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HISTORY

The closing credits include a "Thanks to the following individuals and organizations for their help": Marianne Barcellona; Peter Beard; Harry Benson; Alan Bomser; Charlie—Projectionist, Movielab; Cynthia Castleman; Pamela Degnan; Kathryn Demby; Holly Gill; Bernard Gotfryd; John Jourdan; Dorothy King; Donald Klocek; Akiva Kohane; Sarah Legon; Vincent Lombardo; Noelle Penraat; Vincent Stenerson; TVC Laboratories; Trans/Audio; Lois Wright; and, The Robert Frost Estate "for permission to include lines from 'The Road Not Taken' as spoken. The correct lines are: 'Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,/And sorry I could not travel both.../I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference.' From 'The Road Not Taken' from The Poetry of Robert Frost edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1916, ©1969 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Copyright 1944 by Robert Frost. Used by permission of Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Publishers."
       The quotation, "The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on," is an excerpt from The Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam.
       The text of the hand-painted posters is as follows: "The Great Singer, Edith Bouvier Beale; The Great Dancer Little Edie Bouvier Beale."
       According to various contemporary sources, including the 13 Oct 1975 Village Voice, David and Albert Maysles met Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale and her daughter, Edith Bouvier Beale, Jr., in 1972 while making a documentary about sisters Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill. The project was abandoned and the Maysles brothers decided to make a film about the Beale branch of the Bouvier family. Principle photography took place over five weeks during the autumn of 1973. Co-director Muffie Meyer told Village Voice ... More Less

The closing credits include a "Thanks to the following individuals and organizations for their help": Marianne Barcellona; Peter Beard; Harry Benson; Alan Bomser; Charlie—Projectionist, Movielab; Cynthia Castleman; Pamela Degnan; Kathryn Demby; Holly Gill; Bernard Gotfryd; John Jourdan; Dorothy King; Donald Klocek; Akiva Kohane; Sarah Legon; Vincent Lombardo; Noelle Penraat; Vincent Stenerson; TVC Laboratories; Trans/Audio; Lois Wright; and, The Robert Frost Estate "for permission to include lines from 'The Road Not Taken' as spoken. The correct lines are: 'Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,/And sorry I could not travel both.../I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference.' From 'The Road Not Taken' from The Poetry of Robert Frost edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1916, ©1969 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Copyright 1944 by Robert Frost. Used by permission of Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Publishers."
       The quotation, "The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on," is an excerpt from The Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam.
       The text of the hand-painted posters is as follows: "The Great Singer, Edith Bouvier Beale; The Great Dancer Little Edie Bouvier Beale."
       According to various contemporary sources, including the 13 Oct 1975 Village Voice, David and Albert Maysles met Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale and her daughter, Edith Bouvier Beale, Jr., in 1972 while making a documentary about sisters Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill. The project was abandoned and the Maysles brothers decided to make a film about the Beale branch of the Bouvier family. Principle photography took place over five weeks during the autumn of 1973. Co-director Muffie Meyer told Village Voice that “there were times that [the elder] Edie appeared much crueler and more dominating than she does now, but we wanted to make them more equal, which we think is the reality of the situation.” An interview with the younger Beale in the 8 Jun 1998 New Yorker revealed that the women had no money, and the Maysles brothers were supplying them with groceries while photography was in progress.
       Grey Gardens premiered at the New York Film Festival on 27 Sep 1975, and was attended by Edie Beale, who tossed bridal bouquets to audience members as she joined the Maysleses, Meyer, co-director Ellen Hovde and associate producer Susan Froemke to answer questions from the audience, according to Village Voice .
       Froemke and film executive Russell Schwartz formed Portrait Releasing for the purpose of distributing Grey Gardens, as reported in the 5 Apr 1976 Box.
       Grey Gardens opened at the Paris Theatre in New York City on 20 Feb 1976. According to the 18 Feb 1976 Var, Edie Beale moved into the Plaza Hotel to host a cocktail party for the press, which coincided with the film’s opening.
       Reviews for Grey Gardens were predominantly positive. However, several, both positive and negative, stated that the film could be construed as exploitative and cruel in its portrayal of the Beales. These include reviews in the 27 Sep 1975 NYT, the 23 Feb 1976 WSJ, the 1 Oct 1975 Var, 1 Mar 1976 Time, the 22 Mar 1976 New York, and the Jul 1976 Oui. In an article in the 2 Mar 1977 Newsweek, Edie Beale defended the Maysleses: “I just wanted to show myself off as an entertainer…what they did was right.”
       The film was selected by the Library of Congress to be entered in the National Film Registry in 2010.
       Grey Gardens was adapted as a musical by Doug Wright, Michael Korie and Scott Frankel, which premiered in 2006. According to columnist Michael Musto in the 1 – 7 Nov 2006 Village Voice , Albert Maysles planned to make a documentary about the musical. HBO produced a dramatization of Grey Gardens, which was broadcast in 2009.
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
5 Apr 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Mar 1976
p. 8, 11.
