From the beginning, there has been something very special about actress Barbara Eden and her connection with not only her famous TV persona on I Dream of Jeannie, but with the generations of fans who have taken her and the show to heart. Point to any other TV show that has lived on in reruns in the same way, and it’s likely you’ll find cast members who, for at least a time, were bitter and felt trapped by a role they couldn’t escape, yet were unable to benefit from it financially and hadn’t in decades.
Gilligan’s Island. Star Trek. The Brady Bunch. Batman. Even her Jeannie co-star Larry Hagman in his pre-J.R. Ewing days. Pick a show, you’ll find somebody who has fit the above description. But the other commonality is that there’s usually a time of reconciliation, where they come to grips with the reality around them, recognize that they’ve left their mark on the world, and start to fully embrace it all. But what separates Barbara from all of them — at least insofar as the outside world can tell — is that she never really went through that sort of period. Right from the start, she seemed to love the fact that we loved her and what she created. And typecasting? It never slowed her down.
Perfect example: After the series ended in 1970, she jumped into making one TV movie after another — as you’ll see below — and was able to explore the full breadth of her talents. Michael McKenna, who wrote the book The ABC Movie of the Week: Big Movies for the Small Screen, says, “It wasn’t like she veered off and started doing Lifetime movies or anything like that. She was making network TV films with pretty good casts.”
Barbara Proved the Skeptics Wrong
Which, he notes, drove home the point that she was someone who was established as a TV star, and while the public’s perception of her may have been as Jeannie, her work in those films proved that she was capable of much more. “The makers of these films,” he says, “loved the advantage of a recognizable face and that it gave them a leg up on the competition to be able to put her in different films no matter what genre it was.”
What follows is our celebration of Barbara Eden, focusing on the highlights of her career and not focusing on the personal (including her marriages and the loss of her son). Born on August 23, 1931, she began by singing in the church choir and with local bands. Just about 70 years ago she was also named Miss San Francisco and entered the Miss California pageant. From there, she scored a recurring gig on Johnny Carson’s series before he took over The Tonight Show, and she went on from there, starring in movies, guest-starring on episodic television, and, of course, becoming a pop culture icon with I Dream of Jeannie (currently airing on the Antenna TV network).
Seventy years. It feels like it’s passed with the folding of arms and the blink of her eyes.
‘The Wayward Girl’ (1957)
Barbara Eden plays a character named Molly in this drama. Before this, she had two uncredited roles in the 1956 films Back from Eternity and Bailout at 43,000. After this one, she appeared in the Jayne Mansfield and Tony Randall film, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? also released in 1957. (Republic Pictures)
‘Highway Patrol’ (1957)
Barbara guest stars on an episode of ‘Highway Patrol’ in 1957, playing Kathy O’Shea in “Hostage Copter” (Ziv Television).
‘I Love Lucy’ (1957)
Barbara plays Diana Jordan in the ‘Country Club Dance’ episode of ‘I Love Lucy’ (CBS Television Distribution). Do You Remember recently provided a behind-the-scenes look at the episode.
‘How to Marry a Millionaire’ (1957 to 1959)
Barbara’s first TV series, based on Marilyn Monroe’s film of the same name. Here she’s with co-stars Lori Nelson, and Merry Anders (Everett Collection).
‘Perry Mason’ (1957)
Barbara plays Carla Adrian in “The Case of the Angry Mourner” episode of Perry Mason (CBS Television Distribution).
“Romeo” aired on Gunsmoke in 1957 and Barbara played Judy Pierce (CBS Television Distribution).
‘Bachelor Father’ (1957)
Barbara appeared in the ‘Bentley and the Revolving Housekeepers’ episode of Bachelor Father, a series starring John Forsythe who she would reunite with in the 1990 TV movie Opposites Attract (MCA TV).
‘December Bride’ (1957)
Barbara Eden, Harry Morgan, and Dean Miller in the episode “The Other Woman” (Everett Collection).
‘Father Knows Best’ (1958)
In ‘The Rivals,’ Barbara plays Marge Corbett (Screen Gems).
Barbara Marries Michael Ansara
In 1958, Barbara married actor Michael Ansara, who she would be with until their divorce in 1974 (Everett Collection).
‘The Lineup’ (1958)
Warner Anderson, Barbara, and Tom Tully in ‘The Samuel Bradford Case’ episode of this 1950 to 1960 police drama (Everett Collection).
