Kay Thompson (born Catherine L. Fink, November 9, 1908, St. Louis, Missouri – July 2, 1998, New York City) was an American author, composer, musician, actress, and singer. She is perhaps best known as the creator of the Eloise children's books.
Kay Thompson was born to parents Leo George (born ca. 1875), an Austrian immigrant, and Hattie A. (born ca. 1888), a native of Kansas. The second of four children, Kay had three other siblings: sisters M. Blanche (born ca. 1907) and Marian A. (born ca. 1915); and a brother, Leo George, Jr. (born ca. 1913). The Finks raised their family in St. Louis, where father Leo was a jewelry store owner.
Thompson was the vocal arranger for films like Weekend at the Waldorf (1945), Ziegfeld Follies (1946), The Harvey Girls (1946), Till the Clouds Roll By (1946), and Good News (1947). After working on The Pirate (1948) with Judy Garland and Gene Kelly, she left MGM to create her own nightclub act with Andy Williams and his brothers (whom she discovered while working on The Harvey Girls). They toured the country's nightclubs and cabarets with great success and appeared on radio, establishing a loyal cult following with their jazz based harmonies and flamboyant performance style.
As an actress, Thompson made only 3 film appearances, notably as fashion editor Maggie Prescott in the musical Funny Face (1957) with Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn. Reunited with her colleagues from MGM, producer/songwriter Roger Edens and director Stanley Donen, Thompson garnered critical praise for her stylish turn as an editor based on real-life Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, kicking off the film with her splashy "Think Pink!" and stealing the spotlight in duets with Astaire and Hepburn. (In a 6 December 2006 interview on Turner Classic Movies, Donen said that Funny Face was made at Paramount with a primarily MGM crew -- including Donen, Edens, and Thompson -- because Paramount Pictures would not release Hepburn for any film except one made at Paramount.)
She served as creative consultant and vocal arranger for Judy Garland's highly rated 1962 television special with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and kept busy with nightclub and television performances, as well as overseeing her successful "Eloise" franchise. In the early 1960s, Thompson moved from her beloved Plaza Hotel to a villa in Rome.
She appeared in Otto Preminger's Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (1970) with goddaughter Liza Minnelli. In the 1970s, fashion designer Halston lured Thompson out of retirement to stage his runway shows. She eventually moved into Minnelli's Upper East Side penthouse in New York City, where she died in 1998.
Besides Jack Jenney, Thompson also married radio producer William Spier. Both marriages dissolved after a short time. She had no children. Her nieces by her sisters Marian and Blanche Fink were named as her literary heirs and they operate the Eloise franchise today.
A CD of Kay Thompson's vocals, including her own compositions, is available under the title The Golden Years from Encore Productions, and the original soundtrack to Funny Face has been remastered and reissued. Most of her exceptional work for MGM has been preserved and released on Rhino/Turner Classic Movies original soundtrack series, including little-known contributions she did for films such as Meet the People (1944) and Abbott And Costello In Hollywood (1945). The entire series is available in the soundtrack section at www.rhinohandmade.com
In 2003, Kay Thompson was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
In her 2008 tour, Liza Minnelli devoted much of the performance to recreating Kay Thompson's act, using her trademark music.