from Funny Face to Eloise
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Kay Thompson
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Peter Filichia, Broadway Radio, 12/12/2010: TRANSCRIPT STARTING AT AROUND 54 MINUTES INTO THE SHOW: A book I would really recommend is Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise. Kay Thompson is a woman who you may know from Funny Face. She appears as a very demanding, incredibly difficult, single-minded, drive-you-crazy boss of a magazine. Maggie Prescott. She just has to have her way in every way – and a hundred percent of it, too. So, was she really this difficult in real life? Well, I have to say, this biography by Sam Irvin claims and really proves that she really was. This was quite a lady. Rex Reed said, ‘She was ahead of her time for nine decades.’ And I wouldn’t disagree with that at all after reading this book. This was one of the few books in my life that, from the moment I finished, I went back to the beginning and read it again. And the moment I finished, I went back to the beginning and read it a third time. I couldn’t get enough of this book. So, you find out all about this woman who was a performer certainly, who was offered tons, tons of Broadway musicals during her career. But, because she was fired from a Broadway musical in 1937, a show called Hooray for What!, because an actress was sleeping with one of the book writers, and with the lyricist, that woman who was doing all this vamping was Vivian Vance, the future Ethel Mertz from I Love Lucy. Kay Thompson essentially would never put herself through that again. So, even though she was offered Out of This World, Hazel Flagg, Miss Liberty and a lot of these shows from the forties and fifties, she never came back to Broadway. But she did write a children’s book called Eloise, based on an alter ego she had. She liked to pretend she was a six-year-old girl who spoke with a lispy voice. She turned it into a book and the book became quite the sensation. There have been many sequels. It’s still in print. The actual first Eloise was never out of print. The sequels were. She didn’t want them back in print. She didn’t like the sequels very much. And so, she, throughout her entire life, vowed that they would never be in print. Of course, as always happens, as soon as these people died, their estates want to make some money and they immediately release them. So, that’s very fascinating, too. But she was a music arranger, she was a stylist, she worked in fashion. She did innovations with fashion shows, changing the way they looked and sounded. So, I found it to be one of the best biographies I have ever, ever, ever read. I cannot imagine anyone not being as fascinated as I was with it. The author did a magnificent job, especially because we’re talking about a woman who has been dead for a long time now—and a lot of her contemporaries have died. So, he had to deal with the people he could and do the best he could under the circumstances. And I thought he did a spectacular job. So, I highly recommend that. 
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