Sidney Sheldon, Who Created Redhead and "Jeannie," Dies at 89

Obituaries   Sidney Sheldon, Who Created Redhead and "Jeannie," Dies at 89
Sidney Sheldon, a prolific writer in many mediums who is best known for his many novels and for creating the television series "I Dream of Jeannie," but who flourished as a Broadway playwright and librettist in the 1940s and '50s, died Jan. 30, the New York Times reported. He was 89.

He died of complications from pneumonia at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, according to the paper.

Mr. Sheldon won an Emmy Award for creating the genie named Jeannie, with upswept blonde locks, fetching figure and hidden navel. The show ran from 1965 to 1970 and starred Barbara Eden. Before his television career, however, he was chiefly known for a half dozen comedies and musicals he scripted on Broadway, beginning in 1943 with a rewritten revival of Franz Lehar's operetta The Merry Widow.

The production ran for nearly a year. While it was still on the boards, Mr. Sheldon opened the musical comedy Jackpot, which had music by Vernon Duke and lyrics by Howard Dietz. He collaborated on the book with Guy Bolton and Ben Roberts. He collaborated again with Roberts (and future newspaper columnist Dorothy Killgallen!) on Dream With Music in 1944, a fantastical show which had settings in "Dinah's apartment, the Palace of Shariar, Bagdad, Sinbad's Garden and house, a magic carpet in the clouds, China, and Aladdin's Palace." Neither show was a hit.

After a short-lived play called Alice in Arms in early 1945, Mr. Sheldon took a break from Broadway. He wrote dozens of screenplays for Hollywood, including the 1947 Cary Grant-Myrna Loy comedy "The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer," which won him an Oscar as screenwriter. Other screenplays included those for the movie musicals "Annie Get Your Gun," "The Barkleys of Broadway" and "Easter Parade"—all done in collaboration.

When he returned to Broadway in 1959, he achieved his biggest stage success. For Redhead, a musical vehicle for Gwen Verdon and directed by Bob Fosse, Mr. Sheldon found himself with three co-librettists: Herbert Fields, Dorothy Fields and David Shaw. Critic Harold Clurman commented, "the complete absurdity of the show's plot has been turned to advantage. The more ridiculous the plot became the better I liked it." The show was a hit, running over a year, and won Tony Awards for Verdon, Fosse and Mr. Sheldon and his several co-writers. In 1960, while Redhead was still running, he opened Roman Candle, the only Broadway project that he wrote completely by himself. If lasted a mere five performances and would be Mr. Sheldon's final Broadway credit.

His television star first rose with the creation of "The Patty Duke Show," in which the star played "identical cousins." It ran for seven years and Mr. Sheldon wrote every episode himself. "I Dream of Jeannie" followed. Both shows have had long lives in syndication.

Following the conclusion of "Jeannie," Mr. Sheldon tried writing books and again found success. His pulpy novels, such as "Master of the Game" and "If Tomorrow Comes," were huge bestsellers and popular with women readers.

He's wasn't complete through with theatre, however. In the last years of his life he was exploring the possibility of turning "I Dream of Jeannie" into a musical. Producer Scott Steindorff and Stone Village Productions were granted the rights to convert the sitcom. Mr. Sheldon was to be executive producer along with Michael Viner and Deborah Raffin. At last report, no composers, director or actors were attached to the project.

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