Here’s What Happened to Actress Barbara Eden Before, During and After ‘I Dream of Jeannie’

There’s something admirable about a person who embraces their past rather than spending a lifetime trying to elude it. The latter is particularly true in Hollywood and, in this instance, the stars of Classic TV shows who are bitter about the thing that made them famous in the first place. Compare them to Barbara Eden, who, at 88, still seems to relish delighting her fans by crisscrossing her arms and assuming the I Dream of Jeannie position (a show, incidentally, currently airing on Antenna TV).

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ITV/Shutterstock

Comments Herbie J Pilato, host of the Amazon and Shout Factory streaming Classic TV talk show Then Again With Herbie J Pilato, and author of Glamour Girls, and the Girl Next Door: Television’s Iconic Women from the 50s, 60s and 70s, “Recently an actor said they’d love to be typecast, but, generally speaking, performers don’t like to be typed at all. They want to break the mold or want to establish themselves, but once they do establish themselves, they want to move away from it. Barbara never seemed to want to move away from Jeannie — she embraced it — whereas Elizabeth Montgomery and Mary Tyler Moore took some time to come around. It took the Nick at Night resurgence of TV shows from the classic era for them to say, ‘Okay, I guess Samantha Stephens and Bewitched and Laura Petrie and The Dick Van Dyke Show aren’t going anywhere. We just better deal with it.’ But Barbara never pushed it away.”

Michael McKenna, author of The ABC Movie of the Week: Big Movies for the Small Screen, says, “Barbara did TV movies for a long time. Her first one was in 1971 and her last one was in 1996. That’s a tremendous run of network films. 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, which says that she was an established TV star who may have been typecast as Jeannie, but proved that it wasn’t an accurate assessment of who she was. The makers of these films 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.”

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Sidney Sheldon Prods/Kobal/Shutterstock

Most impressive about this is that Barbara was really coming off the success of a single iconic series whereas someone like the late Michael Landon had three big shows behind him: Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven. “But Barbara,” Michael muses, “after I Dream of Jeannie is bouncing around from TV movies to little guest spots to variety shows and, again, the fact that she does it for 25 years is really remarkable.”

For Geoffrey Mark, author of The Lucy Book: A Complete Guide to Her Five Decades on Television, Barbara’s success in some ways was a little surprising considering the perception of her early in her career. “Initially she was riding the tail end of the Marilyn Monroe sex symbol thing,” he suggests. “She was a beautiful, young, busty blonde with a great behind, and she could have gotten stereotyped into that early on, but she didn’t, because, as it turns out, she’s a wonderful comedian, a good actress and a genuinely nice person.”

For much more on Barbara Eden, cross your arms and blink … or you can simply scroll down.

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