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08/27/08

I Dream of (A Persian) Jeannie

By Darius KADIVAR


Larry Hagman and Barbara Eden's Popular TV Sitcom Emblematic Showcase for Iranian-American Friendly ties (*)



©Imdb & photocomposition ©DK

  

      

"Bendeh Beh Goosheh Farmaneh To Hastam Sardar" (**)
- Jeannie
(Barbara Eden) first words when rescued

from her magic bottle

 

"I must have gone further into orbit than I thought.

This is something like out of the Iranian Nights"

- Anthony "Tony" Nelson (Larry Hagman) upon being Kissed by Jeannie

-
 

Stranded on a desert island after his spacecraft malfunctioned, NASA astronaut Tony Nelson comes upon a strange bottle and releases a beautiful girl genie. "Jeannie" as she is called, is more than two thousand years old, is from ancient Persia, and can materialize objects or control any situation with the blink of an eye. Overly eager to please her new master, Jeannie gets Tony into improbable dilemmas when he takes her back to Florida. Thus starts I Dream of Jeannie one of the most Popular American TV Sitcoms of the Swinging Sixties that introduced the two young talents of the time who were to gain international fame and popularity in the person of Larry Hagman ( who reached stardom status years later as the shrewd Texan Oil business man J.R. EWING in the series Dallas) and co-star Barbara Eden. Interestingly the series also happen to be one of the first American shows to directly mention the country "Iran" as the original name and geographical location for ancient "Persia". The very first episode also uses Persian (Farsi) dialogue that proves without mistake that the producers had used Iranian language consultants in order to respect some authenticity in their depictions of Persian language and customs. This is not surprising if one considers that the series were made shortly after the official State visit of the Shah and Shahbanou of Iran to the United States that got much media attention during the Kennedy Years (see video's below). The very first successful NASA programs were also launched during the Kennedy years which were outlined during his famous New Frontier Acceptance Speech when he became the official Democratic nominee for the Presidential campaign of 1960. In addition to the many Iranian military cadets who were trained in the United States particularly in the Airforce and navy many Iranian students were studying in the United States at the time in nearly all fields. Also one particular Iranian director was to gain fame as one of the greatest and most prolific TV pioneers in Hollywood. His name was Reza Badiyi. So some of this presence could explain how the "Iranian factor" was included in this popular "Oriental" sitcom. Something that was interesting not exclusive to the I Dream of Jeannie sitcom ( watch : Dinah Shore Singing a traditional Iranian Song on her Variety Show).

 


©imdb & pictory Iranian.com

 

I Dream of Jeannie was Produced by Screen Gems, it originally aired from September 1965 to May 1970 with new episodes, and September 1970 with season repeats, on NBC. The show ran for five seasons and produced 139 episodes. The first season consisted of 30 episodes filmed in black and white and recently colorized for some broadcasts and a DVD release. The other 109 episodes were filmed in color. The show has continued to air in reruns ever since. The show starred Barbara Eden as a female genie, and Larry Hagman as an astronaut who becomes her master, with whom she falls in love and eventually marries.

 

In the pilot, when rescued Jeannie speaks Persian (not Arabic as is often stated), and can only speak English after Tony wishes her to. (And even then, she inexplicably speaks archaic English until she learns the modern form.)I Dream of Jeannie debuted at 8:00 pm (EDT), Saturday evening, September 18, 1965, on NBC.

 



Iran's Royal Couple meet the Kennedy's and
Visit NASA,1962
© pictory Iranian.com

 

The series was created by Sidney Sheldon in response to the great success of rival network ABC's Bewitched series, which had debuted in 1964 as the second most watched program in the United States. Sheldon, inspired by the movie The Brass Bottle, starring Tony Randall, Barbara Eden, and Burl Ives as the genie Fakrash, came up with the idea for a beautiful female genie who wanted to grant her master's wishes (a stark contrast to the social ideas of what a genie was and what a genie looked like.). NBC was hoping Jeannie would recreate the successful ratings Bewitched was pulling at that time. Coincidentally, both shows were Screen Gems productions.



Iranian military Air Cadets were trained in the US during the Pahlavi Era amongst them the Future Gen. Amir Hossein Rabii (2nd from Far right in B&W photo below right) ©imdb & pictory Iranian.com


Interestingly, when casting was opened for the role of Jeannie, Sidney Sheldon could not find an actress who could play the role the way he wrote it. He did have one specific rule: Sheldon said that he did not want a blond genie because there would be too much similarity with the blond witch on
Bewitched ( starring Elizabeth Montgomery). However, after many unsuccessful auditions he called the agent for Barbara Eden who had costarred in The Brass Bottle and then had tea with her at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
 

In most episodes, Barbara Eden wears little more than her revealing "Jeannie" Persian costume. Strangely, the censors allowed her to be depicted living in a house with an unmarried man, but would not permit Eden's navel to be seen. The makers of the series were also presented with the situation of filming around Eden's real-life pregnancy during the pilot season, without writing it into the storyline. Instead she wore many veils to hide her stomach and as her pregnancy progressed they began to use body doubles and film Eden only above the waist though her belly is visible in some profile shots.



©Darius KADIVAR

 

Below Several  Episodes involving Persia or Persian Related Dialogue or situations:

 

Watch Episode 1 (Lady in the Bottle ): Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

 

First aired: 9/18/1965

 

Plot: When the rocket launch for a space mission goes awry, its astronaut, Captain Anthony Nelson, finds himself stranded on a desert island. There, he finds a beautiful antique bottle lying there on the sand. When Tony opens the bottle, he is shocked to find a beautiful, 2,000-year-old genie named Jeannie, who is now calling him her new Master and willing to grant him anything he wishes.

