Her grandfather was the 19th-century theatrical luminary Henry Compton. She made her mark in the several plays of J.M. Barrie (of Peter Pan fame) introducing him to London audiences, notably in the title role of Mary Rose in 1920. In 1926, she published reminiscences entitled Rosemary: Some remembrances.
Active in the classics as well as contemporary material, Compton had the distinction of playing Ophelia opposite two of the most celebrated Hamlets, John Barrymore and John Gielgud.
In 1962 she appeared as Marya in Laurence Olivier"s production of Uncle Vanya at Chichester Festival Theatre. This production was filmed.
Fay Compton died on 12 December 1978, in London, aged 84.