Jeannie Out of the Bottle
By Barbara Eden and Wendy Leigh
Published by Random House Audio
Read by Barbara Eden
I read/listen to a lot of science fiction and fantasy so every once in a while it’s nice to take a break and listen to something else. This time it was Barbara Eden’s autobiography, which I have to say I found a charming experience, e4specially since Ms. Eden read the book herself.
On the off chance any of my readers do not know, Barbara Eden was the star of the hit TV sitcom, I Dream of Jeannie in which NASA Astronaut, Major Anthony Nelson finds an old bottle on a beach out of which Jeannie appears to serve him, whether he believes it or not. The show was one of the better sitcoms of its period and possibly a major reason why there have been so many such programs even though very few ever had the staying power of Jeannie.
The book details Ms. Eden’s life from the time she chose to learn how to act. She tells how she lived and worked in her early days in Hollywood, playing bit roles as a contract player for Twentieth Century Fox and her memories of various other actors and actresses of the period including Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, Elvis Presley, Ann Sothern, Groucho Marx and more. Throughout she is never nasty in her memories even in cases when she did not get along with the others and, by and large, I got the impression that she genuinely respected and was in awe of so many of the acting greats she met along the way, even after she too became a star.
Naturally she spends a fair amount of time discussing what went on behind the camera on I Dream of Jeannie with many anecdotes about co-star Larry Hagman (who later went on to greatness as J. R. Ewing on the hit drama series, Dallas) and their other co-stars and guests on the show.
Her stories are amusing and touching, but none will touch you as much as her memories of her stillborn child with her first husband Michael Ansara, of her failed second marriage to an abusive drug addict, the loss of her mother and the death of her adult son.
Throughout, Ms. Eden retains her charm and her optimistic outlook. This is not only a good book for those who love to read autobiographies and stories about actors, but it also has a solid, uplifting message about how to face adversity.
No one could read Barbara Eden’s story better than she can herself. Throughout the book she speaks directly to the reader, and the experience gets more direct as she reads the words directly to the listener. That she is a fine actress is without a doubt and perhaps she was just acting as she read the book, but I don’t think so. Her acting experience gives her the poise to read well, but my feeling is that her reading was not acting at all, but her true feelings as though she were in the room talking to each listener one-on-one.
The book was a delightful experience to listen to and my only complaint is that it was not twice as long.