Muffie Meyer Revisits Grey Gardens

On Film / Short Takes — May 14, 2016

Our release of Albert and David Maysles’s 1976 documentary Grey Gardens—an intimate portrait of reclusive mother and daughter Edith and Edie Bouvier—has finally made its way to the United Kingdom. To mark the occasion, British website AnOther has just published a new interview with Muffie Meyer, a codirector and coeditor of this groundbreaking work of cinema verité. Along with her fellow filmmakers, Meyer closely observed the Beales on their overgrown East Hampton property to create a candid look into their deeply eccentric lives.

Although David and Albert Maysles were the only people who actually went inside the Beales’s house, Meyer managed to form a lasting relationship with Little Edie, who even sang at her wedding. “We stayed friends, and for years she would write me the most wonderful letters,” says Meyer. “It was certainly a friendship of longevity, if not necessarily of depth, because she was generally remarkably self-absorbed.”

Meyer also discusses the challenge of constructing a narrative around the two subjects. “It was very hard to structure, because nothing really happens, and so Ellen and I realized that, since the Beales didn't change, we had to make the audience change how they felt—not about the Beales, but about the power dynamic between them,” she says. “We had a lot of discussions about protecting them . . . Ellen and I knew that people would end up calling them crazy. In the end, nothing could stop that kind of criticism, and the critics were apoplectic. They seemed to feel that Little Edie, in particular, was just crazy, and therefore wasn’t capable of giving informed consent for the filming. I totally disbelieve that: Edie managed her life just fine after her mother died. She was eccentric, certainly, but not crazy.”

You can read the interview in full over at AnOther's site.