Who hasn't heard of Eloise, the fiercely independent six-year-old who lives at the Plaza Hotel? Although the author of the original Eloise books, Kay Thompson, was a famous actor and singer, the illustrator, Hilary Knight, is a much more private person.
Many a girl and her parents have been Eloise fans over the last half century, including Lena Dunham (Girls), who even has a tattoo of the character on her lower back. And it was because of her Eliose ink that Dunham and Knight got to know each other in person.
In the new HBO documentary It's Me, Hilary: The Man Who Drew Eloise (directed by Matt Wolf), we too get to meet the eccentric artist. Although Eloise is the work nearest to his heart, Knight has had a long and fruitful career as an illustrator of posters and magazines as well as of other books (some of which he wrote). The story of the birth and death of his collaboration with Thompson is at the heart of the short film, but we also get a peek at Knight's fanciful world, including a visit to his homes.
He is incredibly imaginative and almost always has a pencil or video camera in hand to capture the images in his head or on the street. I found Knight to be delightfully singular, and my heart went out to him in sympathy for the troubles that ended his association with the little girl he drew so lovingly.
New footage is supplemented with family photos and vintage film, giving the documentary an intimate feel. Besides hearing from Dunham, we are also treated to Mindy Kaling's and Fran Lebowitz's thoughts about Eloise. Knight's nieces provide additional insight into their uncle's life and his relationship with the spunky character he helped create.
At just about forty-five minutes, the documentary preserves Knight's privacy while giving him his well-deserved moment in the sun. Don't forget to mark your calendar for the HBO debut on March 23 at 9:00 ET/PT. This is a must-see film for all Eloise fans.
For more on Hilary Knight and his work, visit his website. For the air times and more information about the film, visit HBO's website.
Photo Credits: Eloise drawing--Hilary Knight, 1969. Used by permission of Simon and Schuster, Inc/Courtesy of HBO; photo of Hilary Knight--Courtesy of HBO; photo of Lena Dunham--Courtesy of HBO
Produced by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner
Directed by Matt Wolf
Thanks to HBO for providing me with a screener.