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Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  130 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published November 2nd 2010 by Simon & Schuster (first published October 28th 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Sep 10, 2011 Lynne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kay Thompson should be more widely known and appreciated for her contribution to the popular culture of Hollywood, Broadway, nightclubs, and fashion, and not just for her Eloise books. What a character! I enjoyed reading about her St. Louis origins. The book would have benefited from cutting out the author's redundant asides, and, as others have pointed out, from less detail about every single song arrangement and job she had.
Jul 11, 2010 Jane rated it liked it
I grew up with Eloise Thompson's alter ego and I loved Funny Face, the movie with Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. But Kay Thompson was a mean, manipulative, drug addicted (admittedly unknowing), greedy and paranoid woman. She's described here as eccentric and because she was so talented in so many areas she was allowed to get away with a lot. But by 3/4s of the way through this book I was real and truly sick of her. A control freak to the nth degree. She actually tried to physically control the ...more
Dec 16, 2010 Gretchen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2010
I think most people my age will recognize Kay Thompson's name as the author of Eloise. What they won't know (I certainly didn't) is the level of influence she had on music and movies from the 30's to the 60's. This biography reads like a Who's Who of Hollywood during this timeframe, and Kay Thompson was at the center of it all. While at times the author seems to stretch a little (she invented Rap!), it can't be denied that Thompson was a pioneer in American music and contributed greatly to the c ...more
David Olsen
Jul 31, 2011 David Olsen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this saucy, sensational biography, but beware if you are in the least conservative/judgemental... This tantalizing tome takes an open mind, a taste for MGM madness, and a love of the spirit of Auntie Mame. Otherwise, goodnight Gracie! Viva KAY!!!
Barbara Vartanian
didn't finish it. too many my view, clouded the picture. but then, it was a sort of chronology.
Dec 23, 2010 Kara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Almost done, but this woman was an amazing, screwy broad. Her influence on musical pop culture is mind blowing. And her fierce ego was fascinating, to say the least.
Aug 02, 2011 Claire rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed

Kay Thompson is not a familiar name to most Americans today, even though she was a friend and colleague of some of the biggest names in twentieth century popular culture. She was a vocal coach and good friend of Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, and Lena Horne; she was close with writers like Ray Bradbury and Truman Capote; she helped cast Gene Kelly and Lucille Ball in her second husband’s radio show; and she later upstaged Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire when
Charlotte Lancaster
I have been in a reading slump, so I decided to grab a book from my (sizable) to-read stack and read it from beginning to end. This is the book I chose. Oy, what a tedious slog. For such a mind-numbing amount of exhausting detail, the book is shallow. It is as if the author found every single publicity announcement and put them all together in one interminable "homage." Seriously, there are long paragraphs that consist of nothing but names of people who attended some event, or participated in a ...more
blue-collar mind
Apr 28, 2013 blue-collar mind rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: music lovers of American music and people
Recommended to blue-collar mind by: Leigh Harris aka Lil' Queenie
A confession-didn't like Eloise and her Plaza life so much. Was more of a Madeleine fan. Oddly, it was the art that I really didn't like and the fact that a lot of the book went over my head at the time and now I know why after reading the biography of Kay Thompson, its author as well as legendary arranger to some of the greatest singers of her time (Garland, Sinatra, Minnelli, Horne, Merman and many, many more), a sensational performer in her time and the subject of hilarious and amazing storie ...more
Mar 04, 2011 Terry rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
One of the things I like about my roommate is that sometimes she will bring me home a pint of ice cream FOR NO REASON. And it's always the good stuff like Hagen Dazs. The other day she brought me their creme brulee ice cream. I loved it because it was so eggy and rich and vanilla-y...mmmm. Like frozen custard (obviously, I guess). And it reminded me of this book. It is a very gossipy, slightly bitchy, sometimes breathless story of a fabulously ambitious and talented woman. (One thing that did bo ...more
From an obsession with the Eloise lipstick color to Eloise herself, I came to Kay Thompson backwards through the art of Hilary Knight. I also adored, adored, adored the naughty, creative, never bored Eloise and found comfort in the fact that she was even more naughty and creative than I was as a child. She was real and now, after reading this well-researched book, I find that Kay Thompson was in fact just as real as her Eloise. I would hope that Eloise would have a better ending and I know that ...more
Lisa Sheffield
Clearly the author knew the topic and I really enjoyed learning more about a woman I have heard about all my life --- but, there was so much information packed into these pages that I felt the overall story suffered for it. Sort of -- focusing so much on the trees that the forest got blurred. So much digression in the storytelling -- the narrative with these digressions interrupted my mind's "flow" -- and made me think several times, "just get back to KAY'S story". Overall however, a vast amount ...more
Oct 20, 2010 Megan rated it liked it
This was a really enlightening book. Before I read it, I only knew Kay Thompson as the fashion editor caricature in "Funny Face". I had no idea the depth to which she was involved in American music and fashion.

She led a fascinating and varied life. I was sad to see her self-destructive tendencies; it was amazing she managed to get as much done as she did. I will now definitely be looking for her music and her arrangements.

The book was a little frenetic and mentioned a lot of things that may not
Diane C.

I agreed with many of the other reviewers............knew Kay Thompson as Eloise's creator and was thrilled to find out the other side of her life in entertainment. But the writer gallops along like a runaway train, filling in WAY too many details. Although his writing probably approximates the pace of Kay Thompson's life, it makes me tired to read a chapter. I'm enjoying this book and it's encyclopedic detail of show business personalities, but may not finish it because of all that detail.

