I Dream of Jeannie aired in 1965, but its star, Barbara Eden, actually appeared in another iconic TV show beforehand. I Love Lucy took to the air more than a decade before Eden headlined I Dream of Jeannie. The former, starring Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz, aired its first episode in 1951 and ended in 1957. However, before it ended, Barbara Eden scored her third onscreen role in I Love Lucy. In recalling her experience on set, she had two very different takes on each half of the show’s famous couple.
In speaking about Lucille Ball, the I Dream of Jeannie star said, “She was wonderful! She was absolutely a wonderful, beautiful person to work with. She was lovely!”
Eden’s comments came after she revealed that her second acting gig had gone poorly. Before coming to Ball’s show, she “had a little difficulty” previously due to issues with a “diva” on set. As a result, the classic TV star was apprehensive about accepting her role in I Love Lucy. Before actually meeting Ball, she thought it best to simply steer clear, afraid to get on the veteran actress’s “bad side.”
Overall though, things went well with the I Love Lucy star. Instead, it was Ball’s husband Desi Arnaz she worried about during her third gig.
“I knew Desi was a playboy,” Eden said recently, “so I knew I had to be careful there.”
Pop culture often paints a more idealized, romanticized version of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s 20-year marriage. However, following the release of Aaron Sorkin’s 2021 biographical film Being the Ricardos, younger audiences learned the rawer truth about the couple.
Barbara Eden Wasn’t the Only One Unsurprised by Desi Arnaz’s Promiscuity
Walking onto the set of I Love Lucy, Barbara Eden was well aware of Desi Arnaz’s promiscuity. However, she was hardly the only one. Following the 2021 release of the biographical film Being the Ricardos, I Love Lucy fans, young and old, got a peek at the famous couple’s life behind the scenes. In recalling her time on the set, film star Alia Shawkat admitted she was unsurprised by Arnaz’s unfaithfulness.
“She married a Cuban,” the 33-year-old actress said at the time. Although, the New York Post emphasized that she did not want to label all Cuban men cheaters. Shawkat added, “I assume there were dalliances. At that time, I think most husbands cheated on their wives.”
The making of Being the Ricardos didn’t just shine the spotlight on the realities of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball’s relationship. It also explored some of the truths regarding Lucille Ball’s role in producing the show.
In addition to her starring role in I Love Lucy, the actress was also charged with running the major television studio Desilu Productions in the early 1960s. And while Ball is often revered as a proud feminist in charge of spearheading I Love Lucy, her and Desi Arnaz’s only daughter, Lucie Arnaz, revealed that she actually hated everything about the role.
“She never thought of herself as a feminist,” Arnaz said. “[The studio] was dumped on her. She hated every minute of it. All she wanted to do was a show.”