Barbara Eden (born Barbara Jean Morehead on August 23, 1934) is an
American film and television actress and singer who is best known for her
starring role in the sitcom I Dream of Jeannie.
Barbara was born Barbara Jean Morehead in Tucson, Arizona, the daughter of Alice Mary (née Franklin), and Hubert Henry Morehead. She is of Welsh, English, Irish, and Scottish heritage.
Her parents divorced when she was 3, she and her mother Alice moved to San Francisco where later her mother married Harrison Connor Huffman, a telephone lineman. The Great Depression deeply affected the Huffman family, and as they were unable to afford many luxuries, Barbara's mother entertained the children by singing songs. This musical background left a lasting impression on the actress, who began taking acting classes because she felt it might help her improve her singing.
Barbara Eden was a cheerleader in high school and graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco in 1949, and was elected Miss San Francisco in 1951. Barbara also entered the Miss California pageant, but did not win.
Barbara made featured appearances on television shows such as The Johnny Carson Show (as "Barbara Morehead" and "Barbara Huffman"), The West Point Story, Highway Patrol, Private Secretary, I Love Lucy, The Millionaire, Target: The Corruptors!, Crossroads, Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, December Bride,Bachelor Father, San Francisco Beat,Father Knows Best, Adventures in Paradise, The Andy Griffith Show, Cain's Hundred, Saints and Sinners, The Virginian, Slattery's People, The Rogues, and the series finale of Route 66 playing the role of Margo. She guest starred in four episodes of Burke's Law playing different roles each time. She was an uncredited extra in the movie The Tarnished Angels with Rock Hudson.
Barbara Eden's theatrical film debut came in Back from Eternity (1956). From 1957-1959, she starred in the television series How to Marry a Millionaire, playing the role of "Loco Jones", the character portrayed in the film by Marilyn Monroe. The show ran in syndication through National Telefilm Associates, which attempted to launch a fourth network at the time, in partnership with 20th Century Fox studios. Eden's co-stars were Merry Anders, and Lori Nelson. After 39 episodes, Nelson quit the show. Barbara as Loco and Merry Anders as Mike McCall continued with the series from the 40th episode to the final 52nd segment.
Discovery in the Hollywood sense came when she starred in a play with James Drury. Film director Mark Robson, who later directed her in the movie From The Terrace, had come to the play and wanted her for 20th Century Fox studios. Her screen test was the Joanne Woodward role in No Down Payment though she did not get the role. The studio gave her a contract. Barbara did a screen test for the role of Betty Anderson in 1956 for the movie Peyton Place though Terry Moore got the role. She had minor roles in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and The Wayward Girl and then became a leading lady in films and starred opposite Gary Crosby in A Private's Affair and had a notable part in Flaming Star (1960), with Elvis Presley.
The following year, she played in a supporting role as Lt. Cathy Connors in Irwin Allen's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, with Frankie Avalon playing the trumpet while she danced in one of many successful science fiction outings by the so called "Master of Disaster." She starred in The Wonderful World of The Brothers Grimm a George Pal film for MGM, and another Irwin Allen production for 20th Century Fox Five Weeks in a Balloon (1962) She did a screen test with Andy Williams for the 20th Century Fox movie State Fair but didn't get the role.
Barbara Eden's last film for 20th Century Fox was The Yellow Canary (1963). She left Fox studios (due to budget cuts) and began guest-starring in shows such as Saints And Sinners and also doing films for MGM, Universal, and Columbia. She played supporting roles over the next few years, including The Brass Bottle and the notable, if odd, movie 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, both with Tony Randall. In The New Interns she co-starred with Michael Callan. She starred in the beach movie Ride The Wild Surf playing the role of Augie with Fabian.
Then she signed to become "Jeannie," a genie in a bottle rescued by an astronaut in the television sitcom I Dream of Jeannie. She played this role for five years and 139 episodes. Barbara also played Jeannie's sister in nine episodes and Jeannie's mother in two.
