The Wild and the Willing

The Wild and the Willing is a 1962 British romantic drama film directed by Ralph Thomas and starring Virginia Maskell, Paul Rogers and Samantha Eggar.[1][2] It is the film debut of Ian McShane and John Hurt.[3] It depicts a group of students at university.

The Wild and the Willing
Directed byRalph Thomas
Produced byBetty E. Box
Earl St. John
Written byNicholas Phipps
Mordecai Richler
Based onplay "The Tinker" by Laurence Doble and Robert Sloman
StarringVirginia Maskell
Paul Rogers
Ian McShane
Samantha Eggar
John Hurt
Music byNorrie Paramor
CinematographyErnest Steward
Edited byAlfred Roome
Betty E. Box-Ralph Thomas Productions
Rank Organisation
Distributed byJ. Arthur Rank Film Distributors (UK)
Release date
16 October 1962 (London) (UK)
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

It was filmed on location in Lincoln, with Lincoln Castle doubling as the university.


A group of young men at university go through the students' life – dancing, drinking, meeting girls. Harry (Ian McShane) is a rather rebellious young man, going out with Josie (Samantha Eggar). His room mate is Phil (John Hurt), a quiet outsider. Harry feels very protective of Phil for some reason. Phil loves Sarah (Katherine Woodville), who jilted him for another more suitable boyfriend.

As the plot develops, Harry gets involved with Professor Chown's (Paul Rogers) unhappy wife, Virginia (Virginia Maskell). The professor acts very aloof towards her and doesn't want to divorce her because he is expecting to be knighted. Harry wants Virginia to come away with him, but she is too worried about her future and turns him down. Out of frustration Harry wants to pull a Rag Week stunt, climb the campus tower at night and raise a flag atop of it. He needs help to pull this off but all the other young men opt out for various reasons. Phil offers to join Harry, as he feels that Harry has done a lot to involve him into campus life, rather than living on the fringes. At first, Harry, worried about the consequences as Phil is not a good climber, refuses to take Phil along with him, but eventually, against his better judgment, he is persuaded to do so.

Gilby (Jeremy Brett), a smart striver is jealous of Harry, as he used to see Virginia before she rejected him. He notices the activities around the tower and reports Harry and Phil to the university authorities. The teachers are more annoyed than worried and call the fire brigade. The spectacle draws a crowd. Although Phil is a bad climber and slips several times, the two young men manage to reach the top and hoist their flag. But on the way down Phil loses his footing and, although Harry tries desperately to hold on to him, Phil slips from his grasp and falls to his death.

For being directly responsible for his friend's death, Harry is 'sent down' and expelled from the university. He makes one more visit to see Professor Chown and Virginia where the Professor admits that Harry's paper was brilliant and that with his stunt, he has forfeited a scholarship and an academic career. Josie meets Harry at the bus station and realises that she doesn't mean much to him. Yet she asks him to take her along, but he refuses, as he doesn't want to go on hurting people. The film ends with Reggie (John Sekka), an African friend, singing a ballad of Harry and Josie's life.



It was based on a play, "The Tinker".[4]

It was the first feature film for Samantha Eggar,[5][6] John Hurt[7] and Ian McShane. Betty Box says Hurt was the first cast; they used him to audition other actors.[8] McShane was only months from graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art when asked to audition. "It's very appealing, movie money, so I did it and that was that," said McShane later.[9]


Betty Box said the film "didn't break records or win awards but it did reasonably good business and put the youngsters on the first rung of the ladder to stardom."[10]

Critical reception

In the Radio Times, David McGillivray wrote, "an unsuccessful play, The Tinker - written when Angry Young Men were in vogue - is the source of this exposé of British student life. Once shocking, it has aged as badly as others of its ilk, but now has considerable curiosity value, not least because of early appearances by Ian McShane, Samantha Eggar, John Hurt and others. McShane shines as the scholarship boy who vents his wrath on privileged society".[11]

BFI Screenonline referred to the film as "Ralph Thomas's tepid student drama";[12] but Sky Movies concluded the film "still manages to generate moments of high excitement - none more so than a climatic climb up the sheer side of a crumbling steeple - a few minutes that are guaranteed to have you on the edge of your chair."[13]

The film was released in the United States in 1964 as Young and Willing. The New York Times called the film "sophomoric".[14]

Ian McShane's performance has been described as "the archetypal angry young man."[15]


  1. "Young and Willing (1962)". IMDb. 30 August 1963.
  2. "The Wild and the Willing". BFI.
  3. Gilbey, Ryan (16 March 2013). "Ian McShane: rogue trader". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
  4. Irony in the soul Weatherby, W J. The Guardian (1959-2003) [London (UK)] 21 Feb 1986: 12.
  5. Samantha Was Slightly Sullen That Day By JOAN BARTHEL. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 30 May 1965: X7
  6. Don't lets be beastly about Hollywood The Guardian (1959-2003) [London (UK)] 2 Feb 1985: 13
  7. CRITIC AT LARGE: Running Away With 'Express' Incomplete Source Champlin, Charles. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 1 Dec 1978: oc_c1
  8. Betty Box, Lifting the Lid, 2000 p 225-226
  9. A Knack for Being the Bad Boy Healy, Patrick. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 9 Dec 2007: A1.
  10. Box p 226
  11. "The Wild and the Willing". RadioTimes.
  12. "BFI Screenonline: Hurt, John (1940-) Biography".
  13. Wild And The Willing|publisher
  14. Screen: At College Level: ' Young and Willing' in Fine Arts Premiere By BOSLEY CROWTHER. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 27 Feb 1964: 28.
  15. Working out nicely: An actor since the early 1960s, Ian McShane has been a familiar presence on our screens big and small (Lovejoy anyone?) for decades -- and now he's a Hollywood star. Not a bad for the unassuming son of a footballer. The Cuban Fury star talks Brady, Tara. The Irish Times (1921-Current File) [Dublin, Ireland] 14 Feb 2014: B6.
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