Barbara Eden probably isn’t a well-known name these days, at least she doesn’t show up too often. Back in the 70s and 80s though, the actress was all over television and film, wowing audiences with humor and somewhat revealing clothing at the time. So what happened for Barbara to go back into the genie bottle?
Other than being 91 years old, the television darling is still maintaining a light schedule today. After a long and storied career, she couldn’t just give up acting that easily. Born during the Great Depression and used to working most of her life, she’s been going steady in the business for the past seventy-five years.
Coming Up in Depression America
Starting as a singer, Barbara Eden would sing in nightclubs throughout her youth until picking up acting at sixteen. While she would start out in stage productions, her transition into television would be a quick ride starting in 1955 with appearances on The Johnny Carson Show.
She would get launched into sitcoms across all two channels in the fifties, jumping between shows like I Love Lucy, Gunsmoke, and The Andy Griffith show in featured and guest roles throughout the decade. Barbara Eden would make her name doing these television roles along with uncredited or supporting roles in various films before catching her big break in 1965.
Barbara Eden would eventually with the title role in I Dream of Jeannie based on recommendations from other cast and crew she had worked with. The show would feature her as Jeannie, a genie (get it?) freed from her lamp by an American astronaut that finds it after a crash landing.
I Dream of Jeannie
Jeannie would go on to become Eden’s best-known role, playing the character in 139 episodes total. Notably, the first season had to be rushed into production and filmed quickly due to Barbara Eden’s real-life pregnancy at the time, leading to somewhat madcap pacing as it was all done before she started to show.
The show would prove successful though, with Barbara Eden and her costars reprising and giving homages to the show in decades to follow with reunion shows and their roles elsewhere. The character would even cross over with The Brady Bunch during one of their later movies.
After Jeannie’s eventual end in 1970, Barbara Eden would float around in various film and television productions, usually playing comedic roles before taking some dips into drama and light horror before landing another starring role in the show Harper Valley in 1981, after previously playing the same character in a movie three years prior.
Behind the Curtain
The later 80s and into the 90s saw her returning to the stage as much as the screen, with multiple starring roles in productions of musicals and stage plays. She would mostly stick to the stage in the 90s though, only showing up to reprise Jeannie in some made-for-television movies and a small role in Dallas.
The 2000s would be much the same, with Barbara Eden performing in stage plays like a female-led Odd Couple and a few guest roles on popular shows like Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Army Wives. She would mostly take the decade slow, reuniting with Jeannie co-star Larry Hagman before going on to write a memoir to kick off the 2010s.
Barbara Eden would release her memoir in 2011 called Jeannie Out of the Bottle. The book was a comprehensive look at Eden’s life, from her three marriages to the tragedies of her family, and would earn her a spot on the bestseller list.
Her son Matthew Ansara, who was born during her marriage with Michael Ansara, unfortunately, passed in 2001 from a drug overdose. As any parent would at the loss of their child, Barbara Eden suffered an emotional breakdown following his death, fondly remembering him in her book and recounting her pregnancy with him while just starting with I Dream of Jeannie.
What is Barbara Eden doing now?
While Eden approached 90, she stayed just as busy as she did fifty years ago with new and old ventures alike. In 2019 she would play the role of Mrs. Claus in the film My Adventures With Santa Claus, and also show up on various talk shows to speak about whatever may be happening at the time.
She would prove to be worthy of the title when appearing on Worst Cooks in America as a contestant, only making it two episodes in before elimination. She would also go on to star on Long Island Medium, investigating the curse of Theresa Caputo’s hairstyle.
In 2021 she took the opportunity to write a book with her current husband of over thirty years, Jon Eicholtz. The couple, who were at home recovering from COVID-19, ended up writing a children’s book called Barbara and the Djinn, about a young girl that meets a genie through a magical book. Sounds a little familiar.
Now retired, Barbara and her husband are content living out their golden years in peace. Though the actress hasn’t explicitly ruled anything out, she could always take on the role of Jeannie again with a nod of the head as if she never left.