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Prop Genie Bottle From “I Dream of Jeannie” on Display at Smithsonian

    The iconic bottle from the 1960s sitcom “I Dream of Jeannie” is now proudly displayed at the National Museum of American History. This enchanting prop, which served as the magical home for the show’s beloved character, Jeannie, radiates a charm that could hardly be contained by its glass walls. As the centerpiece of the sitcom, which aired from 1965 to 1970, the bottle became a symbol of the show’s whimsical and fantastical elements, capturing the imagination of audiences and solidifying its place in television history.

    Beyond serving as a plot device, Jeannie’s bottle functioned both as her living space and as a type of prison. As a 2,000-year-old genie, the bottle provided Jeannie with a sanctuary where she could retreat from the pressures of conforming to contemporary ideals and human expectations. It was a space of solace where she could escape the complexities of the modern world that surrounded her. However, the bottle also symbolized confinement, as her “master,” Tony, would lock her inside whenever he grew frustrated with her occasional mischief and defiant behavior. Thus, the bottle represents both freedom and captivity in Jeannie’s life.

    Smithsonian entertainment curator Ryan Lintelman expresses his hope that the inclusion of the bottle will ignite discussions regarding the portrayal of women, gender roles, and perceptions of the Middle East as depicted in “I Dream of Jeannie.” He envisions the exhibit as a starting point for deeper conversations about how the show reflected and influenced societal views on these topics during its time, encouraging visitors to critically examine the cultural and historical context of the series.

    The prop genie bottle was used in the production of the television sitcom I Dream of Jeannie. The glass bottle is a repurposed 1964 Jim Beam Christmas edition glass whiskey decanter painted with Middle Eastern design motifs on a purple base paint layer. The bottle has a bulging base section with ridges painted with a pattern suggesting stained glass windows, then narrows to a near-conical flask section painted with curlicues and arches, another small bulging ring with painted gemstones, a cylindrical section painted with arches, and terminates with a flared opening section. The bottle top is a flared glass stopper with an ornamental finial. According to donor and Jeannie star Barbara Eden, the bottle was one of several used in the production of the series and this particular one was given to her as a memento after the last day of shooting by the wardrobe woman, Joie Hutchinson.

    I Dream of Jeannie was a fantasy television series that premiered September 18, 1965, and ran for five seasons on NBC. The show was created by Sidney Sheldon and produced by Screen Gems and Sidney Sheldon Productions. The series chronicled the life of astronaut Tony Nelson (portrayed by Larry Hagman), who discovers an ancient genie trapped in a bottle after crash landing in the South Pacific. When Nelson frees Jeannie (Barbara Eden) from the bottle, she is bound to serve him and grant his wishes with her magical powers. After Tony tries to free her, she falls in love with him and stows away during his rescue to continue to serve and live with him in his Florida home. The series found humor in the unusual domestic arrangement of man and lovestruck servant, sometimes verging on transgressive satire on gender roles, married life, and heteronormative sexuality in postwar American life. The series was a moderate success in its 1965-1970 run, placing in the top 30 shows in the Nielsen ratings in two of those seasons, but has been remarkably popular and long-lived in American popular culture in the decades since through reruns and in memory.

    DePatie-Freleng Enterprises was the creative force behind the animated opening sequence of “I Dream of Jeannie,” except for a few episodes in the first season (1965-66). However, a puzzling omission exists regarding the closing credits, where the firm was not acknowledged for their work. During that era, DePatie-Freleng Enterprises was also producing animated shorts for major studios like Warner Bros., known for “Looney Tunes” and “Merrie Melodies,” and United Artists, with notable series such as “The Pink Panther,” “The Inspector,” and “The Ant & the Aardvark.” This mystery surrounding the exclusion of DFE from the credits adds an intriguing layer to the history of the show’s production.

    Tony M.