Sure, Eden was a lovely lady, and she’d actually had some success as a beauty contestant, but she was an actress and not a model. Sheldon tempted Eden to the show, and Eden was happy to try out – especially after Sheldon was so flattering about her resume. It was then that Eden found out who she would be competing against.
In an interview with Channel to News in Australia, she said that when she found out all the other women competing for the job were models and beauty pageant winners, she had to actually ask her agent if Sheldon knew that she was primarily an actress and not just a pretty face. But it was clear that Eden suddenly had a leg-up on the other women. Not only was she a blonde bombshell, but she was also a trained and talented actress, too.
An Important Film, Anyway
One of the movies Eden had starred in during 1964 was called “A Brass Bottle,” and you might find the setup familiar. It’s a fantasy-comedy about a modern-day man who accidentally acquires a bottle that contains an ancient genie. The two strike up a friendship. Eden plays Tony Randalls’s girlfriend, Sylvia. Maybe there was some kind of focus on genies in bottles going around. This was before Disney's “Aladdin,” but long after the idea was first created, so who knows?
Well, it turns out producer Sidney Sheldon saw Eden acting in that film and thought she would be perfect to audition for his new series, “I Dream of Jeannie.” Yes, we’ve finally gotten around to it. Sheldon approached her in 1965, asking her to audition, and Eden was quick to say yes.
One of the Many Beautiful
Producer Sheldon had, at that point, auditioned numerous young women, from brunette starlets to...brunette beauty queens. We think we know what he needs to change. Work had begun in 1964, at which point “Bewitched” was the number-two show on television. He knew he had a good idea for something with comedy, romance, and a fantastic element, but he needed the right woman to be the genie.
After seeing “The Brass Bottle,” he figured he might as well give Eden a chance to audition. We wonder if the fact that the movie was about a genie helped his decision-making process, even if it wasn’t Eden herself who was the one coming out of the bottle. But Eden was a little taken aback when she found out who she was competing against for the spot on the series.
Landing the Biggest Role of Her Life
Despite being up against some stiff competition, Barbara Eden proved that she was the woman for the job. She accepted the role, and to some, that might come as a surprise – why give up movies for TV? Every actor’s dream is to be the lead in a long-running television show, trust us. That’s a lot of money, no matter what. Not only that, but landing a movie star like Eden immediately gave the show a whole lot of buzz and press before it was even shown on the screen.
Eden would play the titular character Jeannie, a genie that had been stuck in a bottle for two thousand years before being found by an astronaut. Immediately, the two start to fall in love, but a lot more happens, too.
Starting the Magic
The first episode of “I Dream of Jeannie” was shown on September 18th, 1965 on NBC. The pilot episode was called “The Lady in the Bottle.” Captain Tony Nelson, played by Larry Hagman, has his one-man capsule “Stardust One” come down far from the planned recovery area, near a deserted island in the South Pacific. While on the beach, Tony notices a strange bottle that seems to be moving on its own.
He removes the stopper and rubs the lamp, and a beautiful woman emerges, who begins speaking Persian before kissing him on the lips. He is unable to understand her until he expresses a wish that the woman could speak English, at which point she does perfectly. She is able to help Tony get rescued, and he’s so grateful that he frees her, but she’s fallen in love with him at first sight, so she decides to stay with him.