Saturday, September 10, 2011

Jeannie out of the Bottle by Barbara Eden with Wendy Leigh

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

A magical, heartwarming memoir from one of Hollywood’s most beloved icons

Over the past four decades, the landmark NBC hit television series I Dream of Jeannie has delighted generations of audiences and inspired untold numbers of teenage crushes on its beautiful blond star, Barbara Eden. Part pristine Hollywood princess and part classic bombshell, with innocence, strength, and comedic talent to spare, Barbara finally lets Jeannie out of her bottle to tell her whole story.

Jeannie Out of the Bottle takes us behind the scenes of I Dream of Jeannie as well as Barbara’s dozens of other stage, movie, television, and live concert performances. We follow her from the hungry years when she was a struggling studio contract player at 20th Century Fox through difficult weeks trying to survive as a chorus girl at Ciro’s Sunset Strip supper club, from a stint as Johnny Carson’s sidekick on live TV to tangling on-screen and off with some of Hollywood’s most desirable leading men, including Elvis Presley, Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman, and Warren Beatty. From the ups and downs of her relationship with her Jeannie co-star Larry Hagman to a touching meeting with an exquisite and vulnerable Marilyn Monroe at the twilight of her career, readers join Barbara on a thrilling journey through her five decades in Hollywood.

But Barbara’s story is also an intimate and honest memoir of personal tragedy: a stillborn child with her first husband, Michael Ansara; a verbally abusive, drug-addicted second husband; the loss of her beloved mother; and the accidental heroin-induced death of her adult son, just months before his wedding. With candor and poignancy, Barbara reflects on the challenges she has faced, as well as the joys she has experienced and how she has maintained her humor, optimism, and inimitable Jeannie magic throughout the roller-coaster ride of a truly memorable life.

Illustrated with sixteen pages of photographs, including candid family pictures and rare publicity stills, Jeannie Out of the Bottle is a must-have for every fan, old and new.

My thoughts:
I am fascinated by the lives of real people and love to read biographies and autobiographies, probably autobiographies more because there is more real anecdotes and less speculation.  I don't believe I have ever seen a full episode of I Dream of Jeannie, but I knew the premise of the show and read a good review of this one somewhere a few months ago.  I found it on the new shelf at the library before we left for our vacation and I grabbed it.  I don't like to take library books to the beach so I had to wait until we came back to finish it.

Barbara Eden's story is engaging and feels authentic.  At times there felt like a lot of name dropping, which is one of the things she accuses her second husband of doing too much of, but I think a lot of readers might be wondering which other stars she interacted with and acted with during her career.  The love she shared with her first husband, Michael Ansara, was so palpable that I really felt like the decision she made to seek a divorce was not the right one.  She states that even to this day she is not sure she made the right decision, but I couldn't tell if it was because of the love she still felt or for the effect she felt it had on their son Matthew.

The Hollywood of Barbara Eden's early career seems so different from the way it seems today.  Along with the studios steadfast decree that she could not show her bellybutton as Jeannie on her hit show.  One of the passages that rally stayed with me was when Eden was talking about how Jeannie might not have won a lot of awards at the time, but it has remained popular and known all these years later in reruns and DVD release s while many of the shows that were winning acclaim at the time from critics have not endured nearly as well.  We tend to think awards are what makes great shows, but many times the shows people love may not be the same ones that critics are putting their attention on.

Another thing that I know I have made mistakes with is questioning my first instincts about a person.  Eden's first impression of her second husband was not a positive one, but then he won her over through persistence.  She was married to him for quite a few years, but it was not a good marriage and she ended up leaving him.

I loved this glimpse into Eden's life and how she was honest with her struggles in her career and in her personal life.  How the stillbirth of her second son threw her into a depression that ended her first marriage, how her son struggles with drug addiction and repeatedly sought treatment, how she ended up in a verbally abusive marriage and stayed far longer than she should have, and how show business was there through it all with roles and jobs all over the world.

•Pub. Date: April 2011
•Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
•Format: Hardcover , 288pp
•ISBN-13: 9780307886941
•ISBN: 0307886948

Meet The Author
BARBARA EDEN has been a television, film, and stage actress, and a Las Vegas headliner, for more than five decades. She is best known for her title role in the hit TV series I Dream of Jeannie. She grew up in San Francisco and currently lives in Beverly Hills with her husband, Jon Eicholtz, and their Labradoodle, Djin Djin.

WENDY LEIGH is the New York Times bestselling author of thirteen books, including Life with My Sister Madonna (as co-author) and True Grace: The Life and Times of an American Princess.


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