Sunday, July 16, 2017

"Jeannie Out of the Bottle" by Barbara Eden with Wendy Leigh

For today, I read a memoir about Barbara Eden. I found it an enjoyable read, (though it didn’t quite pull me in & hold my attention as completely as did the Pat Benatar memoir that I began my first blog entry by talking about). “Jeannie Out of the Bottle” was a very good book and I learned a great deal about Barbara Eden that I didn’t previously know.

Barbara started out with a desire to be a singer, but was later encouraged to study acting as well as singing. When she first signed with an acting agent, he agreed to represent her only if she would change her name. He felt her last name (Huffman) sounded much more like a doctor’s name than one belonging to an actress. And as men seemed to find her extremely innocent and naïve, he suggested that she change her name to Barbara Eden. She agreed, and thus began her career as a professional actress.

This book does not follow a completely linear sequence of events and occasionally skipped a bit back and forth during her life and career. Barbara met an impressive number of actors and musicians that went on to become extremely famous during their careers, though many of them, like her, were often just starting out when they first met. She also met a number who were already at the height of their careers, such as Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.

Ignoring the advice given to her by many, Barbara married an actor named Michael Ansara while she was still relatively young. They were very much in love, and despite often difficult work schedules, they managed to remain married for longer than most had predicted. They had one son together, but tragedy struck during her second pregnancy. At 7 months pregnant, her doctor determined that the baby had died in utero but that she would still need to carry it to term. He felt that inducing an early labor would risk Barbara’s life. Needless to say, by the time her second child was stillborn, the stress and depression had been wearing at her for a while. It unfortunately also took it’s toll on her family and her once happy marriage.

Her best known role as Jeannie on the TV show “I Dream of Jeannie” made her pretty much a household name. Even today, many folks have seen the show in reruns or grew up watching it when they were kids. While the show made her famous, it was also a source of conflict with her costar Larry Hagman. He had hoped the show would make him a star, yet it soon became clear that he would always play second fiddle to Barbara’s Jeannie and he seemed to resent it. (He would, however, eventually gain his own fame as J.R. Ewing on the TV show “Dallas”, but that’s another story.)

There were a great many other ups and downs in Barbara Eden’s life and career. I won’t go into the details here, as I do not wish to spoil the book for anyone. But please believe me when I say that she has lived quite an interesting life thus far. I felt that her story was definitely worth the time it took me to read it. Suffice it to say that she is and has been a fascinating woman with quite an amazing life. I’d say that if you like memoirs and/or Barbara Eden, then you should definitely give this book a try.

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