‘A Private’s Affair’ (1959)
In A Private’s Affair, a trio of Army recruits prepare to compete on a TV talent show. Starring along with Barbara are Gary Crosby and Sal Mineo (20th Century Fox Film Corp./courtesy Everett Collection).
‘Twelve Hours to Kill’ (1960)
Someone in Witness Protection discovers the cops are working with the guy he’s testifying against. From left: Nico Minardos, Barbara Eden (20th Century Fox Film Corp./courtesy Everett Collection).
‘Flaming Star’ (1960)
It’s Elvis Presley, Barbara Eden, and Steve Forrest in this adventure set in the Old West. Barbara received positive notices for her performance (20th Century-Fox Film Corp./Everett Collection).
‘From the Terrace’ (1960)
Barbara was definitely moving up in terms of the quality of her projects, this one giving her the opportunity to work with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. (20th Century Fox Film Corp./Everett Collection).
‘Swingin’ Along’ (1961)
A couple of conmen (one played by Peter Marshall, who would become the longtime host of The Hollywood Squares) try to win a songwriting contest, and Barbara is Carol, their choice for the singer (Copyright ©20th Century-Fox Film Corp./Everett Collection).
‘All Hands on Deck’ (1961)
While commanding his Navy ship, Pat Boone gets romantically involved with Barbara Eden’s character, and (conveniently) manages to work in a couple of songs (20th Century Fox Film Corp./Everett Collection).
‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’ (1961)
The underwater sci-fi adventure that would spawn the 1960s TV series of the same name. Pictured here are, sitting, Walter Pidgeon and Peter Lorre, and, standing from left: Robert Sterling, Barbara Eden (20th Century Fox Film Corp./courtesy Everett Collection).
‘The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm’ (1962)
It’s a look at the lives of the Brothers Grim, Wilhelm, and Jacob. Barbara plays the character of Greta Heinrich (MGM).
‘Five Weeks in a Balloon’ (1962)
From left; Cedric Hardwicke, Barbara Luna, Barbara Eden, Richard Haydn. This is an adventure set in 1862 Africa (20th Century Fox Film Corp./courtesy Everett Collection).
‘The Andy Griffith Show’ (1962)
Barbara with Andy Griffith in season two’s “The Manicurist” (Everett Collection).
‘Cain’s Hundred’ (1962)
Peter Mark Richman, Harold J. Stone, and Barbara in this crime drama’s season one episode ‘Savage In Darkness’, (Everett Collection).
Barbara Bowling, Because … Why Not?
‘Saints and Sinners’ (1962)
Barbara with series star Nick Adams in this show about New York as seen through the eyes of a newspaper staff. The episode is ‘Daddy’s Girl’ (Everett Collection).
‘The Yellow Canary’ (1963)
Barbara is a woman whose marriage with her husband is falling apart when their son is a victim of kidnapping (20th Century Fox Film Corp./Courtesy: Everett Collection).
‘Dr. Kildare’ (1963)
Barbara and Richard Chamberlain in the episode ‘If You Can’t Believe The Truth…,’ which aired in Season 3 (Everett Collection).
Series star Clint Eastwood with Barbara in the two-part ‘Damon’s Way’ in Season 7 (Everett Collection).
‘7 Faces of Dr. Lao’ (1964)
Tony Randall and Barbara Eden star in this fantasy adventure; Randall, of course, would go on to play Felix Unger in The Odd Couple (Everett Collection).
‘Quick, Let’s Get Married’ (1964)
In a nutshell, the plot of this one has members of a bordello helping a thief track down the buried treasure. Barbara stars alongside Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland (Everett Collection).
‘The Brass Bottle’ (1964)
Maybe Barbara is having visions of things to come in this fantasy involving a genie (Burt Ives) and reteams her with Tony Randall (Everett Collection).
‘The New Interns’ (1964)
Barbara is one of the nurses in a huge hospital, with other nurses and doctors played by Dean Jones, Telly Savalas, Michael Callan, Stefanie Powers, and Dawn Wells — who would not only play Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island but become one of Barbara’s closest friends (Everett Collection).
‘Ride the Wild Surf’ (1964)
It’s all about romance and surfing. Pictured above, from left, are Susan Hart, Shelley Fabares, and Barbara (Everett Collection).
‘I Dream of Jeannie’ (1965 to 1970)
Barbara and Larry Hagman star in this show about … ah, we’re messing with you. If you don’t know Jeannie, odds are you wouldn’t be reading this in the first place. Perfect example of Classic TV! (Everett Collection).
