Wednesday, April 22, 2009
grey gardens

"Grey Gardens". A fascinating haunting unforgettable story that never fails to effect you because it is about real people who lived their lives in a most unusual and some would say, often shocking way.
First, there was the Documentary Film by the Maysles brothers, released in 1975-76. Probably the most interesting and spectacular documentary ever made, and just as a 'film'.....It is still one of the most fascinating ever ever made, all these years later. You might say, this was the very first "reality" show, though in truth, saying that minimizes the greatness of this epic film and this epic story. These two women----this mother and daughter, hold our interest for so very many reasons, not the least of which is how they were living in this house known as Grey Gardens, which unfolds in all it's horror and it's stark realism in this magnificent Documentary. Everything that has come after this film, came because of this documentary film.

In November of 2006, a Musical called "Grey Gardens" opened on Broadway.....It starred the incandescent Christine Ebersole playing Big Edie, as a young mother in the first Act, and then, she plays Little Edie during the time that the Maysles filmed their Documentary, 40 plus years later.....This was a tour de force performance and won Miss Ebersole a Tony in the Leading Actress In A Musical category, and the great Mary Louise Wilson, who played the older Big Edie in the second Act, won a Tony, too, in The Best Supporting Actress In A Musical category.
Now, HBO has made a film, based on The Documentary and having done extensive research into the earlier life of both these woman, this film covers much more of their lives than the documentary did. So this becomes a much bigger and fuller story because it is not just a picture of their later life, but includes a lot about their younger years as well, as did the Musical. Drew Barrymore plays Little Edie and Jessica Lange plays Big Edie. Again.....these performances are astounding in their bravery and in their attention to detail, especially all the little nuances of the 'accents' of both this mother and daughter.....Emmys should be coming their way as well as an Emmy for the Make-Up people.....In fact, the picture should win lots and lots of Emmys, if there is a God of Emmys. The attention to every aspect is so incredibly detailed----it is thrilling . Much love went into the making of this film and it shows in every way.For anyone who is unfamiliar with who these women is a little bit of background. Edith Bouvier Beale (Big Edie) was Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis' Aunt, and her daughter, Edith Bouvier Beale (Little Edie) was Jacquie's somewhat older Cousin. These were "society" people.

Little Edie 'came out', as Society people did, (And may still do....) in those days. The house in East Hampton, Grey Gardens, was the home of The Beale's. Big Edie sang and it seems secretly wished for some kind of career. Little Edie was an actress and a dancer, and she too so hoped for a career. But that was not to be. And somewhere along the way, Big Edie and her husband divorced and through circumstances of fortune and misfortune.....Big Edie and Little Edie lived in Grey Gardens, just the two of them, for years and years and years.....

In the early 1970's a scandal ensued because Grey Gardens had fallen into such disrepair and these two women were living in unimaginable squalor, including cat and Raccoon excrement, etc., etc.. The town of East Hampton, condemned the house and Jacqueline Kennedy and her sister Lee, stepped in to help their Aunt and Cousin and to bring Grey Gardens back, once again, to being a livable home. It was just about this time---after the semi-resurrection of the house----that The Maysles brothers began filming their documentary about these two women.But, one can see in the Documentary that the house was still in terrible shape and the way these two women lived was still pretty horrible. The fascination is, of course, how did this happen. How could these two women have fallen into the life they did, living the way they did? They are such interesting characters---particularly Little Edie....She had this incredible individual style and had always longed for the spotlight. The Maysles gave her that spotlight in their documentary and Big Edie, too.....Some people would say they were monsters in a way....maybe they were, but I don't think so. What the Maysles film did was to show us a relationship that was filled with love and hate and anger and laughter and was of such complexity that one never tires of trying to figure it all out.
If you don't have HBO, you can at least, for a start, rent the Documentary. It is, as I said, an astounding film on so very many levels.....Eventually the HBO movie will be available too....And their is a CD of the Broadway Musical that is available, as well......

That there have now been three major works based on these two women, says a lot about them and the strangely universal quality of who they were and what they mean to all of us as individuals. They touch us in ways that cannot be put into words. No doubt, this story is not every one's cup of tea. But, I think it is a story of such epic proportions as to be compared to Greek Tragedy or a play by Shakespeare. I can see how someone might now write an Opera as the next incarnation of "Grey Gardens".....the ARIAS that could be written.....Oh My!

