Kay Thompson

Active - 1937 - 1970  |   Born - Nov 9, 1902   |   Died - Jul 2, 1998   |   Genres - Children's/Family, Musical

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

Though best-remembered for penning the delightful Eloise series of childhood adventure books, Kay Thompson was also an actress, a singer/songwriter, and one of the entertainment industry's finest vocal arrangers. Thompson launched her long, varied career in the 1930s as a night-club singer and songwriter. By mid-decade, she had become the primary vocal arranger on the popular radio shows Your Hit Parade, The Chesterfield Show, and Tune-Up Time. During this period, Thompson often worked with Fred Waring and Andre Kostelanetz. She arranged vocals with Hugh Martin for the Broadway show Hooray for What! in 1937 and worked with him on the film Manhattan Merry-Go-Round (1937), which also marked her debut as a performer in movies. In the mid-'40s, Martin was the chief vocal arranger at MGM. When he was drafted, he immediately suggested that Thompson replace him at the studio. While at MGM, Thompson worked on such major features as Ziegfeld Follies (1946), Good News (1947), and Vincente Minnelli's The Pirate (1948). Thompson worked closely with Minnelli's former wife, Judy Garland, and was godmother to their daughter Liza Minnelli; later Thompson assisted mother and daughter with their live performances. In 1956, Thompson made waves as an actress with her performance as Maggie Prescott in the Audrey Hepburn classic Funny Face. As an author, Thompson published her first Eloise book, Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grownups, in 1955. The story of a mischievous firebrand six-year-old living in New York's Plaza Hotel, it spawned three popular sequels. Thompson later founded Eloise Ltd. to market character-related merchandise. The books led to a television special. Thompson was married twice, once to bandleader Jack Jenney and once to producer William Spier. Thompson was residing in Liza Minnelli's home when she passed away on July 2, 1998.

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