This is mostly about Ian's part in what they are calling Games and Toys, but what hit the screens as Tam Lin. (aka The Ballad of Tam Lin or The Devil's Widow.)


 

Ian McShane: Ava's New Leading Man


 

He is being called “England’s newest romantic star.” Ian McShane, after what seemed a false start in films a few years ago, is now growing into a mature screen actor. Ian is now Ava Gardner’s leading man in Games And Toys, one of his biggest screen breaks.

I lunched with him at the restaurant at Pinewood Studios, during the filming of Games And Toys. He had not long been back in this country after working on Pussycat, Pussycat. I Love You, in Rome, in which he is starred opposite a bevy of gorgeous dollies.

He spoke about his role in Battle Of Britain.

“It’s a good part,” he said enthusiastically. “In fact, I think it’s the best in the film! I’m a sergeant, with a wife and two kids. A down-to-earth, middle-twenties, solid type, who’s been in the Services since he was 16. My family and I are involved in the Blitz, too, and that adds to the human interest. There’s more in it than in many of the other parts—those playing pilots and so on.

“Of course, it was all before my time—I was born in September 1942. but I felt that by my part in the film I somehow had a share in the great event.

“Before doing this film I made If It’s Tuesday. It Must Be Belgium, which was about a mad tour of typical American tourists who are out to ‘do’ nine countries in 18 days. I played the guide, who’s on friendly terms with everyone and I fall in love with a girl on the tour. A kind of ‘Alfie’ in a way, but it’s a funny, charming, nice part. I enjoyed it.

Pussycat was good fun, too, especially as it meant working for a month at the Cinecitta Studios in Rome. I play an English writer living in Rome, with both a wife, and a mistress—a dishy girl played by Katia Christina. It’s a comedy, with social undertones about marriage.”

We turned to discussion of Games And Toys. The screenplay, by Gerald Vaughan-Hughes, is based on a Scottish border tale, ‘The Ballad Of Tam Lin’ and is told on two levels—the ancient legend and its con temporary re-enactment.

The origins of the story are lost in Scottish mist, but it has been versified by Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. Vaughan-Hughes uses the Burns’ version to link the modern scenes. The ballad tells of Tam, a young Scottish nobleman, whom the Fairy Queen has held in thrall since childhood. Tam enjoys the delights of the fairy kingdom and the Queen’s favours but lives in dread of the day when she is to pay her regular tithe to Hell and he is to be offered as the sacrifice. But the love he has for Janet, his childhood sweetheart, saves him from his fate.

This strange tale, on the age-old theme of ‘love conquers all’, is reflected in the modern story of a talented and pleasure-loving photographer, Tom Lynn (Ian McShane). who has become trapped through laziness in the web of luxury and erotic excitement spun for him by a rich, beautiful, but evil woman, Mrs. Michaela Cazaret (played by Ava Gardner). She keeps around her a ‘coven’ or group of 13 young people of the hippie variety and they accompany her from her elegant London home to Bride Court, her house in the Scottish border country.

There Tom falls in love with Janet (Stephanie Beacham), the local Minister’s daughter. This Janet too, like her legendary predecessor, becomes pregnant. The pair of lovers escape and live in a caravan, but Mrs. Cazaret threatens revenge. Tom is in fact captured and taken off to Bride Court. Only Janet’s intervention can save him from becoming another face in Mrs. Cazaret’s collection of horror photographs . . .

How did Ian become involved in this interesting assignment?

“I was sent the script and liked it,” he told me. “That’s the usual start, isn’t it? Then Alan Ladd Junior, who’s one of the producers, came out with Roddy McDowall. the director, to Rome while I was filming Pussycat. We went out for the evening and it was all fixed up.

“After that things became hectic. I was back in England on a Thursday and up in Scotland for the location shooting on Saturday.


Ian McShane & Ava Gardner
With Ava in a scene from Games and Toys - and Ava herself as the sinister Mrs. Cazaret


 

“We were centred on Peebles, but most of the filming was in Ettrick Forest, in the county of Selkirk. It’s very attractive country, with miles of heather and bracken. We used Tranquair House, which is supposed to be the oldest inhabited home in Scotland, as Mrs. Cazaret’s Scottish residence. There’s a romantic flavour about it all which suits the story.”

I asked about his working with Ava Gardner.

“Oh. it’s tremendously exciting. She really is a legend. I had never met her and to begin with she rang me from Paris. It was ‘Hello, Ian.’ ‘Hello, Ava.’ Then I was stuck for words.

“What does one say to a woman like that? All I could think of was ‘I’m looking forward to meeting you.’ It seemed so trite.

Ava has an incredible personality. I find I can learn from watching her work. I was a bit nervous at first but now I’ve settled down.”

Ian was soon talking about that “false start” I mentioned earlier.

“I left home to come to London and go to RADA—the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Then at the age of 18 or 19, I was thrust into the film. The Wild And The Willing, with Samantha Eggar. I was really chuffed with myself and thought I was a great star.

“Then nothing happened—no one wanted me. There were too many talented young men around.

“Looking back, I think this was good for me. It made me realise that I had a lot to learn. The past six years have helped a good deal. I’m now better able to cope with the problems of film acting. Today I’d rather film than do theatre or TV.”

I mentioned he had become “one of the industry’s most sought-after stars.”

“Do they say that?” he laughed. “Well, at any rate it’s a change from when one had to go round telling people what one had done!”


From Photoplay Film Monthly Magazine, December 1969 - author's name unknown