Day 237: William Tries the Films

The facts

“They get over a hundred pounds a week,” said Ginger.
“Crumbs!” gasped William. “A hundred pounds?”
“Yes,” said Ginger, “a hundred pounds. I heard my aunt talkin’ about it. Some of ’em get more.”
More?” said William incredulously.
“Yes, some of ’em get two hundred.”
“They couldn’t get two hundred,” said William simply. “Not a week. No one could get two hundred pounds a week. Why, it’s…” His mind grappled with
the sum then gave it up. “It’s ever so much money a day. They were pulling her leg.”
“No, they weren’t,” said Ginger. “She knew a boy what got it. A boy what got two hundred pounds a week. Out in America, that was.”
“Gosh!” breathed William. “A boy?”
“Yes, a boy. An’ he got it for jus’ actin’ a boy in plays an’ such like.”
“Crumbs! I could do that,” said William. “I bet I could act a boy in plays ‘swell as anyone.”

  • Number: 22.2
  • Published: 1940 (1939 in magazine form)
  • Book: William and the Evacuees
  • Synopsis: William has a yearning for the grease-paint.


I don’t consider my current income to be very high at all, but it (just about) exceeds the £200 a week that so astonished William as an elite salary for the creme de la creme of the film industry.

But unusually, it’s Ginger who really lets his creativity run wild as he takes on William’s role of bluffing omniscience (I’m not 100% sure what he was referring to, but I’m assuming it was some sort of early film make-up):

“Actors’ve gotter have their faces yellowed.”
“Yellowed?” said William in amazement. “Why?”
“It’s jus’ one of the rules,” said Ginger vaguely. “Everyone what’s on the films have got to have their faces yellowed. My aunt said so .”
· “But why?” persisted William.
“Well, I s’pose it makes it harder,” said Ginger. “S’not easy actin’ with a yellow face, so they make ’em have ’em yellow so’s they’ll try harder. The best ones are the yellowest,” he went on, giving rein to his imagination, “an’ the nex’ ones the nex’ yellow, and the ones what are jus’ beginnin’ have ’em jus’ a little yellow, but they’ve all gotter be yellow. They won’t let ’em act ’less they’re yellow.”

William put on Ethel’s shoes with squeaky ejaculations of “Oh dear! Now I’ve got to walk along in these awful shoes, but I mus’ wear ’em ’cause I’m so bee-utiful.” Then, chuckling to himself, intensely amused by his own wit, he put them under his arm and walked along the road again.

Because William understands that some film stars are talent-spotted from the stage, it becomes his life’s ambition to get himself a starring role in a local am-dram production of some vague Tudor thing, in order to grease his path to Hollywood. His eyes are lit up with dollar signs (“He even toyed with the idea of buying an elephant… If he saved up for a month he might be
able to afford one. It would be fun riding round the village on an elephant”).

Then he gets tangled up with Mrs Bott, the supernatural and some green paint (“I hadn’t any yellow”).