Telling this story takes a lot more time than I really have here so before I get started I would urge you to seek out the documentary which can be found here to give you some insight into who and what I am talking about. A taster can be watched here.
Edith "Big Edie" Ewing Beale was the wife of Phelan Beale who was a wealthy lawyer. Their daughter Edith "Little Edie" Bouvier Beale was a socialite, wannabe cabaret performer and model. After the marriage between her parents collapsed and her relationship with former US Secretary of the Interior Julius "Cap" Krug (who was married) also ended Little Edie returned to her family home in the Hamptons; Grey Gardens, to be with her mother.
From 1952 until her mothers eventual passing in 1977 the two women lived in increasing isolation and poverty and the house, along with their mental health, deteriorated. Both women could, kindly, be deemed eccentrics. Only the intervention of their relative Jacqueline Onassis in the 1970s stopped both women being removed from the home on the grounds that it was in breach of myriad building regulations as well as being home to stray cats and raccoons.
This TV film about the lives of the women outside of the more celebrated documentary gives us an insight into the lives of the women before their self-imposed exile...the years when they were genuine socialites, throwing parties, having affairs and dreaming impossible dreams. The performances of Drew Barrymore (Little Edie) and Jessica Lange (Big Edie) are totally convincing and when viewed in quick succession with the documentary it is frightening how accurate their portrayals are. Barrymore, in particular, has never been better and gives a glimpse of the actress she may have been.
Their is a thin line between madness and eccentricity...the Bouvier Beale girls probably only fall into the latter category because of their links to Jacqueline Onassis and their own wealth. A sad, affecting, bizarre, inspiring and uplifting tale of love, loyalty and madness both films should be high on a "must see" list.