission for NASA, he unfortunately goes way off course becoming marooned on a deserted island in the South Pacific with no hope of recovery. Just when he had lost all hope, he stumbled upon an ornate, sealed bottle that had washed up on the beach. It caught his attention, with its unique look, so he picked it up and removed the cork. It was weathered from bobbing around in the sea for years so he began rubbing it to clean it up. That was all it took for Jeannie, a genie, to emerge from the bottle in a cloud of smoke to meet the person who had rescued her; her new master. Captain Nelson had rescued Jeannie from years of captivity in the bottle and she was only more than happy to serve her new master! Theoretically, his wish was her command!  

Jeannie Was In Love With Tony

Jeannie was from Bagdad and was thousands of years old, although she didn’t look a day over O-LA-LA! Tony was taken aback after what he had just witnessed! He momentarily questioned his sanity but then she planted a big kiss right on his lips! The two struggled to communicate until Tony “wished” that she could understand him. From then on, she spoke English, albeit she struggled at times with understanding what he meant. She was constantly taking everything he said a little too literally. When Tony finally realized that Jeannie could make his wishes come true, he made another wish; for a rescue helicopter, which promptly appeared to take him home and he was saved.

Captain Nelson was truly grateful for being rescued and was under the impression that his association with Jeannie would be over after having told her that she was “free.” Since he had set her free, that should have been all there was to it, right? Wrong! Little did he know that she had fallen madly in love with him at first sight! Jeannie was not only in love, but also fiercely loyal to the master who had released her from captivity. She then secretly rolled her bottle into his bag and accompanied him home. How would he ever be able to explain his new companion who looked and dressed like a belly-dancer, not to mention that she had the ability to cross her arms, blink and make magic?

Jeannie Wanted To Please Her Master

After Tony realized that Jeannie had stowed away in his duffel bag, he kept her in the bottle most of the time for lack of any other plan. Jeannie, being in love with her master, devoted her existence to pleasing Tony and do only what she felt was in his best interest. The two, however, often disagreed on what that was. Jeannie was not only profoundly in love with her master but also wanted to fulfill her duty as a Genie. She always had his best interest at heart but also, selfishly, sabotaged every relationship between Tony and any lady friends he had.  

Tony Saw Jeannie As A Liability

Jeannie, although well meaning, often caused near catastrophes for her master, both personally and professionally. Tony wanted her to be independent and have a life of her own but she was hell bent on having him for her husband. Major Nelson was a busy, well respected, military professional. His demanding career required him to be of the utmost character and stability. Jeannie’s antics constantly put his esteemed position in jeopardy even though that is the last thing she wanted. Tony, spent the majority of his time, at first hiding Jeannie; and then hiding her identity once she was discovered. His ultimate fear was that he would be dismissed from his duties or maybe worse.

Jeannie Cleaned Up Her Messes With Magic

Most men would have loved nothing better than to have a curvy, sexy, beautiful woman cater to his every need. Tony, however, did not. Maybe Dr. Bellows (Hayden Rorke), NASA’s psychiatrist should have spent a little couch-time on that issue with him. His recurring role on the show, however, was to prove his suspicions that something was going on or that maybe Tony was just crazy! That just wasn’t quite right. He came close a couple of times, but never figured it out. At the last minute, Jeannie’s magic powers usually resolved the issues, which usually caused them in the first place. 

Major Roger Healey (Bill Daily), Tony’s best friend, was the only person besides Tony that knew the truth about Jeannie. He tried many times to talk some sense into his buddy. He would have gladly traded places and enjoyed every bit of attention Jeannie had to offer. He also at times, having “hot pants” and being girl crazy, would try to persuade her to use her powers to benefit himself. More than once, he tried to involve her in a get-rich-quick scheme. In one of the episodes, he actually stole Jeannie, hoping that he could use her powers to grant HIS every wish! You can’t blame a guy for trying!

Jeannie was profoundly jealous of any women who even thought about her master in a romantic way. Early on, she would sabotage all of his dates; sometimes changing Tony and/or his dates into other creatures or sending them to faraway places; even going as far as torturing Tony at times as a punishment. When Tony was able to see it coming, he would trap Jeannie in her bottle to avoid her wrath, most often by trickery. When Jeannie was in her bottle, her powers were useless!

Throughout the series, Jeannie’s family members would pop in and out adding to the chaos she instilled. They were every bit as colorful as she was. In the end, Tony finally relented and stopped fighting his feelings of affection for Jeannie. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! They were ultimately married and she was loved and accepted by his friends and superiors. Nobody was ever the wiser.

Tags: Barbara Eden | I Dream Of Jeannie | TV In The 1960s | TV In The 1970s

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Rebeka Knott


Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.