Little Edie, The Early Years

The incredible book, Edith Bouvier Beale of Grey Gardens: A Life in Pictures, shows Little Edie before the mess, the infestations and the Maysles. It's the glamorous girl we sort of saw in HBO's rendition, displayed through poems, notes and photos. It's sweet, divine and heart breaking. (Above, Little Edie in a gypsy costume shot by an unknown photographer in 1927). 

The cover of Little Edie's 1929 sketch book.

Little Edie and her friend Eleanor Maloney in 1933, East Hampton.

My uncle, a man whose mother annually posed him and his brothers into utterly perfect Christmas photos, always says, "The more perfect the Christmas photo, the more dysfunctional the family." I've always felt that way about letters. More letters, more dysfunction. 

Phelan Beale was a letter writer. And when he told his wife he was cutting her allowance, he let his secretary do the typing.

Modeling at the Lady's Village Improvement Society Fashion Show, East Hampton, 1940

East Hampton, 1951

1938 on the stoop of Grey Gardens with Spot

East Hampton, 1940 with Spot

East Hampton, 1951

East Hampton, 1951


  1. Your blog is amazing! The images are wonderful - keep up the great work.

  2. All the photos are fab, but that last one with the *sneakers* kills me. (The movie left me cold. I guess I'm a purist.)

  3. She's so pretty in that black dress and the hat. ;D People have all sort of mix feeling about her and her mother, I just think they're perfect in their own way.

    But my husband was in utter disgust with their mess. I told him I once eat out of cans, and put them on the floor for a couple day. He gave me looks. oh well, I was a really busy art student.

  4. ADG says:

    I so agree with the comment about perfect Christmas Cards-dysfunction ratio. I have the same prejudice about weddings...the more fun the reception-the more likely the demise.

  5. Diantha says:

    The letter's heartbreaking, actually.

  6. Turling says:

    I agree with Diantha. The last sentence where he hopes the plane crashes is an astounding thing to say to a loved one.

  7. You beat me to it.

    I was given this book last week for my birthday (I was going to let some time lapse before I launched into another GG post :-)

    That letter killed me. Nice job, Phelan. However, it was interesting to see how long it took the Depression to affect his business.

    There was another poem that moved me titled, "Loving You."

  8. The letter is agonizing. You can sense his utter deflation and desire to do the right thing and not have his estranged wife's life too inconvenienced. Obviously he is supporting his mother and sister too, and even they will have to change their lifestyles.

  9. Remarkable images .. .
    beautiful post .. .

    heartbreaking letter.


  10. i never tire of little edie. i think it's her smile that breaks my heart.

    beautiful post.

  11. It is really great and nice article. I like your blog.