After that, Barbara did an unaired pilot, The Barbara Eden Show, and another pilot, The Toy Game. She also began starring in and sometimes producing a string of successful made-for-TV movies, making at least one a year for one of the networks and they all were top-rated. Her first TV movie was called The Feminist And The Fuzz. Although best known for comedy, most were dramas, as when she starred with her "Jeannie" co-star Larry Hagman in A Howling in the Woods (1971). She starred in The Woman Hunter (1972) with Robert Vaughn, an earlier co-star from Gunsmoke. In The Stranger Within (1974), Barbara plays unwitting housewife Ann Collins, who becomes one of many earthling women that are extraterrestrially impregnated. Like the mother-to-be in Rosemary's Baby, Ann develops unusual prenatal cravings (in this case, coffee grounds instead of blood-rare meat). The screenplay was written by Richard Matheson and directed by Lee Philips.
Barbara played Liz Stonestreet, a former policewoman now private detective investigating the disappearance of a missing heiress in a critically acclaimed TV movie Stonestreet: Who Killed The Centerfold Model? (1977). She played Lee Rawlins, a woman who worked at a department store, in the ABC TV movie The Girls in The Office (1979) and starred in and co-produced with her own production company the NBC TV movie romantic comedy The Secret Life Of Kathy McCormick (1988) about a woman who works in a supermarket.
In addition she starred in and produced the romantic comedy TV movie Opposites Attract (1990) co-starring John Forsythe, their first joint screen appearance since her guest-starring role in a 1957 episode of his Bachelor Father TV series.
Barbara starred in I Dream of Jeannie as Jeannie, a genie set free from her bottle by astronaut Captain (later Major) Anthony Nelson, played by Larry Hagman. Barbara was initially passed over for the role as she was blonde and of small stature, but Sidney Sheldon called on her when he was unable to find a suitable brunette to play the part. I Dream of Jeannie was a mild success in the ratings, and it ran from 1965 until 1970, and during this time Barbara was nominated twice for Golden Globe Awards. She later reprised her Jeannie role in two made-for-TV reunion movies (I Dream of Jeannie: 15 Years Later in 1985 and I Still Dream of Jeannie in 1991), and in the last scene of the theatrical movie A Very Brady Sequel. She also has played Jeannie in many TV commercials (AT&T, Lexus, Old Navy). I Dream of Jeannie has gone on to become one of the most successful series in international syndication earning Barbara Eden many fans over the world.
Barbara met actor Michael George Ansara in October 1957, as part of a blind date arranged by her studio and publicist Booker McClay. They married in St Nicholas Church in Hollywood January 17, 1958. Barbara had difficulty conceiving and her first pregnancy in 1961 ended in miscarriage. Four years later, her son Matthew Ansara was born Sunday, August 29, 1965, at 6:59am weighing 9 pounds shortly after 11 episodes of the first season of I Dream of Jeannie were filmed. The situation forced the directors of the show to work around her obvious pregnancy by covering her with veils, and filming only above her waist. She also had a stillborn boy, who died in 1971 at eight months in utero, from a pinched umbilical cord. Ansara and Barbara divorced in May 1974. Son Matthew Ansara died on June 25, 2001, from a drug overdose.
Barbara was married to her second husband, Chicago Sun-Times executive Charles Donald Fegert, from September 1977 to 1983. She married her third and current husband, Los Angeles real estate developer Jon Trusdale Eicholtz, on January 5, 1991 at the Grace Cathedral Church in San Francisco.
Barbara Eden continued to appear regularly on stage starring in the play Blithe Spirit and in television specials like Telly...Who Loves Ya Baby? with Telly Savalas and The Best Of Everything with Hal Linden and Dorothy Loudon. Barbara Eden starred in commercials for L'Eggs pantyhose for 4 years.
In 1978, she starred in the feature film Harper Valley PTA based on the popular country song. This led to a namesake television series in 1981; in both the movie and the TV series, she played the show's heroine, Stella Johnson. The show won 11 of its 13 time slots during its first season. It was a comedy version of Peyton Place with Anne Francine playing wealthy villain Flora Simpson Reilly. In one episode Stella dressed in a blue and gold genie costume and in another she played both Stella and her cousin Della Smith (similar to Jeannie's evil twin-sister character). The show Harper Valley PTA began January 16, 1981 and was renamed simply Harper Valley when the show began its second season on October 29, 1981. The show ran until August 14, 1982, producing 29 episodes for NBC and Universal MCA, which were rerun in 2000 by TV Land.