The Baby! (1965)
Barbara Eden, with her and Michael Ansara’s newborn son, Matthew Ansara, August 1965 (Everett Collection).
Matthew Ansara, seen here with his parents, is about two weeks old in this photo (Everett Collection).
‘The Jerry Lewis Show’ (1967)
Barbara, seen here with Jerry Lewis, guest-starred on the NBC series during its 1967 to 1969 run (Everett Collection).
Jose Ferrer and Barbara lead the 1967 TV movie adaptation of the musical of the same name. Set in ancient Bagdad (Barbara should feel right at home!), the intersection of commoners and kings occurs as a princess falls in love with a beggar (Everett Collection).
Madison Square Garden Special Event (1968)
An event celebrating the opening of Madison Square Garden pits Bob Hope against boxing champ Rocky Marciano, with Barbara standing by as nurse and Bing Crosby serving as a referee (EverettCollection).
‘Changing Scene’ (1970)
Hosted by Gene Kelly, this special combined music, comedy, and dancing. Also appearing were James Garner and Arte Johnson (Everett Collection).
‘The Feminist and the Fuzz’ (1971)
Barbara Eden and David Hartman are the title characters who conveniently end up in a situation where they become roommates, their individual viewpoints clashing with the others. Sounds more dramatic than it really is; it’s a comedy (ABC).
‘A Howling in the Woods’ (1971)
It’s an I Dream of Jeannie reunion (sort of) as Barbara and Larry come together as a married couple who may or may not be encountering a wolf creature in the woods (NBCUniversal).
‘The Woman Hunter’ (1972)
Going on vacation with her husband (Robert Vaughn), a woman is suddenly being hunted by an international killer (Everett Collection).
‘Guess Who’s Sleeping in My Bed?’ (1973)
Out of nowhere, Francine Gregory (Barbara) finds herself hosting her ex-husband and his family who are in need of a place to stay. It’s a comedy (Everett Collection).
‘The Stranger Within’ (1974)
Barbara’s a pregnant woman whose unborn child is turning out not to be something supernatural and is forcing her to do some strange things — including scoffing down raw meat (Everett Collection).
‘Let’s Switch’ (1975)
A magazine editor (Barbara Feldon) and a housewife (Barbara) decide to get a sense of each others’ lives by switching places (Everett Collection).
‘Tony Orlando and Dawn’ (1975)
Barbara makes a furry appearance on a 1975 episode of the Tony Orlando and Dawn variety show (Everett Collection).
‘How to Break Up a Happy Divorce’ (1976)
Divorced from her husband (played by Barney Miller‘s Hal Linden), a woman (Barbara) decides that she wants to win him back again. The question is raised: why mess with a good divorce? (NBC)
‘The Amazing Dobermans’ (1976)
A group of Dobermans are used to carry out a series of crimes. From left: Fred Astaire, Barbara Eden, James Franciscus (Everett Collection).
‘Stonestreet: Who Killed the Centerfold Model?’ (1977)
Barbara Eden as private detective Liz Stonestreet who goes undercover as a porn actress in ‘Stonestreet: Who Killed the Centerfold Model?’ (NBC)
‘Blithe Spirit’ (1977)
The play ‘Blithe Spirit’, from left: Concetta Tomei, Roger Mueller, Barbara Eden, Jane MacIver, Susan Dafoe. The show was performed at the Lincolnshire Theater in 1977.
‘Harper Valley PTA’ (1978)
Barbara is single mom Stella Johnson, who takes on an ultra-conservative small town. The film spawned the TV series of the same name (April Fools Productions/Courtesy Everett Collection).
MGM Grand Hotel Event (1978)
From left: Jane Powell, Fred MacMurray, Barbara Eden at an event for the MGM Grand.
‘The Girls in the Office’ (1979)
Barbara and Susan Saint James in this film about four women trying to balance professional and personal lives (ABC Television/ Courtesy: Everett Collection).
Considering it a disaster movie like The Towering Inferno, only on a much smaller scale as residents of a condominium community are threatened by a massive hurricane. Pictured are Barbara Eden and Ralph Bellamy (Universal/courtesy Everett Collection).
‘Men Who Rate a 10’ (1980)
Barbara along with Gloria Swanson and Brooke Shields hosted this TV special (NBC / Courtesy: Everett Collection).
