I Dream of Jeannie was a classic sitcom that mixed silliness and magic, with romance and family. It captivated audiences for five seasons, and made a star of Barbara Eden. And of course, it’s remembered for its fun magical special effects and the props that went along with it. One of the most important props was the magic bottle that housed the genie. That bottle has origins that are not exactly what you’d expect. But its story is a classically Hollywood one – taking something ordinary, and making it extraordinary. In this video, we’re taking a look at the backstory of this famous bottle, as well as some other fun facts that you might not know about this classic show. So stick around, as Facts Verse presents: Fans Overlooked This Detail in the I Dream of Jeannie Bottle
The Bourbon Connection
In 1964, the bourbon brand, Jim Beam put out what they referred to as a “fancy decanter.” It was a holiday promotion, and it meant customers could purchase the liquor in a different bottle than its usual square shaped one. Of course, the folks at Jim Beam knew that the people who drank their bourbon were not very likely to be impressed by a new and fancy bottle. And they said as much in their ad copy, declaring, “Of course, the guys who know great Bourbon aren’t going to be impressed by fancy decanters.” And yet, Jim Beam released their limited edition bottle for the holiday season, even declaring the move as part of their holiday spirit, since they weren’t charging more for it. It was likely a fun way to get some publicity, while not losing business from customers who didn’t have to pay any additional costs for their usual brand. And it was a successful campaign for Jim Beam. During the 1960’s, they ran similar promotions with different shaped bottles for the holidays. But the 1964 bottle took on a life of its own when the art department from ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ decided its shape would make a perfect prop for a genie’s bottle.
As the show was in pre-production for the first season, director Gene Nelson was on the lookout for a perfect genie’s bottle for the show. One day as he walked around, he saw the Jim Beam limited edition bottle in the window of a liquor store. And despite it being full of booze, he immediately thought it would be the perfect bottle to store a genie in. He bought the bottle, which retailed at $5.99, and brought it to the show’s art department. They got to work removing any trace of Jim Beam, and making it look more appropriate for the show.
The first season of I Dream of Jeannie was aired in black and white. As such, the bottle looked somewhat similar to its original form. The glass was smoky and dark brown, with some golden ornamental touches. Although it should be noted that any colorful ornamentation wasn’t seen on the black and white broadcast. But in 2006, a DVD set of the show came out that showed colorized versions of the first season. And on those DVD’s, you could see the golden touches.
The Bottle Gets Colorized
The show moved into the color TV era with its second season, meaning viewers got a much better look at the genie bottle. This, in turn, meant the art department needed to step up their game and make a bottle that befit a genie. They decided to go with purple paint as the primary color. This bottle was first featured in the episode “Genie, Genie, Who’s Got the Genie? Part II” and the newfound pop of purple color made it stand out in the best way. Later on, when Jeannie’s sister became a part of the show, (and was evil) the art department crafted a green version for her. This was to match her green outfit. According to the auction house “Julien’s Auctions,” the show used about a dozen of the limited edition Jim Beam bottles over the course of the show. Their knowledge of the bottles came into play in 2017, as they auctioned off the very first purple genie bottle that the show ever used. It had belonged to Gene Nelson, and its authenticity was also signed off on by Barbara Eden herself. The bottle sold for $34,375. Not to shabby, considering it was originally purchased for six bucks. The year before, another of the bottles reportedly sold for $10,000. Of course, if you want to have one for your own (that wasn’t used in the show, but hey) you can head to jeanniebottles.com and buy one.
Now lets get into some other fun facts about the show that you might not know!
Larry Hagman was a Hollywood icon, and had the ego and bluster to go along with it. Reportedly, he had a very difficult time adjusting to the fact that he wasn’t number one on the call sheet. And because of this, and other issues, Hagman could be a nightmare on set. In her book, Jeannie Out of the Bottle, Barbara Eden wrote about his legendarily crass and bad behavior. She said that, in response to not liking the scripts, and having to play second fiddle on the show, Hagman would indulge in copious amounts of booze and drugs. She said he would show up to work in the morning already having had a lot of champagne. And then during breaks in filming, he’d head back to his dressing room, where he’d down more champagne, in between hits of weed. Hagman reportedly indulged like this in an effort to avoid blowing up at people, figuring the effects of the weed and alcohol would help him keep his cool. But it didn’t stop him from exhibiting bad behavior. In her memoir, Eden recalled the time he literally peed all over the set. She also said that as she got to know the actor, she could more easily recognize when he was going to be in a horrible mood. That’s when she knew to not be around him.
The producers of I Dream of Jeannie were clearly over the moon for Barbara Eden and her performance as Jeannie. Because the timing of first season’s filming schedule just happened to overlap with her first pregnancy. Eden actually found out she was pregnant on the same day that the network decided to green light the show. That meant she and the producers were faced with a difficult choice. Since the character couldn’t be pregnant, especially not in the first season, they’d either have to postpone shooting, find a different lead actress, or find clever ways to hide her growing belly. And given how often it happens in Hollywood, it’s quite surprising that they didn’t simply recast the part. It’s certainly a testament to how much they felt they needed Eden to play the titular role. And delaying production was a nonstarter. So they had to choose the third option, which was to find good ways to hide her tummy. To begin with, Eden generally wore a lot more clothing than she would have otherwise. And of course there’s the old trick of strategically placing props or set furniture so that it blocks the audience view of an actress’s belly. They also added extra veils to her costume, prompting Eden to proclaim that they had her looking like a ‘walking tent.’
Barbara the lion tamer
Having animals on set is nothing too new for Hollywood productions. And these days, it’s a lot easier to simply add them in via special effects in post production. But in the early days of Hollywood, they had to do their best to work with wild beasts, and this sometimes meant acting opposite the king of the jungle himself – a lion. When it came time, in the first season, for an episode featuring a lion, the cast was naturally quite nervous. Oddly enough, Eden already had experience with a lion on set of a previous project she’d worked on. In her memoir, she even refers to herself as somewhat of an expert. As such, she was eager to give advice to her costar, Larry Hagman. She told him the trick was to let the lion smell you, by standing still in front of it. Then, once the lion has finished smelling you, you lean forward slowly, and gently pet him. According to Eden, this makes the lion feel safe and familiar with his human costar. Of course, as we already established, Hagman was likely pretty drunk at this point, and even if he wasnt’, he was a pretty disagreeable person on set. According to Eden, he flat out refused, claiming he wasn’t about to make friends with an effing lion. So he didn’t bond at all with the lion before shoot. And thus it wasn’t all that surprising that, when they were about to shoot for the first time, and the lion saw Hagman, things didn’t go as planned. Since he didn’t know Hagman, he let out a huge roar. Hagman and the rest of the crew immediately went running. No one was harmed, but it certainly proved Eden right.
I Dream of Jeannie was a classic show, and fans have been rediscovering it over and over throughout the years. First there were reruns, then the show started being released on DVD, and nowadays, you can find episode and clips online. While some of the humor and references don’t always hold up over the years, the fun and games of the show, as well as the relationships between the characters are pretty universal. We recommend taking a look if you haven’t seen it in a while. You might notice some small things, like the stuff we talked about today! Now it’s time to hear from you. What was your favorite episode? Let us know in the comments section below!