Just William series

Just William series

Supercbbox| title = Just William
comic_color =background:#c0c0c0

caption = William makes friends with his teacher's "new beau", much to "her" annoyance (from the story "The Fall of the Idol").
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publisher = "Home" "Happy Mag"
date = 1921–1970
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main_char_team = William Brown
writers = Richmal Crompton
artists = Thomas Henry
pencillers =
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The William Brown series, better known as the Just William series is a series of thirty nine books written by English author Richmal Crompton. The books are based around the mischievous schoolboy William Brown.

The series was published over a period of almost fifty years, between 1921 and 1970, however throughout the series the protagonist remains at the same eleven years of age. The first book was "Just William", and often the entire series is named after this book. Each book, with the exception of "Just William's Luck", which was a novel, was a collection of short stories.

The series has spawned various television, film, theatre and radio adaptations. It also has a large fan following, with such groups as the "Just William Society".

ynopsis of the Series

;Characters and SettingWilliam Brown is an 11 year old mischievous middle class school boy who lives in a village between the fictional towns of Marleigh and Hadley in England. A number of guesses have been made about where the stories are set. In "Pensions for Boys" in "Sweet William" (1936), it is suggested that the village is about 50 miles from London. It has also been suggested (in Margarey Disher's book "Growing Up with Just William") that it is situated somewhere around Bromley.

William often gets into trouble and is the leader of his band of friends, known as The Outlaws, with his best friend Ginger, and his other friends Henry and Douglas. His scruffy mongrel is called Jumble.

A William story often starts when William or the Outlaws set out to do something — put on a play, collect scrap metal for the war effort, look after Violet Elizabeth Bott for example. William always manages to get into trouble with his parents, although he can never see why. Often his well meaning efforts result in broken windows and hysterics among Mrs. Brown's friends.

Sometimes William can be very moral — he is inspired to tell the truth for the duration of Christmas day in "William's Truthful Christmas" ("Still William", 1925) with terrible results:

cquote| [William has just received a geometry set and a book on church history for Christmas.]

"Did you like the book and instruments that Uncle and I gave you?" said Aunt Emma brightly.
"No," said William gloomily and truthfully. "I'm not int'rested in Church History an' I've got something like those at school. Not that I'd want 'em," he added hastily, "if I hadn't em."
"William!" screamed Mrs. Brown in horror. "How can you be so ungrateful!"
"I'm not ungrateful," explained William wearily.
"I'm only being truthful...

;Current eventsThe books within this series often reflected current events within the 20th century. "William the Conqueror" for example reflects pre-World War I imperialism, while 1930s books like "William The Dictator" dealt with Fascism and 1940s books like "William and the Evacuees" were set against the backdrop of World War Two. Later on, "William and the Moon Rocket" and "William and the Space Animal" were written during the space race. Despite the changing events, William and other characters do not age and become more and more old fashioned when compared to the age they were written in.


*William Brown - The main character in the series, an eleven year old middle class schoolboy. He is the leader of The Outlaws and the sworn enemy of Hubert Laneites.
*Ginger - William's best friend and member of The Outlaws. His surname is either Flowerdew or Merridew; one of the author's many inconsistencies. Stories often involve only William and Ginger, leaving out the other Outlaws.
*Henry - One of William's friends and a member of The Outlaws.
*Douglas - One of William's friends and a member of The Outlaws.
*Jumble - William's scruffy mongrel, a mixture of many breeds.
*Mrs. Mary Brown - William's long suffering mother.
*John Brown - William's father, often vexed by William's troublesome behaviour. Some of the stories also suggest that Mr Brown was very much like William in his youth.
*Ethel Brown - William's older sister, a pretty red head who is incredibly popular among the local adolescent males in the village. Ethel is varriously aged in the stories between 17 and 21. William himself can never understand why people are attracted to her because she is usually quite mean to him. Ethel does, however, have quite a soft spot for William; she is genuinely distressed when she believes him to be sick, though William is of course faking.
*Robert Brown - William's older, grown-up brother is a seventeen year old, often infatuated with girls in the village. Robert is aged 19-22 although in the story Just Willams Luck, Robert confirms his age as 21. He is also sometimes described as a "social climber", eager to impress his friends and family with his important acquaintances. Several of the stories involve Robert attempting to impress a girl, but irritated and embarrassed by William in the process.
*Violet Elizabeth Bott - The lisping spoiled daughter of the local nouveau riche millionaire, Mr Bott, who often wishes to join The Outlaws on their adventures, much to their disdain.
*Mr & Mrs Bott - Introduced early in the series as new inhabitants to the village, Mr and Mrs Bott are a nouveau riche millionaire couple who spoil their daughter and disapprove of William's conduct and appearance. Mr Bott made his millions by patenting and selling "Bott's Digestive Sauce". Mrs. Bott is often represented as a social climber, eager to impress people with the couple's new wealth and anxious to move in high society.
*Joan - The girl next door. Younger than William, she is an uncritical admirer of William, whom he will go to some efforts to impress.
*Hubert Lane - William's rival in the village for popularity among boys, and his opposite in character. He almost always comes off worse in confrontations with William.
*Bertie Franks - Hubert's lieutenant.
*Oswald Franks - Bertie Franks's older brother, friend of Robert's.
*Mrs. Lane - Hubert's mother, who began with having great faith in a William-Hubert friendly, but spoils and supports Hubert to a ridiculous extent.
*Mr. Marks/Markson - The headmaster of William's school, ready to blame all ills on William.
*Victor Jameson - Sometimes friend, sometimes rival of William. Has an elder brother Jameson Jameson, who plays a similar role as Robert.

