Friday, June 4, 2010

Grey Gardens

Last night I watched the made for HBO movie Grey Gardens with Jessica Lang and Drew Barrymore. This film was based on the original 1975 documentary of Grey Gardens about Edith and Edie Beale. An eccentric mother daughter pair who were related to Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. They lived in a decrepit East Hamptons home.

"[Grey Gardens] is oozing with romance, ghosts, and other things." - Little Edie

Grey Gardens is the name of the home. "It was truly a gray garden, the soft gray of the dunes, cement walls, and sea mists gave us our color scheme as well as our name." - Anna Gilman Hill (owner who purchased in 1913). Phelan and Edith Beale bought the home in the 1920's. Phelan left his wife in 1934 and Big Edie was disowned by her father. That is when the house started to deteriorate and the gardens reverted back to nature as she did not have the means to keep them up.
The Edie's lived in squallor with cats and raccoons running about the house. Broken windows and lack of heat or phone. In October 1971, the house was raided by the Suffolk County Health Department. They eventually were able to stay with help from their famous relative and another cousin.
"Oh, Mother thinks its artistic this way, like a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Don't you love the overgrown Louisiana Bayou look." - Little Edie
But, you can't help loving Little Edie as the daughter is called. Stricken with Alopetia, this causes her to go bald. Her attempt at covering her baldness is with a variety of outrageous scarfs or sweaters which she wears about her head. Always pinned with a ginormous gold pin (the original Little Edie in the photo below).
Her affection for odd ways to wear clothing is truly a sight to see. Quite often wearing skirts upside down and fastening them in various ways about her person. She says this is her protest against working for the establishment when she was a model in the mid 30's. My favorite outfit (worn by Drew in the photo below), a bathing suit over a leopard print turtleneck. Her skirt is on upside down and pinned at the side several times with shorts peaking from underneath.


Little Eddie steals the show and seems completely within her own world. She is somewhat childlike and the banter between her and her mother is quite hilarious. I would recommend watching the documentary before seeing the film. Both Jessica and Drew perfectly capture the originals and Drew especially has the mannerisms and voice down perfectly of Little Eddie.
One would think that the documentary and subsequent film would be drepressing but its actually kind of a quaint look in to two women's lives. The home was purchased in 1979 and restored and that was the only way Little Edie would sell. "All it needs is a coat of paint!" - Little Edie.

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