 

Persian Anachronisms in Dialogue:

 

Jeannie has entire dialogues in Persian/Farsi in this very first Episode that clearly suggests that Production was familiar with the Iranian language ( distinct from Arabic most commonly associated to the Middle East characters in Hollywood movies)

 

"Sheklat mesleh Seemayekh Khalif Hast " aka "You look like the Caliph"
 

"Seemorg" aka "Phoenix"

"Sardar aghar Khatereh Tora Azar Dadam, mano bebakhsh" aka "Master if I made you angry please forgive me"
 

"Yah Shaheh Paryan"  aka  "Oh my goodness ( not sure about translation)"


"Kashti" aka "Boat"

 

"Az Ma Khoshnood Ast ? ..." aka " Are you angry ?"





Future Star in Dallas: Larry Hagman became better known

as J.R. in the 1980's Longest Running TV sitcom ©imdb

 

 

Watch Episode 2 ( My Hero) : Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

 

First aired: 9/25/1965

 

Plot: Jeannie blinks Captain Nelson to ancient Persia, where he avenges Jeannie's honor against Ali, the Killer of Giants. Meanwhile, Jeannie visits her parents and happily announces that she has found the man she wishes to marry, her Master, Captain Anthony Nelson, a man who "makes his living flying through space."

 

Persian Anachronisms in Dialogue:
 

"In Ancient Persia We have an old saying "Everyone Speaks about the Weather but no one does anything about it ..."" - Jeannie in Episode My Hero.

 


Old Friends: Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman signing

autographs for fans ©imdb

 

Watch Episode 9 (The Moving Finger): Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

 

First aired: 11/13/1965

 

Plot: Jeannie becomes jealous of Tony because he goes out to dinner with a famous Hollywood movie star. Jeannie seeks to compete with Tony's glamorous actress friend by becoming a movie star herself. Oddly enough, she obtains rave reviews rather swiftly only she ends up coming to the conclusion that genies don't photograph when she is given a screen test and she is invisible in it.

Persian Anachronisms in Dialogue:

 

The Title refers to 13th Century Persian Poet Omar Khayyam's famous Quatrain from the Rubayyat's:

 

"The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,

Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it"

 

 

Jeannie will also recite the poem for a screen test when visiting the Studios

You can find a summary of all the Episodes at the following link here

 

Given the unfortunate warmongering vocabulary that has been surfacing in recent years from both Iran and the United States since the advent of September 11Th tragedy, the War in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the rising political and military tensions in the middle east, ultimately it seems that a look back at "I Dream of Jeannie" offers an interesting nostalgic trip into an era when the American Way of Life was considered as a model of excellence, happiness and optimism that alas has since been shook in its very foundations and in its self confidence as a beacon of hope for the people of the Middle East. The time when America and Iran had friendly relations and close cultural ties seems like a mirage in a Desert of mutual suspicion and permanent military threats. Only time and history will say if the friendly ties between these two countries, which paradoxically share so much in common, will be restored once again in the future be it for the sake of Peace.

 

Let's Hope so ...

 

VIVE LA TELE !

&

OUR PERSIAN JEANNIE ! ;0)

 



©imdb & photocomposition ©DK

 

 

Authors Notes:
 

(*) I Dream of Jeannie Complete First Season available on DVD at Amazon.com
 

(**) Translations from Persian (Farsi): "I am at your service Master"

 


Recommended Watching:

 

  • Shah of Iran visits the NASA and Speaks at US Congress, 1962 (youtube)

  • President John F. Kennedy and Greets Iran's Royal Couple at US Airport on State Visit 1962 (youtube)

  • Shah and Shahbanou Farah invited to the White House for Dinner Gala 1962 (youtube)

  • Dinah Shore Singing a traditional Iranian Song on her weekly TV show (youtube)

  • Iranian Diva and Pop Star Googoosh Sings her English Hit Song: I believe (in Love) (youtube)

  • Grumman F-14 Iran Promo Film 1977 : Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 (very interesting informative video on the relations between US and Iranian Military and their families living in Iran)

 

Recommended Websites:

Official Website of NASA (All you need to know about the US Space program)

  

Official Website of IIAF (Veterans of the Imperial Iranian Airforce: The Golden Crown, contains interesting photos and documents on this former Elite Unit and its  men and women)

 

Recommended Readings:
 

Gaga For Khayyam: Hollywood's depiction of the Great Persian Poet by Darius KADIVAR

Batfink and the Pink Pearl of Persia by Darius KADIVAR
Tim Burton's Oriental Dream by Darius KADIVAR
Fardin's Western Spaghetti by Darius KADIVAR
Sergio Leon's Colossus Film Debut ! by Darius KADIVAR
Sultan of my heart: Monika Jalili and Noorsaaz's remembrance of things past... by Darius KADIVAR

An Axis of Joy:Monika Jalili & Noorsaaz Band Triumph in Paris  by Darius KADIVAR

Teheran Mon Amour: Aznavour and Georges Garvarentz's Film Music Score by Darius KADIVAR 

THE LAST TV TYCOON: Interview with Legendary director REZA BADIYI by Darius KADIVAR
Empress of the Arts by Darius KADIVAR

Howard Lee, author of bestseller children's novel Jamshid and the lost Mountain of Light by Darius KADIVAR

 


About the Author:
Darius KADIVAR is a Freelance Journalist, Film Historian, and Media Consultant. He is also contributes to
OCPC Magazine in LA/US and to the London Based IC Publications The Middle East Magazine and Persian Heritage Magazine.

... Payvand News - 08/27/08 ... --



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