Publication and Illustrations

The series was first serialised in Home magazine and then Happy Mag but after being serialised were printed as books of short stories.

All the William books until "William and the Witch" published in 1964 were illustrated by Thomas Henry in ink, with water colour illustrations for the front covers. After Henry's death in 1962, Henry Ford and Lunt Roberts (who had previously illustrated her "Jimmy" books) continued in his style.

List of Books

Crompton continued to write "William" books right up until her death with the last, "William the Lawless", being published posthumously in 1970.

The publication dates are for the UK.

* 1. "Just William", 1922
* 2. "More William", 1922
* 3. "William Again", 1923
* 4. "William The Fourth", 1924
* 5. "Still William", 1925
* 6. "William the Conqueror", 1926
* 7. "William the Outlaw", 1927
* 8. "William In Trouble", 1927
* 9. "William the Good", 1928
* 10. "William", 1929
* 11. "William The Bad", 1930
* 12. "William's Happy Days", 1930
* 13. "William's Crowded Hours", 1931
* 14. "William The Pirate", 1932
* 15. "William The Rebel", 1933
* 16. "William The Gangster", 1934
* 17. "William The Detective", 1935
* 18. "Sweet William", 1936
* 19. "William The Showman", 1937
* 20. "William The Dictator", 1938
* 21. "William and Air Raid Precautions", 1939 (also published as "William's Bad Resolutions", 1956)
* 22. "William and the Evacuees", 1940 (also published as "William and the Film Star", 1956)
* 23. "William Does His Bit", 1941
* 24. "William Carries On", 1942
* 25. "William and the Brains Trust", 1945
* 26. "Just William's Luck", 1948
* 27. "William — the Bold", 1950
* 28. "William and the Tramp", 1952
* 29. "William and the Moon Rocket", 1954
* 30. "William and the Space Animal", 1956
* 31. "William's Television Show", 1958
* 32. "William the Explorer", 1960
* 33. "William's Treasure Trove", 1962
* 34. "William and the Witch", 1964
* 35. "William and the Pop Singers", 1965
* "William the Ancient Briton", 1965 (Contains stories all featured in other books).
* 36. "William and the Masked Ranger", 1966
* 37. "William the Superman", 1968
* 38. "William the Lawless", 1970
* "What's Wrong with Civilizashun and Other Writings by William Brown", 1990

Books about the series:
* "Just William Through the Ages" by Mary Cadogan, 1995
* "Growing Up With Just William"

Media adaptations


Several films were made based on the books. The first of these is "Just William" (1940). Directed by Graham Cutts, and written by Doreen Montgomery and Ireland Wood, it starred Richard Lupino as William Brown and featured Fred Emney as Mr. Brown, Basil Radford as Mr. Sidway, Amy Veness as Mrs. Bott, Iris Hoey as Mrs. Brown, Roddy McDowall as Ginger, Norman Robinson as Douglas, Peter Miles as Henry, David Tree as Marmaduke Bott, Jenny Laird as Ethel Brown, Simon Lack as Robert Brown, and Aubrey Mather as Fletcher.

"Just William's Luck" and "William at the Circus" were both released in 1948 and were written and directed by Val Guest. They starred William Graham as William Brown and featured Garry Marsh as Mr. Brown, Jane Welsh as Mrs. Brown, Hugh Cross as Robert Brown, Kathleen Stuart as Ethel Brown, A.E. Matthews as The Tramp in Just William's Luck and as Minister in William at the Circus, Muriel Aked as Emily, Maid, Brian Roper as Ginger, Brian Weske as Henry, James Crabbe as Douglas, Michael Balfour as Jenks in JWL, uncredied in WatC, John Powe as Policeman in JWL, uncredited in WatC.

