Grey Gardens, Then and Now

May 20th, 2008

I have to blame Jean over at Renovation Therapy for my obsession with Grey Gardens. Several months ago she wrote something on her blog about Grey Gardens and it made me want to know more.   Eventually, I had the presence of mind to place both of the Grey Gardens documentaries in my Netflix queue.   A few weeks later, the two Grey Gardens films arrived.  I made a cup of tea and sat mesmerized through both films.

Firstly, Grey Gardens is about two crazy women… a mother and daughter… relatives of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, living in squalor in a crumbling shingle style house on some of the most expensive real estate in the United States.  Secondly, Grey Gardens is about the house and the gardens and I can’t ever resist a movie about a great old house surrounded by a overgrown, abandoned garden.

In the film, the house is a wreck, with raccoons coming in and out the walls, but you can still see the faded glory of what once was. The mother, confined mostly to her stained mattress of a bed with feral kittens on her lap, eating carton after carton of ice cream, while her daughter… her fifty six year old daughter… completely steals the show with her dramatic outfits and head scarves and bathing suits and dance steps,  exhibiting the same faded glory of the house, she dances, she sings,  she talks… and talks and talks and then she talks some more.  Everything Edie says is crazy and also astonishingly erudite.  She eats ice cream and goes swimming and it was all captured on film by two documentary film makers who would go down in history for capturing a slice of American life… madness and blight… spirit and independence… squalor and valor in one amazing film.

After watching the two films I had to rush to my computer and see if I could find out what had happened to the women and to their house.  I found a link to a story about the renovation of Grey Gardens in 2005, House voyeurism at it’s finest.

I also found an interview with one of the film makers.  This interview gives you a great overview of what the films are about and why Edie was such a watchable character.  Every time I see pictures of her, it is so clear to me how much influence she has had on fashion today.
Would Anthropologie even exist without Edie?


  • lesgirly:

    You should check out the Grey Gardens yahoo group – there is TONS of great info: photos, video links and a folder full of places to find GG themed merchandise (including a repro of the brooch!). Jerry, the Marble Faun, even pops in from time-to-time.

  • Marie:

    Thanks for posting the video. I watched the film and often wondered what had happened to Edie and her mother. Glad someone has restored the house. Wonder how long it took to get rid of all the animals ?

  • Jenni:

    Fascinating! I know I’ve heard about this before. I’d like to watch the film, but I just know my family wouldn’t stand for it. I’ll have to get it sometime when everyone else is gone. Now to think of a way to chase them all out of the house for a few hours!What was with all the headscarves Edie wore, though? Sometimes they looked almost glamorous in an old movie star kind of way. Other times she looked as though she was wearing a drawstring hood and that was just bizarre. I think bizarre is the attraction here though.

  • Anonymous:

    The Fiance was invited to have dinner with the one remaining film makers (one brother passed) a few months ago but we had vacation plans. We are STILL kicking ourselves. The maysles also did a Rolling Stones documentary called “Gimme Shelter”. –Renovation Therapy.

  • Rechelle:

    I think Edie had a scalp condition that left her mostly bald hence the headscarves.

  • Maria:

    Thanks so much for turning me on to this…completely fascinating! I want the jewelry. I ALWAYS want the jewelry tie in’s for movies/books/art. I’m a sucker for bling.Anyway, I can’t wait to explore the GG theme further! Thanks again!

  • Whirled:

    I have always adored Grey Gardens. I’ve heard there is a Broadway musical in the works, or already in production, or already folded, or something like that…It’s hard to be up on these things out here on the prairie…

  • kingstreetfarm:

    Ohhhh I knew we were kindred spirits! I am absolutely mad for Grey Gardens as well!

  • lsaspacey:

    Whirled, There was a musical on Broadway in 2007 with Christine Ebersole as Edie, check out the great website (with songs!) AND there is a movie in the works with Drew Barrymore as Edie and Jessica Lange as her mother, Big Edie.

  • KathyLikesPink:

    I had never heard of this before, but after watching the clip on your post, I just bought both DVD’s from Amazon!Fascinating!

  • Sandy:

    I’d never heard of Grey Gardens until March 2007 when my two teenagers saw the Broadway play. (Ds is at college in NY and he’d seen a good review of the play). We checked out both movies from our library and I read a lot about it. I haven’t seen the video you posted, though, and will watch it as soon as I post this.I’m also fascinated by the two Edies.

  • Suzanne:

    Yeah. Good job. You’ve got me addicted to Grey Gardens now. My grandmother’s neighbor was a character just like Edie. Actually at the time it seemed perfectly normal to have such a character living next door.- Suzanne, the Farmer’s Wife

  • Rhea:

    Oh, I’m so going to have to check this out. Looks very fascinating.