Barbara Eden puts smiles on viewers’ faces in “I Dream of Jeannie.” Her co-star, Larry Hagman, has his moments. Even with a 600-pound lion.
“We seemed to have the same rhythm in our comedic timing, which was fortunate for both of us,” Eden said in an interview with Fox News. “We enjoyed working together.”
More on the lion in a minute. If you don’t know about “I Dream of Jeannie” (and who doesn’t?), then here’s a little backstory. Major Anthony Nelson (Larry Hagman), a NASA astronaut, finds this rather stylish-looking bottle on a beach. He picks it up and pulls out the cork to see if anything’s in there, such as a note or something.
Well, out of the bottle comes this genie. A female genie named…you guessed it! Jeannie.
Barbara Eden Uses Lion Experience On ‘I Dream of Jeannie’
Now that you’re up to date, let’s hear from Eden herself about one of her favorite moments with Hagman on “I Dream of Jeannie.”
Here’s a hint: It involves Eden and Larry Hagman doing a scene with a tame male lion. Oh yeah, a real lion. Not some holographic lion. Ironically, Eden calls the lion “a guest” on the show.
“I had done two feature films with lions and I’ve been told how to treat them,” Eden said. “They’re male lions, they’re lazy. If they’re well-fed, they don’t really want to eat you. But they do want to play with you if you run around!”
Eden said she knew that being quiet around them was important. She went over and said to Hagman, “We have to go make friends with the lion.”
Eden Keeps Her Cool In Rehearsing With 600-pound Lion
“He goes, ‘I’m not going to make any friends with any bleep lion!’ And walks off!” Eden said.
That didn’t faze Eden, who went over and started treating a 600-pound male lion like your pussycat. Scratches behind the ears. Rehearses with the lion. Just the usual things an actress does with a big cat. People put a bowl of raw meat beside Eden, who notices the lion putting his down and eating away.
“He looks around and he’s very happy,” she said. “Very, very happy.”
Now Larry Hagman has decided to return to the set and start the scene. Here’s where it all falls apart, or comes together if you’re Eden telling this story.
Larry Hagman, ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ Crew Escape From Set
“They put the meat down and he ate his meat,” Eden said. “He turned around, looked at Larry, and let out a huge roar! It was the loudest roar you have ever heard in your life.”
Where was Hagman? Well, he booked a trip over to the next set. Eden said not only did Hagman head out, but every man on the set ran away, too.
“They broke the camera, one of the pieces fell over, and I had a 600-pound lion on my lap purring,” Eden said. “He put his head in my lap and started to lick my arm, like a great, big pussycat.”
Barbara Eden, lion tamer. Maybe she actually used some of her genie magic on the lion. Meanwhile, Hagman didn’t get back into a TV series until, of course, playing J.R. Ewing on “Dallas.”
Still, there are people out there who fondly remember him and Eden, too, from “I Dream of Jeannie.”
Now that’s some kind of lion’s tale.