I Dream of Jeannie
Actress Barbara Eden has been in show business since the 1950s. She became a prominent icon on television thanks largely to her portrayal of Jeannie in the popular sitcom “I Dream of Jeannie” (NBC, 1965-1970), opposite Larry Hagman. In addition to widespread notoriety, the role also brought her two Golden Globe nominations and a 2003 TV Land Award. Eden also played Jeannie in the TV films “I Dream of Jeannie: 15 Years Later” (1985, with Wayne Rogers) and “I Still Dream of Jeannie” (1991, with Christopher Bolton) and appeared in the film “A Very Brady Sequel” (1996).
“Out of all the actors I have worked with, I love working with Larry Hagman the most. We were very close and it was just a wonderful time.” Barbara Eden
Starting out as a nightclub singer, the 1951 Miss San Francisco won her first series regular role on the small screen adaptation of “How to Marry a Millionaire” (1957-1959), where she portrayed the role of Loco Jones, the character portrayed in the 1953 film by Marilyn Monroe. After “I Dream of Jeannie,” she starred in the short lived shows “Harper Valley PTA” (1981-1982), where she played Stella Johnson, a role she originated in the 1978 film of the same name, and “A Brand New Life” (1989-1990), opposite Don Murray. More recently, TV audiences recognized Eden as Great Aunt Irma in three episodes of “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” (2002-2003). Eden has also starred in a number of TV movies, films and stage productions.
In 1985, Eden received the Pioneer Broadcasters Award. Three years later, on November 17, 1988, she was inducted into the Hollywood Walk Of Fame for her television work. On July 18, 2003, she became an inductee at the California Broadcasting Hall Of Fame. Eden also published an autobiography called “Barbara Eden: My Story” in October 1989.
Eden has been married three times. She and first husband Michael Ansara (together from 1958 to 1974) had a son named Matthew Ansara, who died at age 35 from a heroin overdose. She was married to Charles Donald Fegert from 1977 to 1983. Eden and her and present husband, Jon Eicholtz, (married since 1991) live in Los Angeles. Her love life was also once linked to actors Robert Vaughn and Barry Coe.
Childhood and Family:
Barbara Jean Morehead, nicknamed BJ, was born on August 23, 1934, in Tucson, Arizona, to Alice Mary and Hubert Henry Morehead. Her parents divorced when she was three years old and she and her mother relocated to San Francisco. After her mother remarried, the 11-year-old girl began to use her stepfather’s last name. As a youngster, Barbara wore thick glasses and sometimes an eye patch because of vision problems. As a result, she became very shy. To help overcome her daughter’s shyness, Alice entered Barbara into singing classes and the effort paid off. As a teenager, BJ bloomed into an attractive young woman and was a pop singer and cheerleader in high school. After graduating from San Francisco's Abraham Lincoln High School in 1949, she moved to the Bay area in the early 1950s and worked as a nightclub singer. She, however, soon gave up and tried her hand at the beauty pageant circuits. In 1951, she won the title of Miss San Francisco, a victory that paved the way for an acting career in Hollywood.
On January 17, 1958, Barbara married Syrian actor Michael Ansara (born on April 15, 1922), whom she met on a blind date. After a miscarriage in 1961, she gave birth to a son, Matthew Ansara, on August 29, 1965. Six years later, she experienced another loss when another son died right before he was born. Barbara and her husband divorced on May 25, 1974. She married her second husband, Charles Donald Fegert, an executive at the Chicago Sun-Times, on September 11, 1977, but they divorced in 1983. She is now married to Jon Eicholtz, a Los Angeles real estate developer whom she married on January 5, 1991.
On June 25, 2001, Barbara's only son, Matthew, was found dead in his car in a parking lot in Los Angeles. He died of an accidental drug overdose.
How to Marry a Millionaire
After a brief singing career in San Francisco Bay Area nightclubs, Barbara Eden, then known as Barbara Huffman, first gained notice as the winner of the 1951 Miss San Francisco beauty pageant. After signing with her first agent, she changed her last name to Eden in 1956 and made her feature film debut with an unaccredited role in John Farrow's “Back from Eternity” (1956), which starred Robert Ryan and Anita Ekberg. The same year, she also appeared in an episode of “West Point,” playing Toni DeWitt. Eden next secured the leading role of gold digging Loco Jones in the television syndication series “How to Marry a Millionaire,” a remake of the 1953 film of the same name that starred Marilyn Monroe. She was on the show from October 1957 to August 1959. She recalled, “I played the Marilyn Monroe role of Loco in ‘How to Marry a Millionaire’ (1957), though I didn't consider myself as that kind of actress, I approached the role more as a character.”
