Tilly Day

Tilly Day Photo [source, Cinema Museum]
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Interview Date(s): 
15 Jan 1988
30 Jan 1988
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SUMMARY: This interview, conducted by Alan Lawson and Sid Cole, extends over two sessions - in the first session she speaks more qualitatively about her life and work, in the second session she is looking through photographs identifying various cast and crew members on different productions. Many of the stories told in the second session repeat material from the first session. Day is 84 years old at the time of this interview, and although she is alert and lively, she is liable to repetition. (Lawrence Napper, BCHRP)

Transcription PDF: 

EXTRACT: Asked to identify the most important qualification for her work:-

Memory. [And] you’ve got to be popular to a certain extent, you’ve got to have people like you. 

    [David Lean] said, “Any time I’m on a picture and I know Tilly Day’s on the continuity, I think, Thank god for that, now I can cut it where I want to, not because I’ve got to cut it in a certain place.” Because I always matched everything. 

    I had a photographic memory. Much better than my notes. They would say to me, What was so-and-so doing at such a moment? And I would shut my eyes and I would say she was doing so and so and he was doing so and so. I could remember.  

    From 14 years onwards, I got used to watching and not talking - just watching people, and it was always photographed in my mind.

    I started in the film business in July 1917. There was an advertisement in the paper: “Wanted. Very bright secretary”, every sort of speciality in the world. And I had it - I thought. Unknown to my parents - I was in high school in Walthamstow and I hated it - I answered this advertisement on the sly. They replied saying they would be very pleased to see me. My mother said, “You know her. If she’s made up her mind, she’ll go.” 

    So I went to the interview at the old Wood Street Walthamstow film studios. A man called Savage interviewed me and seemed to think I had what they wanted for 32s. 6d., so I was started the next day. The first films I saw being made were Black Dog Mischief,  Lux toilet soap, 4-7-11 cream for hands (my hands were used). After that, we made a big film which was The Burgomaster of Stilemonde with Sir John Martin Harvey. He was a dear old gentleman. I was thrilled to pieces. We used to work incredible hours - until one o’clock in the morning. 


BIOGRAPHY: Tilly Day worked on over 300 British films between the 1920s and 1970s, most particularly as ‘continuity girl’. Her career began at Walthamstow Studios in the 1917 and she received her first credit in 1935 for The Mystery of the Marie Celeste. She joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service during WWII and subsequently returned to the film industry, working for Rank and Hammer studios among others. Her final film was One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing (1975).