Alan's Reviews > Jeannie Out of the Bottle

Jeannie Out of the Bottle by Barbara Eden
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's review
May 17, 2011

it was ok
Recommended to Alan by: Some weblog or another... I neglected to make note of which one
Recommended for: Aspiring Tony Nelsons (or Jeannies); seekers after Hollywood dish
Read in May, 2011 , read count: 1

I must have become a fan of "I Dream of Jeannie" pretty early in life, though most likely I did not start watching the show until it went into syndication, years after its original television run—at any rate, I cannot remember when I first saw it. The mixture of science fiction (Major Nelson was an astronaut!) with fantasy, and silliness with sexiness, made an indelible mark on me even as a child growing up in the 1960s and 1970s.

Later on, I came to connect Barbara Eden's bubbly Jeannie with Elizabeth Montgomery's portrayal of Samantha Stevens in "Bewitched." Both characters are supernaturally powerful women, who voluntarily take subservient roles to men who are neurotic in the extreme, authoritarian at home while being browbeaten by bosses at their work, and, frankly, not worth the trouble. This is a common thread in '60s sitcoms, actually. I see it as a reaction by Hollywood's mostly male hierarchy to the rise of overt feminism in that same decade. You need view no more than the title sequence of the bucolic "Green Acres" for a similar, if more mundane, example.

Eden explicitly dismisses such notions, by the way, claiming that "I Dream of Jeannie" was nothing more than a fantasy, with no intended connection to any real-world policies or events... although she herself notes that a brief experiment with a "stronger" and more assertive Jeannie failed with test audiences.

The prose in Jeannie Out of the Bottle is extremely simple, and conversational in tone. I got the feeling that co-author ("with") Wendy Leigh was working directly from recorded interviews. This is of course not uncommon with Hollywood memoirs, and it is to Eden's credit that her collaborator receives acknowledgement on the cover. The narrative is roughly chronological, though Eden frequently digresses, using the term "Jeannie blink" to indicate when she's going to talk about a different time. This is charming the first few times, but grates mightily after a dozen or so appearances.

Although Eden herself comes across as more than a little prudish, she does share some fairly salacious gossip about the many Hollywood figures (most of them having predeceased her) she met or with whom she's worked over her long career—Elvis Presley; Marilyn Monroe; Sammy Davis, Jr.; Warren Beatty... and of course Larry Hagman and her other costars on "Jeannie." These tidbits are inserted judiciously, at intervals. The effect, which I'm sure is intended, is that if you're just looking for the dirt, you'll keep reading through her other reminiscences to get to it. And those other reminiscences are worth reading... Eden's life has not been an entirely idyllic one, and her perseverance in the face of career setbacks and significant personal tragedy makes for a creditable and, yes, even inspiring story.

A celebrity autobiography like Jeannie Out of the Bottle is not my usual sort of thing, and I must admit I did not think it was wonderful... but if your upbringing included as many of the silly sitcoms of the Sixties as mine did, you'll want to at least pick it up.
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