Eden also appeared in episodes of “Highway Patrol,” “I Love Lucy,” “Crossroads,” “Perry Mason,” “Gunsmoke,” and “Father Knows Best,” among other shows. Following an unaccredited part in “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter” (1957), she received a larger role in Lesley Selander's “The Wayward Girl” (1957), where she was cast as a waitress named Molly. She moved to a supporting role in Raoul Walsh's Golden Globe nominated comedy “A Private's Affair” (1959).
Following the demise of “How to Marry a Millionaire,” Eden, who was nominated for a Golden Laurel for Top Female New Personality in 1961, costarred in a string of films during the early 1960s, including “Flaming Star” (1960, with Elvis Presley), “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” (1961, with Walter Pidgeon and Joan Fontaine), “Five Weeks in a Balloon” (1962, opposite Red Buttons) and “The Yellow Canary” (1963, with Pat Boone). In 1964, she acted with her then-husband Michael Ansara in the drama “The Confession,” directed by William Dieterle and starring Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland. On the small screen, she guest starred in the TV series “Adventures in Paradise” (1961), “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Saints and Sinners” (both 1962), and “Dr. Kildare” (1963). She also played Margo in two episodes of “Route 66”and Goldie in two episodes of “Rawhide” (both 1964) as well as portrayed four different characters in “Burke's Law” (from 1963 to 1965).
Eden's big breakthrough arrived when she was cast in the role of Jeannie in the NBC sitcom “I Dream of Jeannie” (1965-1970), which was created by Sidney Sheldon. Centering on the relationship between a genie and her master, Anthony Nelson (played by Larry Hagman), an astronaut whom she eventually marries, the show was produced in response to the big success of the rival network ABC's “Bewitched” series and went on to achieve massive success on its own. Throughout the show's five season run, Eden was nominated for Golden Globe Awards twice in the categories of Best TV Star - Female in 1967 and Best TV Actress - Musical/Comedy in 1970. Over three decades after the end of the series, she won a 2003 TV Land for Favorite Dual-Role Character for her portraying Jeannie and her sister. Eden also made guest appearances in “Slattery's People” (1965) and “Off to See the Wizard” (1967) and portrayed Lalumne in the Emmy Award winning TV movie version of the Broadway hit “Kismet” (1967).
After “I Dream of Jeannie” left the airwaves, Eden could be seen starring in several television movies in the early 1970s. She portrayed Dr. Jane Bowers in ABC's comedy “The Feminist and the Fuzz” (1971), was reunited with “I Dream of Jeannie” costar Larry Hagman on NBC's thriller “A Howling in the Woods” (1971), was paired with Robert Vaughn in the CBS mystery “The Woman Hunter” (1972) and played Francine Gregory in ABC's “Guess Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed” (1973). She also starred the unsold TV pilots “The Barbara Eden Show” (1973, opposite Pat Morita) and “The Toy Game” (1973, with Hagman) and was among the guests in the notable TV special “Out to Lunch” (1974). Eden's subsequent TV film credits included “The Stranger Within” (1974, with George Grizzard), “Let's Switch” (1975, with Barbara Feldon), “How to Break Up a Happy Divorce” (1976, as Ellen Dowling), “Stonestreet: Who Killed the Centerfold Model” (1977) and the based-on-book “The Girls in the Office” (1979, opposite Susan Saint James).
Eden returned to the wide screen as a single mother named Stella Johnson in the comedy “Harper Valley PTA” (1978), which was inspired by the country music song of the same name recorded by singer Jeannie C. Riley and written by Tom T. Hall. The film was a hit and led to the creation of the TV spin-off “Harper Valley PTA,” with Eden reprising her role. The sitcom ran on NBC from January 16, 1981, to May 1, 1982.
