Friday, May 23, 2008

Reel People: Drew Barrymore is Edith Bouvier Beal (aka Little Edie)

The film is Grey Garden, which incidentally is based on a documentary with the same name from 1975 and which also has been previously adapted into a musical. The film marks the directorial debut of Michael Sucsy.

Edith Bouvier Beal (Little Edie)

Little Edith Bouvier Beal was the most notably the cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Born in New York in 1917 at the site that is now the Carlyle Hotel. She was only daughter of Phelan Beale and Edith Ewing Beal (Big Edie). Living a socialite life and encouraged by her mother to be a star, she would often sing for small parties and model in New York City and Palm Beach as a child.

In her teens, her father left her and her mother (Big Edie) during a time when her mother depended on their family network to provide for them.

With a various relationships that never led to marriage (including engagement to Joe Kennedy Jr.) Little Edith never married (she claimed she was only interested in Sagittarius, but needed to settle down with a Libra).

After some time on her own, Little Edie returned to her mother and into 1952 moved in with her at Grey Gardens (a 28 room estate in East Hampton, NY that had been purchased for Big Edie in 1923). Apparently a trust fund had been set up at one point to take care of the women, but Big Edie's brother Jack B ("Black Jack") Bouvier seized up the trust fund and used it to invest in his own daughter's Jackie and Lee. Instead big and little Edie received only $300 a month and gained extra money by selling off their Tiffany pieces.

The two women lived in isolation and poverty, especially after the death of their caretaker/handyman Tom "Tex" Logan in 1963.

In 1971 the Suffolk County Health Department raided the house discovering that countless violations has occurred within the large multi-room estate for years. The home was filled with trash, raccoons, opossums, cats, and human waste.

The scandal made national news, and the health department threatened to evict the women unless it was clean. Jackie Kennedy Onassis and husband Aristotle Onassis ended up footing the bill ($32,000) which was used to fix the inspection problem, replace the plumbing and furnace, and cart away over a thousand bags of garbage.

In 1977 Big Edie died. Little Edie stayed in Grey Gardens for a little while while starting a poorly reviewed cabaret career at 60. Edith stayed in New York moving from the large estate, to a cottage, to a studio apartment.

In 1983 she moved to Florida were she lived out the majority of her life, with the exception of some time in Montreal and Oakland, California.

Edith lived in relative solitude in an apartment in Bal Harbour, Florida spending her time swimming, and writing poetry and letters. She was discovered dead in 2002 at the age of 84, where she presumed to have been dead multiple days of a heart attack.

Grey Gardens

The film is based on the lives of Little and Big Edie and is largely based on the 1975 documentary that gave rise to interest in these two women who had recently had their house inspected and were saved by Jackie Kennedy Onassis. In this film Barrymore plays Little Edie while two time Oscar winner Jessica Lange plays Big Edie. Jeanne Tripplehorn plays Jackie Kennedy Onassis.

A big name in film, but with light and infrequent critical raves could Drew Barrymore receive critical attention or even an Oscar nomination/win for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?


Profile Not Available said...

A very interesting post! I will look for the film!

Anonymous said...

Your post is very well written.

Just FYI: The engagement to Joe Kennedy Jr. never happened - it's a fictional account.

Michael Parsons said...

I think Drew has it in her. My only concern is she has made a career out of her charisma and her own little ticks. "Donnie Darko" showed that she is capable of different work, but carrying an whole film, and opposite Lange.

I am skeptical, but do hope she pulls it off, it would be a wonderful moment to have a new generation of Barrymore nominated!

Anonymous said...

Drew has an interesting fact in this year career, considering by many people like an awful actress but she's part of a Hollywood royal family. She needs to be outstading for being in consideration and especially because this is a beloved documental and musical

Anonymous said...

Tom Logan died in 1963?

Anonymous said...

T. Logan website says he died 1964.

I am fascinated with this guy! I wonder if Tex will be in the HBO movie?

Anonymous said...

You can receive accurate information about Tex Logan from his Granddaughter. She will answers all your questions. Her email is
Let her know Eli gave it to you.

Anonymous said...

It really bothers me that people keep saying "saved" by Jackie O. If I found my aunt and cousin living like that I would have made sure they were looked after for life...and I don't have access to millions or billions of dollars...I wouldn't think of it as a chore, so how hard could it have been to afford them some comfort...not take over their lives...just care and maybe visit. $32000 from Onassis (or the Beale's OWN COMMUNITY for GOODNESS sakes) would be like $32 (or maybe even cents) from me...big deal. The neighbors can have meetings to complain but not help? Especially the "charity luncheon" set? Gotta love the lady Beale spirit though... even when no one else cared and proved it over and over... they clung to the ideal that that is what it is all about. Thank You.

Anonymous said...

P.S. Drew probably has quite a complicated relationship with her mother as well...emancipating herself at such a young age and always being in the public eye that expects so much from her because of her name and money ...breaking down, going wild...and being judged for it by people who never even met her...probably has lots to draw from...I think she is wonderful for the part and just for herself...she might have gone the Edie route just as easily if she had kept lamenting the past and not pulled herself up by her bootstraps and embraced herself and the reins to her own future. Thank You!

Anonymous said...

The film premiers on HBO tonight at 8pm US EST! Hip Hip Hooray Darlings!

Unknown said...

Aren't they just diVINE? Oh, thank You, Darlings!

Anonymous said...

I have seen the film and I feel it is possibly Ms. Lange's and Ms Barrymore's best work. I agree with a comment someone else made that is was Very Sad that The imfamous Jackie O. did not do more to help the Eddies. Though I imagine the two would not ask for help from anyone. However, with family money all around them, they should of been able manage themselves better just with a monthly trust account. This whole story/documentary, reminds me of the Edgar Allen Poe story, " Fall of the house of Usher".

Anonymous said...

Watched it last night and couldn't wait to google more information on the Edies life. I tend to think Jacki O did the right thing, she helped, but, why should she support two relatives when they made not effort to support themselves. Or to even clean up after themselves, living in that sort of filth is crazy.