‘Return of the Rebels’ (1981)
Barbara Eden and Don Murray in this story about a motorcycle gang with a heart of gold (not really) that helps Barbara’s character save her home (CBS/courtesy Everett Collection).
‘Bob Hope’s All-Star Comedy Look at the Fall Season’ (1981)
Barbara Eden and Bob Hope in a moment from his 1981 special, which was subtitled ‘It’s Still Free and Worth It!’ (NBC/courtesy Everett Collection).
‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’ (1984)
To get the money in his father’s will, a football team owner (George Kennedy) needs to restore his father’s favorite train and take in a 24-hour run from Chattanooga to New York City. Barbara is among those along for the ride (Everett Collection).
‘I Dream of Jeannie … Fifteen Years Later’ (1985)
Is it really a reunion movie if one of the stars doesn’t … uh … reunion? Wayne Rogers steps in as Tony Nelson in I Dream of Jeannie … Fifteen Years Later.’Barbara is a good sport and she still makes the costume work (Columbia Pictures Television / Courtesy: Everett Collection).
‘The Stepford Children’ (1987)
A sequel of sorts to The Stepford Wives, but now it’s the kids who are being replaced by deadly robots (NBC).
‘The Secret Life of Kathy McCormick’ (1988)
Barbara is the title character, a grocery store worker who captures the attention of Josh Taylor’s stockbroker character (NBC).
‘Your Mother Wears Combat Boots’ (1989)
Barbara’s a mom who bets her son she can get through basic training, and if she does, he has to leave the Army — cause, you know, this set-up could happen (Everett Collection).
‘A Brand New Life’ (1989 to 1990)
Barbara and Don Murray (him again!) are the parents in this short-lived comedy-drama series (Walt Disney Television/ courtesy Everett Collection).
‘Opposites Attract’ (1990)
Barbara’s mayoral candidate gets romantically involved with her political opponent (John Forsythe) in ‘Opposites Attract’ (NBC/courtesy Everett Collection).
‘Dallas’ (1990 to 1991)
Another welcome reunion between Larry Hagman and Barbara, this time on Dallas, on which she appeared in five episodes of Season 14 as LeeAnn De La Vegas (Lorimar Television / Courtesy: Everett Collection).
‘Her Wicked Ways’ (1991)
Tess O’Brien’s (Barbara) career and life are in danger from a seemingly psychotic protege (Heather Locklear) in Her Wicked Ways (CBS/courtesy Everett Collection).
‘Hell Hath No Fury’ (1991)
Terri Furguson (Barbara) is being terrorized by her husband’s murderer, Connie Stewart (Loretta Swit) in ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ (NBC/courtesy Everett Collection).
‘I Still Dream of Jeannie’ (1991)
The good news is Barbara reprises the role of the more evil ‘Jeannie II,’ but the bad news is that it’s another reunion movie that doesn’t feature a reunion between her and Larry Hagman as Tony Nelson (Everett Collection).
‘Visions of Murder’ (1993)
Psychologist Dr. Jesse Newman (Barbara) finds herself in the midst of mysterious murder when she begins experiencing paranormal visions (NBC/courtesy Everett Collection).
‘Eyes of Terror’ (1994)
Barbara’s Dr. Jesse Newman is back and this time her visions reveal a conspiracy in the government of San Francisco (NBC/courtesy Everett Collection).
‘Dead Man’s Island’ (1996)
It’s Jeannie and the Shat! Okay, it’s actually Barbara Eden and William Shatner, but we like our notion better. In any case, Hennie O (Barbara) is an investigative reporter asked by old friend Chase Prescott (William) uncover who’s trying to kill him (CBS / Courtesy: Everett Collection).
‘Always and Forever’ (2009)
An interfering mother (Barbara) pulls the strings to reunite her daughter and her high school sweetheart (Hallmark Channel).
‘A Very Brady Sequel’ (1996)
Barbara Eden’s very special cameo in ‘A Very Brady Sequel’ (Paramount Pictures)
‘Loco Love’ (2003)
Another couple trying to stay together and Barbara’s another mother who throws herself in the middle of the mix (Pathfinder Pictures).
‘My Adventures with Santa’ (2019)
Barbara Eden and Erick Devine are Mrs. Claus and Santa who try to work a bit of Christmas magic for a family in need of it (Octane Entertainment).
Barbara Eden turned 89 years old back in August of 2020! It’s magical, she looks half her age.
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