After roles in the made for TV films “Condominium” (1980) and “Return of the Rebels” (1981) and “Harper Valley PTA” ended, Eden starred as Maggie Jones in the independent film “Chattanooga Choo Choo” (1984), opposite George Kennedy. The same year, she also played Tess Harding in the TV film adaptation of “Woman of the Year” and the following year, reprised her famous role of Jeannie in the TV movie “I Dream of Jeannie: 15 Years Later” (1985), where Larry Hagman was replaced by Wayne Rogers in the role of Tony Nelson. Eden next appeared in the TV films “The Stepford Children” (1987, as Laura Harding), “The Secret Life of Kathy McCormick” (1988, as Kathy McCormick) and “Your Mother Wears Combat Boots” (1989, opposite Hector Elizondo, Meagen Fay and David Kaufman). She revisited TV series as a regular in the short lived Disney series “A Brand New Life” (1989-1990), where she played Barbara McCray.
During 1990 and 1991, Eden landed a recurring role on five episodes of the CBS soap opera “Dallas,” which starred Larry Hagman. She went on to act in a number of TV films, including “Opposites Attract” (1990, with John Forsythe), “Her Wicked Ways” (1991), “Hell Hath No Fury” (1991), “Visions of Murder” (1993), “Eyes of Terror” (1994), “Dead Man's Island” (1996), “Nite Club Confidential” (1996) and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1998, as Lorelei Lee). She also reprised the role of Jeannie in the made-for-TV film “I Still Dream of Jeannie” (1991). In 1996, she made a cameo appearance in the comedy film “A Very Brady Sequel” (1996), a sequel to 1995's “The Brady Bunch Movie.”
Eden made a memorable appearance in the reoccurring role of Sabrina's Great Aunt Irma on the ABC popular series “Sabrina, The Teenage Witch” during the 2002-2003 season. She also appeared as Evelyn in a 2003 episode of Disney's “Teamo Supremo” and teamed up with Laura Harring, Roy Werner, Gerardo Mejía, Margaret Scarborough, Victoria Regina and Frank Gallegos in the comedy film “Loco Love/Mi Casa, Su Casa” (2003), which won Best Cinematography in a HD Film and Best High-Definition Feature for Best Film at the 2003 HDFest. Also that year, she had an unaccredited part in the Julia Stiles film “Carolina,” which was directed by Marleen Gorris and written by Katherine Fugate.
In 2007, Eden played Ruth in an episode of “George Lopez” and Victoria Grayson in the episode “Truth and Consequences” of “Army Wives.” More recently, she costarred as Mary Anderson in the Hallmark Channel film “Always and Forever” (2009), alongside Rob Boltin, Jonathan Chase, David Lascher, Colton Haynes, Dean McDermott and Max Gail, among other actors.
Multi talented Eden has also performed in numerous stage productions. In 1977, she starred in the comedy “Blithe Spirit” and later joined the national touring productions of “Woman of the Year” (1984) and “The Last Of the Red Hot Lovers” (1993). She also starred in the 1986 musical “South Pacific” (as Nurse Nelly Forbush), the 1988 musical “Different Heroes, Different Dreams,” the 1991 comedy “Same Time, Next Year,” the 1996 musical comedy “Nite Club Confidential” and Neil Simon's “The Odd Couple” (2002). Other stage credits include the musicals “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (as Lorelei Lee), “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Spring Crazy,” “The Sound of Music” and the touring production of the comedy “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?” In addition, Eden has appeared in various commercials for clients like Christmas Seals, Golden Dip Sea Food, Natural Source Vitamin E, L'Eggs, Lexus RX 300, Old Navy, Playtex, Entenmann's Bakery Products, and GTL (Guarantee Trust Life Insurance), as well as hosted TV shows like “Your Choice for the Film Awards” (1983), “The Best of Everything” (1983), “Orange Bowl Parade” (1985), “The 6th Annual National Songwriter Awards” (1986), “101st Annual Tournament of Roses Parade” (1990), “The 40th Annual Miss USA Pageant” (1991), “Championship Ballroom Dancing” (1997) and “America's Best Mom” (2004).
“I've never stopped working. If you're active, you can appreciate what you did in the past. You don't feel like it's gone.” Barbara Eden
TV Land: Favorite Dual-Role Character, “I Dream of Jeannie,” 2003
Pioneer Broadcasters Award: 1985