From April 3 through September 16, 1984, Barbara starred in the Lee Guber and Shelly Gross national production of the John Kander and Fred Ebb Tony Award-winning musical comedy Woman Of The Year, playing the role of Tess Harding Craig with Don Chastain playing Sam Craig and Marilyn Cooper playing Jan Donovan. Jef Billings made her costumes. In 1987 She did the TV special The Great American Quiz Show with Tony Randall, Isabel Sanford, Marc Price and John Davidson. In 1989, she starred in the TV movie Brand New Life, which had spun off a limited run series of the same name. Then in 1990, Barbara had a recurring role of a Billionairess in five episodes of the final season of Dallas, playing the captivating character Lee Ann De La Vega, reuniting her with her I Dream of Jeannie co-star Hagman. In her final episode, the character says her maiden name was "Lee Ann Nelson," which was a production gag as "Nelson" was the surname of Hagman's character, and Eden's character's married name in I Dream of Jeannie.
In 1991 she starred in the stage play Same Time, Next Year with Wayne Rogers and reprised her most famous role of Jeannie in a TV movie of the week. In 1993 she starred in an 11 city national tour of the play Last Of The Red Hot Lovers with Don Knotts. She also made three guest appearances in the last few seasons of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch as the evil family matriarch, Great Aunt Irma.
Barbara is also a singer, and has starred in many musical comedy stage plays like Nite Club Confidential playing the role of Kay Goodman in 1996, The Sound Of Music, Annie Get Your Gun ,South Pacific with Robert Goulet, The Pajama Game with John Raitt, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes playing Loreli Lee with Rita McKenzie and has been a musical guest star in over 50 variety TV shows, including 21 Bob Hope specials, The Carol Burnett Show, The Jonathan Winters Show, The Jerry Lewis Show, This is Tom Jones show, Tony Orlando and Dawn and Donny and Marie. She released an album entitled Miss Barbara Eden in 1967, under the record label Dot Records. She also recorded 3 songs in 1978 for the Harper Valley P.T.A. Soundtrack.
Barbara wrote an autobiography, Barbara Eden: My Story, published in October 1989. Although issued an ISBN number for publication, the book was not mass-produced and disputes over its content between the publisher and Barbara prevented circulation.
Barbara received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in the spring of 1990 from the University of West Los Angeles School of Law. On November 17, 1988 She received the honor of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame sidewalk for her contributions to television at 2003 Hollywood Boulevard.
From 2000 until 2004 she starred in the national touring production of the play The Odd Couple...The Female Version playing the role of the neat one Florence Unger with Rita McKenzie playing the role of Olive Madison. In March 2006, Barbara Eden reunited with her former I Dream Of Jeannie co-star Larry Hagman for a publicity tour in New York City to promote the first season DVD of I Dream Of Jeannie. They appeared together on such shows as Good Morning America, The View, Martha, Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, and Showbiz Tonight.
Also in March 2006 Hagman and Barbara reunited onstage for the play Love Letters at the College of Staten Island in New York and at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. This was Eden's first visit to the Academy since appearing in The West Point Story in 1956. It was also the first time the two had acted together since appearing on the TV series Dallas in 1990.
Eden's most recent work was starring in the play Love Letters with Hal Linden and a guest starring role on the Lifetime series Army Wives, written and produced by her niece, Katherine Fugate.
In December 2008 Barbara Eden began filming of the TV Movie Always and Forever for the Hallmark Channel that will be shown in 2009.
In April 2009 she began hosting a national touring production of Ballroom With A Twist a live theatre show from Louis Van Amstel of Dancing with The Stars.
On May 7,2009 Barbara Eden was a Guest in the Fox news channel show Hannity in The Great American panel discussing world events.
This Barbara Eden Biography Page is Copyright © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub