‘I Dream of Jeannie’: Why Barbara Eden Said Larry Hagman Was Like ‘A Very Talented, Troubled Child’

Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman on the set of 'I Dream of Jeannie'
Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman on the set of ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman, the stars of the 1960s comedy hit I Dream of Jeannie, were great friends especially after the series ended.

During the show’s run, however, due to various circumstances surrounding especially Hagman, working with her cast mate was difficult for Eden.

She described in her 2011 memoir, Jeannie Out of the Bottle, how exactly the actor who played Major Anthony Nelson could make the show a trying experience.

Hagman’s emotions were volatile during filming

In her memoir, Eden observed that the crew and cast of the show were at the mercy of Hagman’s emotions from one day to another. It was difficult, according to the actor, to know which Larry Hagman was going to show up on the set.

The actor described one such incident in which a guest director was making the cast’s filming almost impossible, stopping and starting scenes to the point that nothing was actually being completed. Finally, during a stop in filming Eden hid herself away to have a good cry – and saw a vulnerable side to Hagman.

“During a short break in the filming, I run off the set and hide behind a piece of scenery, far removed from all the action,” she wrote.

Sobbing, Eden stated that Hagman was “the one to finally find me in my hiding place. He puts his arms arouund me gently and says, ‘Don’t cry, Barbara. That’s my act!'”

The Jeannie star was moved by Hagman’s admission and openness with her, “touched that Larry is being so kind to me, and surprised that he is being so honest about his on-set emotional breakdowns, which sometimes actually did culminate in him crying in front of all of us.”

How the ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ crew dealt with Hagman’s behavior

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The show’s crew was as patient as they could be with Hagman, until they weren’t. From time to time, according to Eden, they would resort to practical jokes to let off some steam.

“Once when Larry demanded a cup of tea,” Eden wrote, “the crew, exasperated by his high-handedness and demands that a scene be reshot because he didn’t like that particular segment of the script, put salt in his tea instead of sugar.”

Hagman “spat the tea out in disgust,” and the crew got a good laugh and “probably would have applauded if they could have, they so enjoyed humiliating poor Larry.”

The show star behaved like a child, Eden said

Hagman, the son of Broadway star Mary Martin, was behaving in a way that wasn’t contributing productively to the comedy series. He was just getting a bad reputation.

In addition to simply complaining about scripts, Eden wrote, her co-star also resorted to attention-grabbing behavior throughout the set to make a point.

“In his memoirs, Larry claimed not to be able to remember the I Dream of Jeannie years, but I find that difficult to believe, given the high-octane quality of his explosive on-set shenanigans,” Eden wrote.

“On one unforgettable occasion, when Larry didn’t like a particular script, his answer was to throw up all over the set. Nerves? Method acting? I didn’t stick around long enough to find out, but took refuge in the sanctuary of my dressing room instead.

“In many ways, Larry was like a very talented, troubled child whose tantrums sometimes got the better of his self-control.”