The Unexpected Source Of The I Dream Of Jeannie Bottle

Sometimes in a TV show, a prop will be as much of a "character" as the humans with speaking roles. For example, there's the famed worn-out sofa, covered by an afghan, on "Roseanne" and later "The Conners." Over on "How I Met Your Mother," a French horn painted blue was a plot point in a handful of episodes. And, in a famous later-season episode of "The Brady Bunch," a little statuette of a tiki god caused problems for the family (or was it just coincidence?).

For a few years in the late 1960s, Americans routinely tuned in to "I Dream of Jeannie," a family sitcom about an astronaut who falls in love with and marries a 2,000-year-old genie, as Britannica notes. As the title sequence makes evident, the pair found each other when astronaut Major Anthony Nelson, stranded on a desert island, found a bottle and, through a series of comic shenanigans, wound up taking her home with him.

In the series, Jeannie is depicted as living in an elaborate, oddly-shaped glass bottle (as opposed to the more "traditional" depiction of a genie's abode, a Middle Eastern oil lamp). And, though it was intended to be a fanciful rendering of a mythical being's magical abode, the actual prop that served as Jeannie's bottle was a commonplace bit of kitsch that any adult in the 1960s could have owned if they were willing to part with a few bucks for a collectible, according to Forbes.

A Bit Of Marketing Kitsch

You are undoubtedly familiar with the fact that manufacturers of this or that will frequently produce collectibles for certain occasions (usually holidays). For example, every year Lego produces an advent calendar, a popular collectible among hobbyists who build with and collect the stackable blocks.

Between 1955-1992, bourbon manufacturer Jim Beam produced collectible decanters, according to TXAntiqueMall. There were various editions, put out during the Christmas season, for example, or a 1971 edition that commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Chicago Fire of 1871. These days, well-preserved specimens go for a couple of hundred bucks, depending on condition and rarity. But, the distiller mainly focuses on branded clothing instead of ceramic decanters for merchandise.

The 1964 Christmas edition of the decanter looks more like a bottle — an oddly-shaped and fanciful one, to be sure, but still a bottle — than other such decanters, that could look like Paul Bunyon or a telephone, for example. And, in 1964, director Gene Nelson was looking for the perfect prop to represent Jeannie's home, according to Forbes. He happened to pass by a liquor store, saw the collectible in the window, and knew he'd struck gold. He probably paid $5.99 for it (or about $57 in 2022 dollars, per Inflation Calculator).

What Happened To The Bottle?

During the five years in which the bottle was a prop on "I Dream of Jeannie," its appearance was changed to look less like retail collectible kitsch and more like the fanciful home of a mythical being, as Forbes notes. The prop was originally smoke-green but was painted with gold to make it a bit more fanciful. And, when the show switched to color, it was painted pink and purple to make it more feminine, in keeping with it being Jeannie's abode. Sometimes smoke-producing chemicals would be used in the bottle for practical effects, but it would wind up being cracked from the heat.

By Forbes' estimate, the show went through 12 bottles during its run. Barbara Eden kept the one used in the final episode, but the original — the one found in a shop window by director Gene Nelson — stayed in the possession of the man who bought it, and later his family, gathering dust in a garage for decades.

In 2017, the bottle was put up for auction, where it was expected to fetch $100,000, according to Forbes. Unfortunately, as The Hot Bid reports, it failed to meet those expectations, and instead sold for $34,375.

Meanwhile, the people at Jim Beam realized they had a money maker on their hands when their 1964 decanter became associated with a beloved TV prop, and produced a second line of that particular model. These days, those bits of memorabilia sell for around $70, as Forbes notes.

The Business Of Household Items Repurposed As Props

Although TV and movie studios have entire departments dedicated to creating props and costumes, it seems that producers are just as likely to repurpose commonplace items that they may have sitting around at home. The producers of "I Dream of Jeannie" were neither the first nor the last to take such a shortcut.

For example, Luke Skywalker famously traipsed about the desert in a cream-colored outfit perfectly suited to his character. In actuality, the pants were just an ordinary pair of blue jeans that had been dyed, as can be seen in the image above. Mark Hamil himself tweeted about it, according to Bored Panda.

Similarly, according to Screen Rant, the famed mask worn by Michael Myers in the "Halloween" franchise started out as something that anyone could purchase at any costume shop. It was intended to depict William Shatner, and producers simply widened the eyes a bit and painted it white, making it look more inhuman.