Barbara Eden has seen all aspects of life in Hollywood, having featured in some of the most iconic movies of her time. Her role in “I Dream of Jeannie” remains one of her most celebrated works.
The famous series, which ran for five seasons, featured Larry Hagman as Captain Tony Nelson and Barbara Eden as a beautiful genie named Jeannie.
Viewers would remember the show for Eden’s midriff-baring costume, but not many knew she was trying to cover up her pregnancy.
WHO WAS EDEN?
Eden could not have imagined herself doing anything else than entertaining her fans as an actress. Now 90-years-old, Eden’s love for acting began in her early years as a girl.
After her schooling, the “Perry Mason” star got her first role in the 1956 movie “Back from Eternity,” and afterwards, she picked up roles in other projects like “I Love Lucy,” “Gunsmoke,” and “Route 66.” However, her biggest role was in Sidney Sheldon’s 1965 sitcom “I Dream of Jeannie.”
She forged a good on-screen relationship with actor Larry Hagman, who acted as the smart NASA astronaut, Major Anthony Nelson. Their chemistry would go on to keep viewers glued to each season of the show.
Even after the series ended, both actors preserved their friendship and went to build incredible careers for themselves. After Hagman died of cancer in 2013, Eden sweetly recalled their time together as a pleasant memory.
As her acting soared in popularity, Eden gave the world a glimpse into her life via her memoir. Her 2011 memoir, “Jeannie Out of the Bottle” gave fans a glimpse of her marriage to her first husband, Michael Ansara, and their many struggles together as well as hiding her pregnancy.
MARRIAGE WITH MICHAEL ANSARA
Eden’s first husband, Ansara, is a popular actor within the “Star Trek” franchise. Outside of Star Trek,” Ansara appeared in “I Dream of Jeannie” alongside Eden.
The former couple met in 1957 through Eden’s publicist, Booker McClay, and in her memoir, Eden revealed that their first date was set up under humourous circumstances.
As a budding star, Eden was told she needed to upgrade her image by hooking up with the right actor who would provide the right thrill and appeal to fans. At the time, she was seeing a regular working-class guy called Tony, but he lacked the spice to boost her image.
Finally, McClay set up a date with Ansara, who was one of the top guys at the time following his role in “Broken Arrow.” The dinner was supposed to be a publicity stunt, but both sides forgot their obligations and ended up falling deeply in love.
A few months after they met, both stars realized the burning desire within them was a mutual feeling, and they did not want to share it with someone else. It did not take long before Ansara popped the question.
She was reluctant to marry the actor since they had just met, and that was against her mother’s instructions. Alongside that, she felt she was too young to be married, but all that changed in 1958 when Ansara proved useful during a period Eden had a personal crisis.
The couple tied the knot in 1958. After getting married, the duo decided to pause any plans of having kids and focus on their career, and when they finally decided to have kids, it became a tough experience as they waited for 7 years.
THEIR FIRST CHILD
Not having kids put a strain on their marriage and the couple badly wanted to have their first child together. At the time, Eden had just gotten her role on “I Dream of Jeannie.”
One day, while filming a guest shot in a movie, Eden felt nauseous and thought she had caught the flu. She decided to meet her doctor, who then informed her that she was going to have a pregnancy test. At first, Eden laughed at the statement, having tried so hard to no avail.
Eden and Ansara found out they were expecting a baby on the same day that she found out the pilot for “I Dream of Jeannie” was picked up.
The actress revealed in an interview that she thought she would have to give up her role on the show and decided to set up a meeting with producer Sidney Sheldon.
HIDING HER PREGNANCY
Rather than replace her, the producers came up with an idea to hide her pregnancy and let her play what turned out to be the role of her life.
To conceal her pregnancy, producers ensured Eden was covered up for the first ten episodes of the series by adding extra veils to the genie costume. She successfully hid her pregnancy from viewers and even from her famous friend, Clint Eastwood.
Following the loss of their second child, Eden fell into a depression which amplified the tension in her marriage to Ansara. Also, the actress claimed Ansara grew jealous of her career as it eclipsed his. The couple divorced in 1974, leaving their 10-year-old son Matthew heartbroken.
From an early age, Matthew reportedly started using drugs, and by 19, he had become an addict. He was taken in and out of rehab, and much effort was put into getting him fixed.
By the time he was 31, it had looked like Matthew had turned his life around. He got engaged and began to focus on his health. It was said that he stayed sober for a long period before returning to his old ways.
In June 2001, Matthew was found slumped over the steering wheel a few hours after being spotted at a gas station. He died of an accidental overdose, and his death remains a huge void in Eden’s heart.