Los Angeles Times
2 Jul 1976
p. 1.
New York
22 Mar 1976
p. 68.
New York Times
27 Sep 1975
p. 21.
New York Times
20 Feb 1976
p. 15.
New Yorker
8 Jun 1998
p. 32.
Newsweek
2 Mar 1977.
---
Oui
Jul 1976
p. 30.
Time
1 Mar 1976.
---
Variety
1 Oct 1975
p. 26.
Variety
18 Feb 1976.
---
Village Voice
13 Oct 1975
p. 134.
Village Voice
1-7 Nov 2006
p. 10.
Village Voice
8-14 Nov 2006
p. 50.
WSJ
23 Feb 1976.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Portrait Films, Inc. Presents
A Maysles Brothers' Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Filmed by
Filmed by
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Film ed
SOUND
Sd mixer
Photo-Mag
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col negative
Negative timing
Precision/Deluxe
SOURCES
SONGS
"Tea for Two," music and lyrics by Irving Caesar and Vincent Youmans
"You and the Night and the Music," music and lyrics by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz
"Lili Marlene," music by Norbert Schultze, English lyrics by Tommie Connor
+
SONGS
"Tea for Two," music and lyrics by Irving Caesar and Vincent Youmans
"You and the Night and the Music," music and lyrics by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz
"Lili Marlene," music by Norbert Schultze, English lyrics by Tommie Connor
"The Virginia Military Institute March", music by C. F. Stephani
"Happy Birthday to You," music and lyrics by Mildred J. Hill and Patty S. Hill
"Night and Day," music and lyrics by Cole Porter
"The Night Is Young and You're so Beautiful," music and lyrics by Billy Rose, Irving Kahal and Dan Suesse
"People Will Say We're in Love," music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II
"Only a Rose," music and lyrics by Rudolf Friml and Brian Hooker. "When We Are Together" and "We All March Together:" authorship and publishing undetermined.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
1976
Premiere Information:
New York Film Festival screening: 27 September 1975
New York opening: 20 February 1976
Los Angeles opening: 2 July 1976
Production Date:
Autumn 1973
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
94
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter, Edith “Edie” B. Beale, Jr., are searching for their cat, Whiskers, who apparently escaped through a hole in the wall created by a raccoon. Edie is concerned that they will be raided by the East Hampton authorities, claiming that “they can get you for wearing red shoes on a Thursday.” Two years earlier, the Beales faced eviction for allowing their twenty-eight-room house to fall into disrepair, while garbage accumulated in several rooms, and their eight cats created an infestation of fleas. The women are the aunt and first cousin, respectively, of former First Lady, Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis, who paid to have the house cleaned and repaired, and the event was reported in the media. As Edie happily greets documentary filmmakers David and Albert Maysles, gardener Brooks Hyers trims the dense foliage in the backyard. On the upstairs deck, Edith sunbathes, scantily clad, and Edie scolds her mother for her near-nudity. That evening, Edie reads a description of a “Libra husband,” the kind of man she desires. She is joined by Jerry Torre, a teenaged handyman. She has nicknamed him “the marble faun,” from a Nathaniel Hawthorne novel. After reading a passage about divorce, Edie explains that her parents never legally parted; her father, Phelan Beale, got a “fake Mexican divorce,” and remarried, though it was never recognized by the Catholic Church. Inside Edith’s bedroom, the women look at old photographs, including one of Phelan and another of Gould Strong, Edith’s accompanist during her singing career. There are also pictures of the Beale sons, whom Edie complains were never disciplined, and a photograph ... +


Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter, Edith “Edie” B. Beale, Jr., are searching for their cat, Whiskers, who apparently escaped through a hole in the wall created by a raccoon. Edie is concerned that they will be raided by the East Hampton authorities, claiming that “they can get you for wearing red shoes on a Thursday.” Two years earlier, the Beales faced eviction for allowing their twenty-eight-room house to fall into disrepair, while garbage accumulated in several rooms, and their eight cats created an infestation of fleas. The women are the aunt and first cousin, respectively, of former First Lady, Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis, who paid to have the house cleaned and repaired, and the event was reported in the media. As Edie happily greets documentary filmmakers David and Albert Maysles, gardener Brooks Hyers trims the dense foliage in the backyard. On the upstairs deck, Edith sunbathes, scantily clad, and Edie scolds her mother for her near-nudity. That evening, Edie reads a description of a “Libra husband,” the kind of man she desires. She is joined by Jerry Torre, a teenaged handyman. She has nicknamed him “the marble faun,” from a Nathaniel Hawthorne novel. After reading a passage about divorce, Edie explains that her parents never legally parted; her father, Phelan Beale, got a “fake Mexican divorce,” and remarried, though it was never recognized by the Catholic Church. Inside Edith’s bedroom, the women look at old photographs, including one of Phelan and another of Gould Strong, Edith’s accompanist during her singing career. There are also pictures of the Beale sons, whom Edie complains were never disciplined, and a photograph of Edith in her prime, which Edie shows to the Maysles brothers, despite her mother’s