Barbara Eden was a good combination of an actress and a singer, but the grueling demands of her career soon took their toll on her and affected her growing family. Here's what happened.
Fans enjoyed seeing Hollywood icon Barbara Eden star in movies due to her status as one of the biggest stars of the 60s and 70s. Now 90 years old, Eden's life has been a mixture of experiences.
Although she was famous and admired by all, the demands of her career took their toll on her family, and soon, a series of tragedies would quickly leave her with nothing but bitter tales and sadness.
Pictures of actress Barbara Eden | Photo: Getty Images
WHO IS BARBARA EDEN?
Eden wrote her name in the hearts of movie lovers when she appeared in the TV sitcom "I Dream of Jeannie" from 1965 to 1970. Playing the genie in the sitcom proved to be a game-changer for her career.
Born Barbara Jean Morehead, in 1931, in Tucson, Arizona, Eden's life revolved around the stage. From her high school days, the screen legend knew her place was behind the camera as an actress.
Barbara Eden, Special Guest & Emcee hosts the 2019 Mr. Mature America Pageant at the at Ocean City Music Pier on April 13, 2019 in Ocean City, New Jersey | Photo: Getty Images
Shortly after education, Eden's career began, and she landed her first role, which was in the 1956 movie "Back from Eternity." Later on, she secured a TV role in "Marry a Millionaire," based on the film of the same name.
While building her career, Eden also accepted roles on "I Love Lucy," "Perry Mason," "Gunsmoke," and "Route 66." Still, her life-changing role was in 1965 when Sidney Sheldon offered her a lucrative role in the successful sitcom "I Dream of Jeannie.
Eden and actor Larry Hagman, who played NASA astronaut, Major Anthony Nelson, quickly found their rhythm on the show, making it one of the most classic sitcoms of Hollywood's golden era.
Both stars would go on to forge a friendship that would last several years until Hagman's death in 2012 to cancer. Following his death, Eden recalled their time together on set and described it as memorable.
Almost a decade after her initial success as Genie, Eden played Stella Johnson in the movie "Harper Valley PTA," based on a popular country song.
Afterward, Eden wrote her first autobiography, "Barbara Eden: My Story," in 1985 and followed it up in 2011 with her memoir, "Jeannie Out of the Bottle." It was in the 2011 memoir that she opened up on her loss in her personal life.
LOSING HER BABY
Eden's marriage to her first husband, Michael Ansara, in 1958 made her a mom for the first time and gave her her first taste of sorrow, which would lead to their sad divorce in 1974. The former couple shared a son, Matthew, born in 1965, but their second pregnancy halted things.
In 1971, Eden and Michael were expecting their second baby together, and the actress was at the height of her stardom. At the time, her husband had no job, so the family depended on her career for survival.
As she recounted in her 2011 memoir, Eden was heavily pregnant with a fully packed schedule. As she noted in her book, she realized she was endangering their baby but did the job for her family's survival.
Eden was offered a ten-week tour of the United States in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," Afterward, an offer for "The Sound of Music" came, and the 90-year-old had to choose her family.
Eden accepted both musicals to save her family from financial ruin, hoping to return home by the time she was eight months pregnant. While on tour, Eden had regular consultations with doctors who helped make sure her baby was alright.
Although she was assured that her baby was fine, as the weeks progressed, the actress began to feel strange, and over time, it became clear to her that all was not well.
She returned home to see her regular doctor, and after a long checkup, he informed her that there was a problem with the baby. Eden noted that she was told her baby was no longer breathing.
Not knowing how to break the news to her little son and husband, the actress tried to put up a strong face, but her countenance gave her way. As she recalled, little Matthew asked her if he would still have a baby brother, and she explained that she had no idea.
By the time she went for further tests, doctors only confirmed what she already knew. She said that her baby was dead and his umbilical cord was crushed, and nothing could be done to save him.
After being told of her stillbirth, the difficult part for Eden was telling Matthew he was not going to have a baby brother. Also, her husband Michael's face was shaken by grief, leaving the actress in doubt over their relationship.
Eden kept wondering if the baby would have made it if she stayed home. These thoughts brought her into a depressive state, and also, she had to keep the dead baby until after six weeks before he was taken out.
Eden and her first husband would go on to have a divorce a few years later as her depression cost them their relationship. The actress would go on to marry two more times.
After marrying her second husband, Charles Donald Fegert, the duo planned to live in Chicago, but her young son Matthew opted to stay with his father, a decision that stunned the actress.
MATTHEW TRIED ACTING
Like his mom, Matthew tried acting, but his career never took off as he would have hoped. He got a role in Eden's TV series version of her film, "Harper Valley PTA," but it was obvious to all that he was nervous.
He later played a small part in the movie "Your Mother Wears Combat Boots." While he tried getting a stable career, his health was a concern, and he was often in rehab to cure his addiction.
Actress Barbara Eden and son Matthew Ansara attend the "Hollywood Walk of Fame Ceremony Honoring Barbara Eden with a Star" on November 17, 1988 at 7003 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California | Photo: Getty Images
In 2001, Eden faced another episode of grief with the death of her son Matthew from an overdose. The actress revealed that Matthew's addiction started when he was ten, and ever since, he struggled to break free.
Matthew's death from an overdose left his famous mom shaken with grief as he was only 35 at the time. Eden tries to keep him alive by talking about him and not pretending he never existed to honor his memory.
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