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I Dream of Jeannie: Everything You Didn’t Know About The Show

By: Calla Conway | Last updated: Jun 30, 2021

If you’re a fan of TV shows from the 1960s and 1970s, you have undoubtedly watched at least some episodes of the hit show I Dream of Jeannie. This iconic show ran from 1965 to 1970 and enjoyed rave reviews from its millions of fans.

It’s hard to believe that I Dream of Jeannie first aired more than 50 years ago. Let’s dive in and explore some of the most fun and fascinating facts about one of the most legendary shows of all time.

Jeannie Was Never Allowed Behind Closed Doors with Tony

Because of strict censorship rules, anytime Jeannie and Tony were seen going into the bedroom together, she had to be shown leaving the room, even when she turned into the trademark wispy pink smoke.

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At that time in the television era, it was common for even married couples to have two twin beds in their bedrooms. Back in those days, married couples couldn’t be shown on TV sharing a bed, believe it or not. Things have certainly changed since then.

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The Wedding Mistake

Apparently, Barbara Eden was completely against Jeannie and Major Nelson getting married. She pointed out that Jeannie was not a human, first of all. However, she also knew that marriage would break the sexual tension of the show.

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She also seemed to be aware that the couple getting married would destroy the show’s credibility, and as it turns out, she was right. Part of the problem was that genies can’t be photographed, and Jeannie is of course a genie. There go the wedding photos!

This one episode was more problematic than you might think, but we’ll get to that in a bit…

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Forget Fact-Checking

It’s likely that the producers and writers figured that with a fantasy show, why bother with fact-checking? Going back and watching old TV shows and movies, it’s always fun to catch the little mistakes that the writers didn’t really think about at the time.

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One example is when Tony Nelson went to Rome, Italy for a trip and told Jeannie that she may have known the city as “Gaul.” However, Gaul was the name that ancient Romans used for the part of the world that is now known as France.

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Larry Hagman's Early Days

In I Dream of Jeannie, legendary actor Larry Hagman played the role of Tony Nelson, a U.S. Air Force Captain, and NASA astronaut. In the show, Hagman’s character spent his daylight hours working for the U.S. government. However, at night, he went home to Jeannie.

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The character was a pretty uptight fellow in the beginning, and he seemed to mostly be focused on his job. However, as the show moved forward, Hagman’s character began to warm up to Jeannie and even eventually married her.

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Larry Hagman's Later Years

Hagman went on to appear in a number of TV shows and films through the 1970s. Perhaps his best-known role came in the 1980s when he was cast as the notorious J.R. Ewing in the 1980s primetime soap opera Dallas.

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In the years before his death in 2012, Hagman had roles on shows like The Simpsons and Nip/Tuck. Interestingly, when he starred in I Dream of Jeannie, he had a reputation for being a daytime heavy drinker. Unfortunately, in 2012 , the beloved actor passed away.

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Barbara Eden's Pregnancy in Season 1

In Season 1, Jeannie was mostly kept covered up. However, for the other seasons, Jeannie wore skimpy (by the standards of that time) harem costumes. Although in the modern era, her costumes would be considered to be fairly tame, in that time, showing the belly and some cleavage was definitely taboo.

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Photo by ITV/Shutterstock (939620jt) Barbara Eden TV ITV Archive

Here’s something most people don’t know. In that first season of 10 episodes, Barbara Eden was pregnant. Because of this, the producers agreed to help hide her baby bump, and the show became a classic.

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The Awkward News of the Show's Cancellation

Have you ever been the last to know something that had a huge effect on your life? Well, that’s what happened to Larry Hagman when I Dream of Jeannie was canceled. He showed up at the studio lot where the show was filmed and a guard broke the news to him.

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Apparently, Hagman had been on a South American vacation following the filming of Season 5, and when he returned from his vacation, he wanted to go grab something from his studio dressing room. Imagine his surprise when he was informed that he no longer had a job.

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Barbara Eden and the Lion

Did you know that I Dream of Jeannie had a real lion live on the set? Apparently, Barbara Eden was really good with the big cat, and she reportedly warned Hagman to “stand very still” while he allowed the lion to smell him.

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She then told Hagman to lean forward “gingerly” and pet the lion as gently as possible. However, Hagman refused, saying that he wasn’t inclined to “make friends” with a lion. Reportedly, the lion felt the same way about Hagman.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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”?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Although there have been some minor changes to the house over the years, for the most part, it remains unchanged, even after 50 years.

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