protests. Edie plays a recording from 1934 of Edith singing in a soprano voice, accompanied by Gould on piano, noting that no man could have come between her mother and Gould. As Edith sings along to a record of “Tea for Two,” she asks her daughter, a former dancer, to do a soft-shoe routine, but Edie refuses. One night on the porch, Edie complains to Jerry that she had to give up the only things she cared about: Catholicism, dancing and swimming. When she tells Jerry that she doesn’t want to live in Grey Gardens because of the fleas and the unsettling quiet of East Hampton, he offers to help with the fleas. Sometime later, as Edith tunes in the radio to a Dr. Norman Vincent Peale sermon, Edie announces that her mother “doesn’t like the Catholic Church,” but Edith argues otherwise, then listens to the sermon while Edie makes facetious comments, and complains about her poor eyesight and lack of hair. Outside, Edie declares herself a “staunch character” that does not weaken, despite her late father’s disapproval. Later, items from Edie’s past, including photos, news clippings and an artist’s portrait, reveal that she was once a fashion model and a poet. Edith describes her daughter as “a girl who had everything,” including marriage proposals from millionaires such as J. Paul Getty, but she turned them all down. Edie regrets staying in New York during World War II to attend to Edith, who had several eye surgeries. Later still, Edie enters Grey Gardens with the Maysles, reciting a verse by Robert Frost and describing her eight-hour struggle with a dance routine the previous evening. In Edith’s bedroom, Edie reminisces about her past at the Barbizon Hotel in New York City, during which she was discovered by Broadway producer Max Gordon. Edith remembers that her daughter was starving, although she did encourage Edie’s dance and modeling careers. Edie asserts that she gave it all up to care for her mother, but Edith disagrees, claiming that Gould was her caretaker. However, Edie insists that Phelan was the only man who cared for her mother, and no sexual relationship existed with Gould. Edith concedes that she pressured Edie into leaving the city in 1952, even though her daughter was on the verge of her “big chance” on Broadway. Edie later tells the Maysleses of her dislike for the three men in her mother’s life: Phelan, Gould and Tom Logan. Tom was a musician, as well as a cook and a handyman, whom Edith admired, but Edie distrusted him. When Edie goes to the attic to feed raccoons, she finds a book that she believes was taken from her room, and suspects Jerry. Edie and Edith argue while one of the cats relieves itself on the floor. Later, Edie tells the Maysleses that, despite liking Jerry, she does not want him in the house. When Edith suggests that Jerry is in love with her daughter, Edie declares that she will never have sex with him, an overreaction in Edith’s estimation. When Edie leaves, Edith explains that her daughter always needed “a very strong hand,” because Edie “went wild” after her father left. Sometime later, groceries are delivered, and the two women chat in the bedroom, each with a pint of ice cream. Edie recalls working in her father’s law office, where he berated her for wearing fashionable clothes and makeup, and discouraged her from marrying. Regretting her solitude, Edie talks wistfully about Eugene, a Polish count and culinary author, who had been her suitor, but Edith insists that Eugene was too young for Edie, and notes that she would be alone without her daughter. Later, in another room, Edie decorates the walls with childhood mementos and a quote from Omar Khayyam. Later, she suns herself on the beach and swims in the ocean. On 5 October, Edith celebrates her seventy-ninth birthday in the kitchen with guests Lois Wright and Jack Helmuth. Edie covers the dirty chair seats with newspaper and serves refreshments while Edith criticizes her daughter’s waitressing skills. As a radio squawks under the conversation, Edie proposes a toast: “To my mother—may she live to be at least eighty.” Following a phone call from her sister, Edith opens presents from Jack and Lois. Two hand-painted posters are on display, one touting Edith as a great singer, the other touting Edie as a great dancer. Sometime after the party, Edie performs a dance routine to a recording of the Virginia Military Institute Marching Band, and tells the Maysles brothers that she wishes she had known them sooner. In the bedroom, the women sing together, but Edie’s farcical approach offends Edith and they bicker. One night, Edie tells the Maysleses that “the marble faun” is moving into Grey Gardens, expecting him to stay for ten years. She feels “pulverized” and wants to move out. On another occasion, Edie’s singing leads to more bickering, but Edith admits that her daughter has the better voice and later encourages Edie to sing. When another argument erupts over Eugene, Edie leaves the room in tears, and Edith tells the Maysleses that Eugene rejected her daughter. Outside, Edie is resigned to the fact that Grey Gardens is her mother’s house, and that she has no say over who lives there, but she also fears her mother’s death. Edie talks about moving back to New York City because winter in East Hampton is depressing. Later, Edith sings along with a recording of “Night and Day” as she sits in her bed surrounded by cats and refuse. Edie dances downstairs. On a wall is a hand-painted poster that reads, “October 5th—1973 ‘Grey Gardens’ At 78 it is true, You can live to be 80. Happy Hunting, From Edie.” +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.