Grey Gardens

This original HBO film is quite amazing. The story of Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter, Edith Beale, continues to attract attention, decade after decade. In 1975, Albert and David Maysles premiered their documentary about these two women who were relatives of Jackie Kennedy. They lived together for decades in Grey Gardens, a once elegant East Hampton estate. Without money to maintain the house, the Beale’s allowed it to fall into disrepair rather than sell. There were holes in the roof; no utilities; the house was overrun with cats and raccoons.

Grey Gardens recreates the earlier lives of the Beales, starting in 1936. Despite the Great Depression, the wealthy Beale family maintained an extravagant lifestyle. “Little Edie” (Drew Barrymore) had ambitions of being a singer/dancer/actress. Her father’s ambition for her was to make a good marriage. When her father(played by Ken Howard) refused to further subsidize her life in New York City, she was forced to return to Grey Gardens to live with her mother. Thus began the intense relationship between the two women. When Mr. Beale died, he left most of his money to his second wife, leaving Big Edie and Little Edie in poverty.

The Beales attracted a great deal of attention in 1971 when the Suffolk County Health Department inspected the house, and began the condemnation process. Jackie Kennedy, then married to Aristotle Onassis, provided the funds to make the house habitable.

Grey Gardens does a great job of showing the lives of these two women. It is never condescending or ironic, but always respectful. Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore demonstrate the full range of their acting abilities. I’m sure HBO will be showing Grey Gardens many times, so you should have plenty of opportunities to see it. I highly recommend that you do so!

Edith Bouvier Beale of Grey Gardens: A Life in Pictures

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