"Just William's Luck" also featured Audrey Manning as Violet Elizabeth, Leslie Bradley as The Boss, Hy Hazell as Gloria Gail, Patricia Cutts as Gloria's Secretary, Ivan Hyde as Glazier, Joan Hickson as Hubert's Mother, Anne Marie as Masseur, Leslie Hazell as Hubert's Gang, Peter Davis as Hubert's Gang, John O'Hara as Hubert's Gang, Michael Medwin as The Boss's Gang, John Martel as Johnnie, Ivan Craig as The Boss's Gang.

"William at the Circus" also featured Michael Medwin as Reporter, Jon Pertwee as Superintendent, Peter Butterworth as ???, and John Martel as Johnnie.


Alick Hayes, the BBC radio producer of "The Will Hay Programme", decided to put together a cast for the first "Just William" radio series, which ran for 2 years on the BBC Light Programme (as a sitcom), beginning in 1946. He found his William in John Clark, the young actor who had played D'arcy Minor, and Charles Hawtrey, also from the Will Hay Programme, became Hubert Lane. Gordon McLeod was Mr. Brown, Betty Bowden Mrs. Brown, Harry Locke (later, Michael Allinson) played Robert and Ethel was Rosamund Barnes. Violet Elizabeth was played by Jacqueline Boyer, who replaced the original, and Ginger by Tony Stockman.

The BBC may have owed something to the American radio series "Henry Aldrich" which began on NBC in 1939. Their signature opening was "Henreeee?" followed by the answering "Coming mother..." The BBC's was "Williammmm?" followed by "All right, mother, I'm coming...". It is perhaps worth mentioning here that Henry Aldrich and other oldtime U.S. radio may be heard to this day, by purchase, and sometimes by rebroadcast, for American commercial radio preserved just about everything they made for the intellectual value of their content. It is to the BBC's everlasting shame that they thought nothing of destroying many of their old radio shows, either for the scrap value of the wax or aluminium media, or, later, the recycleable value of audiotape. Some radio series from the 40's and 50's however were put in their vault, and can be bought today at the BBC shop. Not so for 1947's "Just William", nor for the "Will Hay Programme". Just one single episode can be found rescued by Australian radio.

Later, for radio, there was a play, "William and the Artist's Model", written in 1956.

The BBC has produced many recordings of William stories read by Martin Jarvis, originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4. For many people, Jarvis is the definitive voice of William. His performances of William and Violet Elizabeth Bott are instantly recognisable. See Just William (BBC Radio series).

Kenneth Williams read eight stories for Argo in the early 1980s.


As was often the case with popular radio shows, there was a big push to put it on the stage, where audiences could get to actually put a face to the famous voices, and the actors could get to earn decent money after the frugal pay checks offered by the BBC - William was paid 4 guineas a show, standard pay for juveniles back then, one line or star, didn't matter. And so it was that the 1947 radio series of "Just William" found a new life in a stage production, written by Alick Hayes and Richmal Crompton, produced by Violet Elizabeth's father Jack Boyer, opening in Birmingham, and for the next 2 years toured the British Isles on the Moss Empire music hall circuit, busting house records at most theatres it played due to the thousands of children who got their first taste of theatre from the gallery. The closest it got to the West End was the Granville, Walham Green, owned by Jack Boyer, where it became one of the first plays to be televised by the BBC. John Clark, under contract, had to stick it out to the end, even though his voice had begun to break.


1960s series

In 1962 and 1963 a BBC TV series called "William" was broadcast. The 1962 series starred Dennis Waterman as William. In 1963 he was replaced by Denis Gilmore. It also featured Howard Lever as Robert, Christopher Witty as Ginger, Kaplan Kaye as Henry, Carlo Cura as Douglas and Gillian Gostling as Violet Elizabeth. Cast taken from the April 20th 1963 episode Radio Times, "William and the sleeping Major", Major Goff being played by Roger Maxwell.

1970s series

In 1976, an ITV series called "Just William" was made starring Adrian Dannatt as William, and featuring Stephen Wilmot as Henry, Diana Fairfax as Mrs. Brown,Hugh Cross as Mr. Brown, Stacy Dorning as Ethel Brown, Bonnie Langford as Violet Elizabeth Bott and Diana Dors as Mrs. Bott.


