Monday, January 16, 2023

The Brass Bottle: A Comfort Comedy with a Genie and a Future Jeannie

Burl Ives as a genie in The Brass Bottle.
The 1960s may have been the last decade where the "comfort comedy" reigned supreme at the box office. That may have to do, in large part, with the number of comedic actors working at the time. Veteran stars like Doris Day, Cary Grant, James Stewart, and Bob Hope were still producing family-friendly comedies. There were also younger stars like Jerry Lewis, Dean Jones, and Frankie & Annette. 

Another member of the latter group was Tony Randall, who graduated from supporting player in the Doris Day-Rock Hudson comedies to headline his own modest funny films. One of his better efforts was The Brass Bottle (1964), an amusing precursor to television's more successful series I Dream of Jeannie.

Randall plays struggling architect Harold Ventimore, who purchases a large antique brass bottle as a gift for his future father-in-law (Edward Andrews). When he discovers his in-laws have a similar-looking lamp already, Harold keeps the brass bottle for himself. That turns out to be fortuitous (sort of) when a genie named Fakrash (Burl Ives) emerges from the artifact.

Tony Randall as Harold.
Finally released after several thousand years of imprisonment, Fakrash is eager to please his new "master." Things go well initially, especially when the genie intervenes so Harold is awarded a huge contract to design a housing development. However, Fakrash's other efforts aren't as successful: Harold's fiancée (Barbara Eden) and her family walk out of a dinner where Harold's "slaves" serve eye of lamb; Fakrash's stock market  profits attract the attention of the federal government; and a beautiful, scantily-dressed princess arrives in Harold's house just as his fiancée drops by. 

At this point in his career, Tony Randall had mastered the perpetually distressed persona that would make him a TV star as Felix Unger in The Odd Couple. It works well in The Brass Bottle--it's just a shame that the script doesn't take greater advantage of Randall's comedic skills. He essentially plays the straight man to Burl Ives' charming, mischievous genie. On the other hand, Ives has a grand time as Fakrash and is the principal reason to see The Brass Bottle. At times, one wonders if the genie really has Harold's best interests at heart or rather Fakrash is just having fun. When he goes to calm down Harold's agitated father-in-law, Fakrash ends up transforming the man into an ass.

Barbara Eden as Jeannie & in The Brass Bottle.
Barbara Eden has little to do as Harold's fiancée, but her presence in The Brass Bottle led to her most famous role. In her autobiography, Jeannie Out of the Bottle: A Memoir, Barbara Eden wrote: "The movie would prove to be a good-luck charm for me: Sidney Sheldon saw it, it sparked the germ of I Dream of Jeanne, and he remembered my performance in it." The first episode of I Dream of Jeannie debuted on NBC the year following the release of The Brass Bottle.


  1. One of my favorite films, which i haven't seen in years! Gotta get a copy and show my wife this! Thanks for the suggestion!

    1. I watched it on, which I accessed on my Roku. It was free, but there were lots of commercials.

  2. Still only avail on VHS, a classic, I remember when they used to show it on UHF Channel 52 & 56 in LA.

    1. It used to be shown on TV a lot, but rarely these days.

  3. I'm a big Tony Randall fan, but I've never heard of this one, Rick! I'd love to see it. I'm always interested in Burl Ives -- he was such a versatile performer. And how ironic that this film led to Barbara Eden's casting in Jeannie!