actress, singer, and writer, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. She
began her career as a pianist, and built a career as a singer, arranger,
composer, choreographer, and actress. She launched a second career with
her children's series, beginning with Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grown
Ups in 1955.
Illustrator [Interview Below]
Hilary Knight, Illustrator [Interview Below]
|THE ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL
ELOISE TAKES A BAWTH was cataloged by Harper & Row in 1964 but the book was never published because of artistic differences..."for Lord's sake"). The heirs decided that the book should be released and Illustrator, Hiliary Knight revisited the sketches he had drawn 40 years ago. Enjoy this delightfully funny book and remember, "You have to be absolutely careful when you take a bawth in a hotel." READ MORE
|Excerpts from "The Story of Eloise"
by Marie Brenner
Eloise gave me permission to rebel. She was a feisty princess of the city, a six-year-old merry prankster in a puffed-sleeved blouse. "I am Eloise! I am six!" she exclaimed with brio in 1955, and it was like a clarion call, a preview of the 1960s sensibility. It felt as if Eloise were America's first little naughty girl....
"Eloise" hit at a moment when class and status were changing quickly. She was an altogether thrilling new heroine, an antidote to Heidi the drip, and the peppy, but sappy Nancy Drew. Unlike Dick and Jane, Eloise would never hop, skip, or jump. She lived mother-free in a poor-little-rich-girl paradise without rules.... Her Plaza was as magical as Oz, as exotic as "South Pacific." She could sklonk the kneecaps of Vincent the barber as deftly as she could order up petit dejeuner or "Planked Medallion of Beef Tenderloin with Fresh Vegetables Maison... and two raisins, one strawberry leaf, and one clams in season."
"Kay Thompson's Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grownups" was first launched in 1955, in the chill of the Cold War. The illustrator Hilary Knight's striking palette--black and white and pink and red--exploded off the pages like a geyser and cascaded into our houses, inspiring us with the idea of our own possibilities. It was clear in the drawings and in her words: Eloise was a mini-Auntie Mame, a protofeminist.
Like her creator, Kay Thompson, Eloise was independent and saucy. She was an ancient child with the musical vocabulary of a poet. Her words would enter the language of Eisenhower's America.
The book was an immediate sensation, which startled the author. "I am the last person--the really truly last person--who would ever write a children's book," she said in an interview.
Eloise began as a vocal riff, a droll bit of shtick to pass the time between friends. Thompson once recalled she was late for a photo session at the California home of Robert Alton, MGM's dance coach. "I drove the car across a golf course--Bob's house was right there. I got out of the car and I went a few steps. And he said, 'Who do you think you are, coming here five minutes late?' I said, 'I am Eloise, I am six.'
"From that moment on, while we were rehearsing, everybody became somebody else. When we ran into each other, there were all these crazy voices going. People wanted to know just about everything about Eloise, and I would make up these terrible outrageous things...."
In the history of artistic collaboration, Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight would become as fused as Lewis Carroll and John Tenniel. As with Tenniel's drawings of Alice, it is impossible to imagine Eloise any other way than as she was first pictured by Knight. Knight, a soft-spoken native New Yorker, had been a student of the painter Reginald Marsh. He was twenty-seven in 1954 when he was introduced to Thompson, and in the beginning stages of his career as a magazine illustrator....
That Christmas, Thompson received a card from Knight, a drawing of an angel and Santa Claus streaking through the sky. On top of Santa's pack was Eloise. Thompson was elated. "There she was in person. I knew at once Hilary Knight had to illustrate the book... I holed in at the Plaza and we went to work. I just knew I had to get this done. Eloise was trying to get out. I've never known such stimulation. This girl had complete control of me. Ideas came from everywhere. Hilary and I had an immediate understanding. We wrote, edited, laughed, outlined, cut, pasted, laughed again, read out loud, laughed and suddenly we had a book."
They still come to see Eloise. They skibble and skidder through the gold lobby where the azaleas bloom in November in the Plaza's Palm Court. The little children and their mothers stand and look up dreamily at Eloise's whimsical portrait.
On a chilly night in November 1998, I too stood out on the corner of 59th Street and Fifth Avenue, looking at Eloise's home, a hotel I had first made my mother take me to in 1957 so that I could pick up the house phone and hear "Hello, it's me, Eloise." More than forty years later, I could feel my mother's hand holding mine on that windy corner.
Scrapbook text copyright 1999
by Marie Brenner.
Read an interview with "Eloise" illustrator Hilary Knight