Grey Gardens – Crazy Beautiful, Not Beautiful Crazy

If you’ve never seen the 1975 documentary “Grey Gardens” and if you are curious about mental illness, closed-family environments, and circular thinking, then you might enjoy this film.  It is available on Netflix to watch instantly or on DVD.  Here are some photos of Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale (aunt of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis) and her daughter Edith Bouvier Beale

Roger Ebert gave the film 4 out of 4 stars.  The film is both educational and mind-bending. 

The film is both funny and frightening.  If the scenes weren’t real, the film would be terrifying, laughable, and tragic.  But the scenes are real, making the film terrifying, laughable, and tragic.  Viewers get to be a fly on the wall, observing the madness of lives lived in “the could have been.”

Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale on Wikipedia

Edith Bouvier Beale on Wikipedia

Grey Gardens on Wikipedia

Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale:

(Click on the images if you wish to view them individually or larger.)

Edith’s daughter, Edith Bouvier Beale:

Edith Bouvier Beale never married.  She suffered from a hair condition, Alopecia, possibly explaining why she wore a turbin consistently in her later years.

(Click on the images if you wish to view them individually or larger.)

© All rights reserved by the respective artists.

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Commentary:  After watching this documentary, I thought:  If a similar documentary about the same kind of people in modern times premiered today, I have a expectation that their family, friends, and the East Hampton community would rally to their aid.  In the 1970s, Jackie Kennedy and her husband were famous for spending something like $32,000 to bring the home up to minimum standards.  The response that was expected in the 1970s appears to be that it was a “family problem” for the family to “quietly” deal with.

Maybe I’m misinterpreting modern culture, but I’m guessing if something similar were to come to light today, health professionals and the affluent community would volunteer to assist these women.  I’m guessing there would be less stigmatization about intervening and socializing with these women.  I’m guessing counselors and psychologists would be more able to both identify and address their needs.  I hope so.

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7 thoughts on “Grey Gardens – Crazy Beautiful, Not Beautiful Crazy

  1. Have you seen the tv movie Grey Gardens that came out this year with Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange? I still haven’t seen the 1975 original but I intend to as soon as possible. The 2009 film was really good!

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    omo: I have not seen it yet, but it’s on my Netflix list. Thank you for the recommendation.

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  2. OMO
    12:40 AM CST

    “Hamish Grant” is right. The film is a mandatory see. #10 on the 5 scale ! I knew Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange were good actresses, but with the 2009 HBO movie they’ve most definitely placed themselves in the realm of great acting; I didn’t think either had it in them. I’m happy to have been proven wrong ! The way they play off each other is a wonder to behold. So incredibly in sync with the characters.

    I don’t have the schedule in front of me, but the 2009 movie “Grey Gardens” is showing this month on HBO. Be sure & try to catch it.

    J.B.
    1/17/10

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    omo: Thank you for the strong recommendation.

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  3. You also must see the second Maysles Documentary that has all the stuff that was left out of the original.
    It’s called “The Beales of Grey Gardens.”
    It shows all the alcoholism and more sensitive issues that they decided to leave out of the original version.
    It too is a definite must see.

    Peace,
    Eagle

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    OneMoreOption: Thx

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  4. Do you know who has the original portrait of Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale, and if a reproduction is available? thanks

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    OneMoreOption: I don’t know, but I would also enjoy knowing the answer to that question.

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  5. Ah! I just saw the documentary and the film and it has really affected me. There were some funny bits, but mostly all I saw was pain and tragedy. It’s left me feeling devastated. I just found it incredibly sad. I think the Maysles were predatory,and the Beales were naive, like creatures in a freak show, all their private pain and idiosyncrasies were paraded across the screen, with the occasional close-up on revealing flesh – for the viewer’s amusement.
    Do we all feel more “normal” now?
    Sometimes I really wish I’d come here as a dog, not a human. We are a cruel race – even to our own.

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  6. i have just watched the film. Feel very sad and have a heavy heart at the thought that this was allowed to happen to them, tragic. Although, they seem to have been content to a certain extent.

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  7. Both of these women were in total control during the filming of this movie! They thoroughly LOVED the film and the attention they were finally getting after years of being neglected by their family. They were NOT AFRAID to be themselves and lay themselves bare for the camera, and would tell anyone who dared criticize them to go to hell! Little Edie even said herself that it was the Maysles who were being exploited! Much of the “drama” in the film was made up for the sake of “Drama”. They were telling their story of riches to rags to the world, and they were pulling out all the stops along the way.

    The filmmakers, Albert and David Maysles, were famous for their previous movie “Gimme Shelter” about the Rolling Stones on tour. The Edies were very intelligent and quite worldy(not what the film tries to portray) and knew exactly what they were getting into.
    The photographer Peter Beard introduced the Maysles to the Beales because Lee Radziwill wanted to make a movie about her(Bouvier) family. That project was abandoned, but the Maysles were fascinated by the Beales, so the movie was made. It took a whole summer to film, and almost two years to edit. The women each received $5000 from The Maysles, and Jackie also gave them $400 a month allowance for the rest of their lives. Remember, in 1974 a new car cost around $3,500.
    The women were staying in the house so the family wouldn’t take it away from them. Big Edie, who owned the property outright, promised the house to Little Edie when she died. Once she Big Edie died in 1979, Little Edie stayed in the house for two years to avoid paying Capitol Gains Taxes. She finally sold it for $200,000.00, on purpose to Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post, who was an arch-enemy of Jackie O(who wanted the house so she could tear it down for the land). Edie sold it under strict condition that it be restored, which is what Ben Bredley and his wife Sally Quinn did! It now is a splendid example of early Hamptons architecture!! Little Edie did NOT want Jackie to get the house.

    After Little Edie sold the house she had a relatively normal life. She lived in New York City, Montreal(to speak french!), California, and finally settled in Biscayne Bay Florida. She went to museums, art galleries and social functions, and hung out with the likes of Andy Warhol and Gianni Versace. There is so much more to the story than what is seen in the film, which is edited entirely out of sequence for maximum dramatic effect…
    Read “The Bouviers: Portrait of An American Family” by John Davis, for a fascinating glimpse into the incredible saga of the Bouvier Dynasty!

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