Here is a link to a brilliant video of Christine Ebersole as 'Little Edie'. singing one of the wonderful songs by Scott Frankel from the Broadway Musical of "Grey Gardens" at The Tony Awards....This is just a little taste of what awaits you in the Documentary and the HBO film, as well...Much of the lyrics and dialogue are based on quotations by these two women, in the documentary......Enjoy!

And as a little bonus.....Here is Christine Ebersole singing "Around The World", also from "GREY GARDENS", but this was not during a performance of the show. The composer, Scott Frankel, is accompanying her on the piano.......And this is just a stunningly brilliant performance. Again, this is a song that 'Little Edie' sings in the show, as portrayed by Ms. Ebersole.....I don't know where this was filmed, but I'm sure glad it was......

More To Come........

Links to this post:


had this to say:

What an interesting story. I will have to read about this some more to understand how they came to be the way they did, though their relationship seems to be so complex which is not surprising considering how much time they spent together. Intriguing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 2:49:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Well kenju peaked my interest and you have made it a 'must see' with your great review.
Don't have HBO but have saved it on Netflix. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 5:04:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

This really is a fascinating story. And I had seen where Jessica Lange and Drew were working together. I had thought then, no matter what, I would like to see it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 7:15:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I think what's fascinating about these two is that their grasp on reality was so tenuous. They couldn't see, much less fathom, the reality of their changed circumstances, so they manufactured a surreal world in which to live.

You're right about the initial documentary, BTW. It changed that genre forever.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 7:17:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I recently read about this Naomi and thinks its going to be a wonderful remake! I look forward to seeing it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 9:51:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

The performances are wonderful. One has to wonder what happens in someone's life for their life to change so radically. We had a woman up our road who became a recluse, complete with newspapers from floor to ceiling. What happens?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 10:25:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

This is overwhelming for me, living far away from where your story takes place, from where the excellent story was performed ----- and showed.
But, I do understand very well what's all about. The "plot", the contrasts, the intelligent "text" and how demanding the play is for the Actors to act "believable".

btw. Have had a disk-crash on my PC.
A new Hard Disk are now installed.
Nothing lost, due to regular back-up's.
Working 12-14 hours a day for the present.Not much time to blogor read and comment.
Besides: Papa is very excited:
Guess what?

hugs from
T in

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 3:12:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Looks like an interesting story....I'll have to check it out. Thanks, Naomi

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 3:33:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I had heard it was coming and looked forward to it also. Although I had never seen the documentary, I had read the story and felt the film on HBO was very good, true to the characters and most of what happened. I highly recommend it to anyone and plan to get the documentary from Netflix if they have it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 3:38:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Thanks for introducing this movie Naomi :) I'm intrigue by your review all the time, all the time ;)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 8:28:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Such a thorough post on the show, Naomi! I knew you would do it justice. I really enjoyed the HBO production and I plan to see the documentary when I can.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 8:54:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I'm very excited to see this movie and already have it set up to record. I love both of these actresses and I agree with you: there will be a wealth of Emmy's and Golden Globes to go around for sure!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 9:14:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I've never even heard of these two women. As always, your gift of writing shines through your review of this... thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 10:09:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I didn't mention in my birthday post that after shopping with my daughter and the three of us going out to eat that we came home and watched "Grey Gardens." We were all fascinated by it and I joked to my daughter, "That's going to be us." I had been reading up on the story since Drew Barrymore started promoting the HBO movie, but I did not know there had been a musical. Thanks so much for the clips. I want to see the original documentary now, but I imagine Netflix is having a run on it, so I will wait for a bit. It really is a classic case of codependency, isn't it?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 11:35:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Look forward to the HBO production DVD as I've been looking forward to seeing it since I first heard about the production. Glad to read your take on it and appreciate your tying it together with the Broadway show. I remember when the news first emerged and all the media coverage about these women. I don't recall seeing the documentary but may do so.

Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 1:34:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I had not heard of this story until I saw Drew and Jessica hanging onto each other at the Oscars, it looks truly fasinating. I am hoping it will air here at some point, off to do some reading on it now.

I will email you tomorrow for a catch up I have been very remiss !!

Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 3:40:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

So often these remakes or sequels to the original, memorable "epics" are a sad disappointment. Now I am sorry that I don't have HBO to see this new memorable version.

Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 12:34:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I am so interested in the genealogy of this family -- there were even more eccentrics in it, and Black Jack himself (Big Edie's eldest brother and Jacqueline Kennedy's father) was a VERY colorful figure. Some people blamed the French blood in their ancestry.

Great post!

Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 9:04:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

This story fascinates me. I hope my video store has the documentary. I find it a little odd that they would so openly participate in showing off their strange life and suspect they liked the/any attention. One eccentric is one thing, but a mother and daughter eccentric team is story telling worthy for sure. I love Jessica Lange and am happy the movie makers have allowed Drew to show what she can do.

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 7:40:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Hello Naomi! Just playing hooky and visiting my old blogroll which maybe I can do once a week or every few weeks .. I hope!

I have always been fascinated with the Bouviers/Kennedys! You summed up Grey Gardens very well and i'm sure have piqued the interest of many of your readers!

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 10:27:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I SOOOO want to see this but we don't get HBO. I'll be first in line for the DVD. Loved the documentary and the Broadway musical which I saw. Christine Ebersole was amazing. Even my 14-year-old daughter knows the entire score! I think Little Edie would be absolutely thrilled by all the attention. And you're right--it would also make a great opera!

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 10:55:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I'm so glad you wrote about this! I just recorded this movie on my DVR, and I plan to watch it tonight.
I'm excited to see it! How neat that you wrote this review and I read it on the same day that I was planning to see the movie.
We must be tele-communicating somehow.


Friday, April 24, 2009 at 12:16:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Great review. I have not seen but the first half, but this weekend I will watch it in its entirety. Or perhaps I'll save it for one morning next week when Ethan's at school and my husband is at work. That way I can give it my undivided attention.

The documentary is available on youtube. You can watch all of it, but it's in many parts.

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 1:16:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I watched the movie a few nights ago. I had never heard of them before. It was quite an interesting story. But, I just can't imagine what caused them to live like they did.

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 7:54:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

This sounds extremely interesting Naomi!! Thanks for the review!

Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 11:55:00 AM PDT 

Blogger PI
had this to say:

I'm so glad you pointed me in this direction or I would have missed it. I found it very intriguing especially as I have a memory of seeing a documentary about two women - years ago on Britisn TV but in my memory the house was in the deep south. I think that is my unreliable geography and the cats and the racoons certainly ring a bell.
If the songs are anything to go by they have done a great creative job. The song 'Around the world is quite hauntingly beautiful with such tragic undertones. What a voice. Thank you for that.

Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 3:45:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Great review. A moment that stood out to me was when Jacqueline Kennedy offers help- and big Edie says she can't ask for help. And J.K. says- but you're not asking I'm offering.
I wonder how many people would love to help- but don't want to hurt someone's pride- when an offer would be accepted to someone who has fallen on hard circumstances.

Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 7:27:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi, this looks like an interesting story and I am looking forward to see it.
Thanks for this interesting review.

Monday, April 27, 2009 at 11:57:00 AM PDT 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

Wow...this sounds fascinating and I can't believe I've never heard of these two women.
Will have to check it out on Netflix.
Thanks for sharing about it.

Monday, April 27, 2009 at 2:15:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Have seen the docu; without knowing a lot about me I will only say that it all fely very comfortable to me and not at all strange or odd in anyway.

Monday, April 27, 2009 at 8:42:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I loved this movie!! I hit every emotion possible while watching it. I completely fell in love with these two women. I have no idea what motivated them, kept them going, etc., but I couldn't help but love two people so eccentric and so full of true joy! And the ending with Little Edie was amazing. I kept hoping for real live footage of the last scene. I need to get my hands on the documentary because I would love to see the actual women that the movie is based on.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 11:23:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I remember crying the first time I saw the documentary.
The relationship between mother and daughter was so strained --one lived in the past, the other lived in the past reluctantly, wanted desperately to get out, but felt the bond to her mother much stronger than her own free will.

I will never forget where she says she'll never get out until her mother dies. It was very sad, and of course, it was true. But in so many ways, for whatever reasons, both Edie and her other were unprepared to take on the world.

I have a good friend, very much like both big and little Edie. In fact, if you go to my website, you'll see a fundraiser for her on my sidebar.

Friday, May 1, 2009 at 8:57:00 PM PDT 

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