Reel Toronto: Grey Gardens
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Reel Toronto: Grey Gardens

Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.
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Wow, it’s a critically acclaimed, shot-in-Toronto movie! And you can’t really tell it was shot here! Reel Toronto lives for these rare moments.
We usually stick to cinematic releases and ignore the zillion TV movies shot here, but this HBO flick picked up seventeen Emmy nominations and is at least as good as most of the crap we sit through for this column. Grey Gardens was the Long Island home of “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” Beale, cousins of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. Acclaimed documenatrians Albert and David Maysles made a landmark 1975 flick about the pair living in squalor and perhaps a bit of delusion.
Today, in addition to this film and the now-on-DVD documentary, there is also a Broadway show, making Grey Gardens something of a cottage industry. Pun mostly not intended.


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The real Grey Gardens is a mansion in posh Easthampton, Long Island. The place they shot it here has almost (but not quite) as cool a story as Grey Gardens itself.
Valley Halla is an estate built by health nut Robert Jackson in the 1930s. This dude, who created a breakfast cereal called Roman Meal, was in his seventies when the twenty-seven-room mansion was completed. Today, it sits largely abandoned, owned by the Toronto Zoo, and hardly maintained except for film shoots like this one. You can see it on this Google map, just east of the zoo’s auxiliary parking lot, tucked away behind Meadowvale Road. Next time you go to the zoo, you’ll notice the orange-roofed gatehouse before you make the left off Meadowvale into the main lot. Never knew it was there, did ya?
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(The website we found about it has disappeared, but you can still see it here, here and here, thanks to the magic of Google’s cache feature!)
Grey Gardens‘ interiors were shot in Valley Halla, and for the building’s exterior they built a replica nearby on the grounds.

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The filmmakers didn’t travel to Long Island so they still needed a body of water to play the Atlantic Ocean. Enter the beach at Hanlan’s Point, on the Toronto Islands.
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Daniel Baldwin (who looks more and more like Alec, now that the latter has put on weight) picks up Drew Barrymore at a fashion show, shot in The Carlu’s Round Room.
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He then takes her dancing, but it’s only just across the hall in the Concert Hall.
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The hotel he stays at with his wife (ahem!) is the Royal York, as we can see in this lovely lobby shot…
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…and this one.
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Drew also walks by the exterior here.
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This choo-choo train isn’t actually part of the Long Island Railroad. It’s this beauty, a historic engine on the York-Durham railway. The train station set is out in Uxbridge.
Now, if only the feature films made here aimed for this level of quality, we at Reel Toronto might be able to take a bit more pleasure in the work.

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