Information from [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0162093/guests here] "William and the Begging Letter" Episode: #1.1 - 6 February 1977
"William The Great Actor" Episode: #1.2 - 13 February 1977
"The Outlaws and the Tramp" Episode: #1.3 - 20 February 1977
"The Sweetest Little Girl in White" Episode: #1.4 - 27 February 1977
"William and the Badminton Racket" Episode: #1.5 - 6 March 1977
"A Little Interlude" Episode: #1.6 - 13 March 1977
"William and the Prize Pig" Episode: #1.7 - 20 March 1977
"William and the Wonderful Present" Episode: #1.8 - 27 March 1977
"William the Matchmaker" Episode: #1.9 - 3 April 1977
"Waste Paper Wanted" Episode: #1.10 - 10 April 1977
"Only Just in Time" Episode: #1.11 - 17 April 1977
"William and the Sleeping Major" Episode: #1.12 - 24 April 1977
"Finding a School for William" Episode: #1.12 - 15 January 1978
"William Clears the Slums" Episode: #1.13 - 1 May 1977
"William's Lucky Day" Episode: #2.1 - 23 October 1977
"The Great Detective" Episode: #2.2 - 30 October 1977
"Violet Elizabeth Wins" Episode: #2.3 - 6 November 1977
"William Holds the Stage" Episode: #2.4 - 13 November 1977
"William the Philanthropist" Episode: #2.5 - 20 November 1977
"It All Began with the Typewriter" Episode: #2.6 - 27 November 1977
"A Rescue Party" Episode: #2.7 - 4 December 1977
"William Finds a Job" Episode: #2.8 - 11 December 1977
"Parrots for Ethel" Episode: #2.9 - 18 December 1977
"William at the Garden Party" Episode: #2.10 - 1 January 1978
"Two Good Turns" Episode: #2.11 - 8 January 1978
"William and the Tramp" Episode: #2.13 - 22 January 1978
"William the Great Actor"

1990s series

In 1994, the BBC broadcast another series also called "Just William". Written by Allan Baker and directed by David Giles, it starred Oliver Rokison as William, and featured Jonathan Hirst as Ginger, Alastair Weller (credited as Alistair Weller)as Douglas, Polly Adams as Mrs. Brown, David Horovitch as Mr. Brown, Ben Pullen as Robert Brown, Naomi Allisstone as Ellen the maid, and Olivia Hallinan as Susie Chambers.


William has been criticised by the RSPCA for stories where he is cruel to animals. For example, in one story he paints his dog blue as a circus exhibit. In another he has a competition to see how many rats his dog can kill in a certain time. Some stories have been removed from modern publication, such as "William and the Nasties" from "William The Detective" where William suspects a Jewish shop owner of dishonesty and forms a mob to evict him. ("Nasty" was William's mispronunciation of Nazi.) This story was written in 1935 before the Second World War, and was probably meant as parody or was simply naïve. Anti-semitism was not frowned upon much back then. Indeed many other children's stories and magazines, like Hergé's The Adventures of Tintin, contained mildly racist or other material controversial to today's world.

This story appeared in all the 20 impressions of "William the Detective" published by George Newnes (1935 - 1967), and in all the editions brought out by Armada in the 1970s. It was in 1986, in the edition brought out by Macmillan Children's Books, that this story was first omitted. Richmal Crompton's biographer, Mary Cadogan, wrote that both Richmal Crompton's literary executor — her niece Richmal Ashbee — and her publisher Macmillan "unhesitatingly decided to drop this episode [William and the Nasties] completely from new editions of the book." [Mary Cadogan, Richmal Crompton — The Woman behind "Just William" pp. 117-18]

External links

* [http://www.justwilliamsociety.co.uk/ Just William Society]
* [http://www.sharpsoftware.co.uk/william/ Just William fan site]
*BBC7 - [http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbc7/drama/progpages/justwilliam.shtml Just William]
*BBC - [http://www.bbcshop.com/ BBC Shop]
* [http://histclo.hispeed.com/lit/uk/literaryengwil.html Costumes of English Literary Characters: William Brown]
*imdb title|0031522|Just William (movie)
*imdb title|0040503|Just William's Luck (movie)
*imdb title|0123326|William at the Circus (movie)
*imdb title|0208652|1960s series
*imdb title|0162093|1970s TV series
*imdb title|0309172|1990s TV series
* [http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/976179/index.html British Film Institute Screen Online - 1977 series]
* [http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Senate/7854/justwilliam.html Chaim Simons' review of Compton's attitude to Jews] ----

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