After the success of their concert movie/documentary Gimme Shelter (1970), David and Albert Maysles became intrigued by the Beales, a mother and daughter related to Jackie Kennedy Onassis who lived together in a decrepit East Hampton mansion called Grey Gardens. In the early 1970s, the local health department threatened to evict the ladies and raze the house, but Jackie ended up paying for repairs. When the Maysles began chronicling their life at Grey Gardens, a fascinating portrait emerged of a daughter who once desperately dreamed of becoming a Broadway star and a strong-willed mother who refused to believe that her baby should have a life of her own. The audience is a fly on the wall as the Beales fight, talk and sing; tiresome at times, but also funny, sad and eerie… especially when “Little” Edith insists that she’ll soon be moving out. We know better.
1976-U.S. 95 min. Color. Produced, directed and photographed by David and Albert Maysles.
Trivia: Followed by another documentary, The Beales of Grey Gardens (2006); the story was also turned into a TV movie, Grey Gardens (2009).
Last word: “What [fellow editor] Ellen Hovde and I brought to it: It took two years to edit the film. There was literally no story. Nothing happened. The Edies were the same at the end that they were at the beginning. To be successful, a feature film needs to have a beginning, middle, a climax, and a resolution and an end. And how do you create that structure when nothing happens? We recognized that the most emotionally intense scene is when Little Edie cries. That’s now placed toward the end of the film, which we called ‘Pink Day’ because they were in a pink room.” (Editor Muffie Meyer on how they started working on the film, International Business Time)