In 1959, an unusual filamentous polymer, now called the beaded filament, was described in the lens of the eye. The constituent proteins, assembly properties and functions of the beaded filament have been elusive. The recent publication of the sequences for two major lens filament proteins (CP49 and filensin) and the reconstitution in vitro of structures closely resembling beaded filaments, suggests that the beaded filament is related structurally to intermediate filaments (Ifs). The association of the lenticular chaperones, the α-crystallins, with the filament contributes to the characteristic beaded morphology, as well as giving important clues to the function of this unuszlal filament in the lens. These recent results have several implications for IF function and assembly.