The actress, who famously starred as a 2,000-year-old genie in the hit ‘60s sitcom “I Dream of Jeannie,” has recently co-written a children’s book titled “Barbara and the Djinn.” It chronicles the adventures of a young girl who meets a charming genie and later learns the value of kindness and understanding.
This isn’t Eden’s first book. In 2012, the 89-year-old wrote a memoir titled “Jeannie Out of the Bottle,” which details her rise to fame in Hollywood. And despite her latest release, Eden is refusing to sit back and relax. In fact, she’ll be kicking off a show in February 2022 with the celebrated impersonators The Edward Twins. For Eden, it’s “business as usual.”
Eden spoke to Fox News about the connection she developed with late co-star Larry Hagman, what it was really like working with both Paul Newman and Elvis Presley, as well as what kept her going over the years.
Fox News: When people see “I Dream of Jeannie” today, there’s no denying the chemistry between you and Larry Hagman. How would you describe your connection to Larry on set?
Barbara Eden: You can’t describe it. It’s either there or it isn’t. And of course, with us, it was there. We had the same rhythm. We laughed at the same things. It was just there. We didn’t have to work at it.
Fox News: What’s your favorite memory from your time on set?
Eden: Oh my goodness, I have so many. I have told this story many times, but it always makes me laugh. We had a lion as a guest one time. I had done a film at Fox Studios and I had worked with a lion, a young male lion. I learned from the trainer on set that you’re supposed to go over and make friends with the lion. Let them know you’re not a threat. They’re not at all an animal to be played with.
So when I knew we had a lion coming up, I was prepared. I knew they always used a male lion, mainly because they’re lazy. They’re not aggressive like the females. They’re very happy as long as they’re fed and everything is nice, calm and sweet around them. And as long as you don’t run – you never run around a lion because it’s like a kitty cat. He wants to play with the ball in the yard, but a lion is 800 pounds or more and can really break your leg.
So I knew I had to go over there and let the lion know who I am. I went to Larry and said, “Larry, we have to go over and make friends with the lion.” And he said, “I’m not making friends with any blankety-blank lion!” *laugh* I said, “Well, you better.” He didn’t do it. I rehearsed with the lion. They put some meat nearby and the lion ate it. He looked around and was very, very happy. We did that several times.
Then they brought in Larry. At first, the lion did a double-take and then he roared, just roared at him. It was the loudest roar I’ve ever heard. Larry ran like mad, but so did every single man on that set *laughs*. They broke the camera. They knocked over the set, just running. Meanwhile, I was sitting on the sofa. I couldn’t move. The lion then came over, put his head on my lap and began to purr like this little machine. *laughs*.
Fox News: Your costume caused a stir at the time, but it’s very tame compared to what we see on television today.
Eden: Oh, it really was. When we did the pilot and the first 13 episodes, they didn’t say anything about it. But when we came back, they suddenly decided they had to put a lining in the pantaloons. Someone was always on set, constantly making sure we followed the best practices. The bottle couldn’t be in Larry’s bedroom. The smoke couldn’t be there. It was a little ridiculous, but it’s funny *laughs*. But anyway, it worked!
Fox News: It’s been reported that Darren McGavin was being considered as a possible replacement for Larry. However, it was you that put a stop to that.
Eden: Sidney Sheldon, who of course was our creator, producer and everything, came to me and said that Larry was troubled. We all knew that he was personally troubled, but never on the set. When we worked, it was work and it was good. On film, he’s wonderful.
I simply said, “He can’t get along with people. That’s all. You can get around that. I think it would be foolish to switch him in the middle of the show.” I love Darren but I didn’t know it was Darren McGavin. You’ve told me something I didn’t know. But all I knew was they wanted to get rid of Larry and I didn’t think it was the wise thing to do.
Fox News: It sounded like Larry gained a friend in you.
Eden: We just got along. I don’t think it was a surprise to him. Larry always had a friend. He knew that.
Fox News: You appeared on “I Love Lucy.” What’s the biggest piece of advice that Lucille Ball gave you?
Eden: She didn’t really give me advice. What she really gave me was affirmation. She liked what I did. She treated me like a professional. [“I Love Lucy”] was my third job in Hollywood and I was just so in awe of her. I watched her constantly so I could learn. And she appreciated that.
She was a lovely lady. She was so good to me and even wanted me to sign a contract. But I had already tested at Fox Studios and they had an option on my services. And while I was in the show, they called and said they picked up the options. So I had to tell her that I couldn’t work for her, which I would love to have done. But she was a pro.
Fox News: You also appeared in 1960’s “From The Terrace” with Paul Newman. What was your initial impression of him?
Eden: Oh my goodness, he was so handsome. But he was so wonderfully real. He didn’t have an ego. Some actors and actresses – they sometimes have an ego that stands out around them, so then you have to be very careful. But he didn’t have any of that. He was real, good and wonderful. I had one little scene with him, but he put me completely at ease. The first thing he said to me was, “Oh, look at this, I can look down on you. Most actresses, I cannot.” *laughs* Technically, of course, he was short and everyone knew that. I said, “I’m also short, so that was OK.” But he was wonderful.
Fox News: You were also in “Flaming Star” that same year with Elvis Presley. What did you think of him?
Eden: Oh, he was just a lovely man. Just a dear to work with. Again, no huge ego sticking out. He was very sure of himself. He knew what he was and what he wanted to accomplish. He was grounded, which I loved. And he was wonderful to work with. He cared about what he was doing. He knew the role was demanding and hard, but he worked just as hard at it. And he was really good. I just loved him.
Fox News: You and Marilyn Monroe shared the same stand-in. Did you ever get a chance to meet her?
Eden: Once. I thought she was the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met. She just radiated warmth and kindness. But I was also just flabbergasted over how beautiful she was. Oh my goodness, her skin just glowed. Everything about her was beautiful. But she was also genuine and kind.
Fox News: What did you make of her passing in 1962 at age 36?
Eden: Of course, I thought it was incredibly sad. I didn’t know her well. I only met her once. I only knew what any of my stuntmen would tell me. I knew she was troubled. But beyond that, I can’t really say. I was just really sad that it happened so suddenly for her. She was just so beautiful and kind. That’s how I remember her.
Fox News: What inspired you to write a children’s book now?
Eden: Well, this has been a long time in the making. I met [co-author] Dustin Warburton in Australia. I was doing a personal appearance and he was promoting a children’s book that he wrote with someone else.
We talked and I explained to him how important books have always been in my life. I was lucky to have a mother and an aunt who read to me before I could read. Once I got to the first grade, I started reading right away on my own. They took me to the library and made sure I had my library card.
The rest is history. I can’t be without a book. I love reading. And I’ve always felt it’s so important for children to read and use their imaginations, not just visually on television and games, but through the printed word. Dustin and I talked about creating this book and finally, we got it done.
Fox News: What’s the biggest lesson you hope to share with children today?
Eden: One of the things that we emphasize in the book is selflessness. Think about other people. Be kind and share that kindness with others. We all could use love, kindness and understanding. That will always lead us to better days.
Fox News: In February 2022, you’ll be doing a show with The Edward Twins. What has kept you going?
Eden: You know, I don’t know *laughs*. I guess I enjoy my work. I truly enjoy what I do and I love it. And they’re so talented, how could I not be excited? And for me, it’s business as usual, to do what I love.