Mar 17, 2014 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kay Thompson, what an interesting, one-of-a-kind person. Sam Irvin is perhaps not the best writer, but he thoroughly goes through every phase of Thompson's multi-faceted career with a lot of fascinating anecdotes from people who befriended and worked with her. While I admired her gumption and energy, I kind of came to loathe her perfectionist diva ways once she got the celebrity she longed for in the '50s (with Funny Face and the creation of Eloise). In the end, I ended up liking Thompson's asso ...more
Marianne Meyers
I wanted to love love love this book, but alas, it was the old formulaic "and then she did this and then she did that." I carried on because Kay Thompson was a formidable, entertaining genius and I wanted to know as much as I can about her. Astounding to think how many performers she influenced. This book is great in terms of amalgamating everything she EVER did, but it wasn't written well, it was more of a compilation with a few comments thrown in from performers/friends/enemies who worked with ...more
Jul 29, 2014 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a fabulous monster Kay Thompson was! Unbelievably talented, ambitious, generous - wait, no - maybe not generous, but she spent a large part of her life in the service of others, because let's face it, she was the original ugly duckling and was never going to light up the screen with her face. Her talent, yes, but not her face. Irvin tells her story in an easy-breezy Hollywood Variety way, too gushy and flip for my taste, but he did a marvelous job tracking down everyone who ever knew her. A ...more
Jul 16, 2012 Nancy rated it really liked it

Fun read if you like reading about the hey day of Hollywood, Broadway and the night club circuit. I knew Kay Thompson as Liza Minnelli's godmother and then as the writer of "Eloise" but did not realize she had a huge performing career of her own and influenced Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams and countless other performers. At some points the book becomes too much of a litany of stops on the road but it gives a good perspective on a performer's life with radio, film and television.
The subject is endlessly entertaining. The style of the writing, with which some reviewers took exception, didn't give me a moment's trouble. What I do wish, though, is that the author had found a way to tell the meat of the story (Eloise/Funny Face/cabaret/coaching) ordered not by topic but by chronology. Half the amazement of her list of accomplishments is realizing she was doing so many different and important things at the exact same time.
Mar 10, 2013 Frank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: show-biz-bio
A fascinating account of one of the 20th century's greatest musical innovators and a strong influence on the careers of Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, Andy Williams and many others. When her life gets really hectic in the 1950s, Irvin wisely considers her activities by topic rather than chronologically, which tends to underline the impact of her work in vocal coaching, cabaret performing and children's literature (for adults).
Oct 31, 2010 Emily rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies-etc
The writing is a little choppy, which took a little effort for me to acclimate myself. The effort was worthwhile, because it revealed so many different things about Ms. Thompson that I never would have guessed. What a talented woman. By the end, I was torn trying to decide if I was sad that she never found anyone who could tame her self-destructive tendencies or was happy to have the many things she brought to American culture. She was truly a National Treasure.
Dec 27, 2011 Kristi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was fascinated by her accomplishments but a bit overwhelmed by details that weren't critical to the story. Also I thought WAY too much emphasis was on the movie Funny Face. It wasn't a leading role or a terribly well-known film. The most significant thing I can see about it is that it's one of the few she accepted and completed.
Jun 17, 2011 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
While re-reading Eloise a few days ago, I found myself wondering about its author, Kay Thompson. I picked up this biography at the library a few days later. To my astonishment, Kay Thompson was a movie star and singer - completely self-made and quite unconventional. Am I the only person who didn't know this? It's a fascinating story!
Shawn Thrasher
Mar 09, 2011 Shawn Thrasher rated it did not like it
I felt like I was standing out in the rain, looking in longingly at a party where everyone is laughing and having a good time - but I couldn't hear what anyone was saying, and as a consequence having a miserable time. That's what reading this book felt like. Much, much too insider for my taste. Perhaps knowing a bit about Kay Thompson to begin with would have helped.
Jun 25, 2012 Judy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is excellent! Kay Thompson - actor, writer, arranger, singer... She was loud and talented and confident and famous. Throw in eccentric too! If you read the Eloise books (or if they were read to you as a child) you will be interested in this book. Thompson wrote the books after a long acting and singing career. Liza Minnelli's godmother rocked and lived a full - imperfections and all.
Apr 05, 2013 Victoria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Growing up I adored Kay Thompson--guess it was Ed Sullivan and other TV variety show appearances since I sure never saw her in a nightclub. And then came "Eloise." I picked up this biography a year or so ago at a Big Lots store of all places. Loved it! Guess you'd have to be of a certain age to appreciate it.
While I'd love to find out more about Kay Thompson, my love of the Eloise books isn't quite enough to get me wading through this morass. It's not bad, but I'm not that keen on breezy conjectural biographies.
Dec 09, 2010 Rebecca marked it as to-read
I got this book for Hanukkah and I absolutely can't wait to read it. It's the first ever biography of a woman who was incredibly influential in show biz and in America as a whole, both behind the scenes and in front of the curtain and camera.
Martin Turnbull
Mar 28, 2012 Martin Turnbull rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a wonderful read this was! Kay Thompson was a complicated, talented, multi-pronged dynamo whose life was way overdue for being documented and at long last it has.
Dec 07, 2010 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating bio of one of the most influential and underapprciated performing artists of the 20th century, and a real character!
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Author of "Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise" (Simon & Schuster), published November 2, 2010. Sam Irvin is a veteran director, producer and screenwriter for movies and television. After beginning his career as the assistant to Brian De Palma, Irvin has directed a dozen movies including "Guilty as Charged" (Rod Steiger, Lauren Hutton, and Heather Graham), "Out There" (Bill Campbell and Bi ...more
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