Dance with a Stranger

Dance with a Stranger Information

Dance with a Stranger is a 1985 British drama film, directed by Mike Newell. Telling the story of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain in the 1950s, this moving biographical British film won critical acclaim, and brought particular notice to the careers of both Miranda Richardson and Rupert Everett. The screenplay was by Shelagh Delaney, author of A Taste of Honey, and her third major screenplay. The story of Ellis, which this film dramatises, has very considerable resonance in Britain since it provided part of the background to the long-term national debates which led to the progressive abolition of capital punishment from 1965 on.

The theme song "Would You Dance With a Stranger" was performed by Mari Wilson, and provided her with a hit single in the same year.


A former nude model and prostitute, Ruth is manageress of a London drinking club frequented by racing drivers, living in a flat above with her illegitimate son Andy. Another child is in the custody of her estranged husband's family. In the club she meets David, an immature young man from a well-off family who wants to succeed in motor racing but suffers from lack of money and overuse of alcohol. Ruth falls for his looks and charm, but it is a doomed relationship. Without a job he cannot afford to marry her and his family would never accept her. When he makes a drunken scene in the club, she is fired and made homeless. A wealthy admirer secures a flat for her and her son but she still sees David. When she tells him she is pregnant, he does nothing about it and she miscarries. Distraught, she goes to a house in Hampstead where she believes David is at a party. He comes out and goes with a girl to a pub. Ruth waits outside the pub and, when he emerges, kills him with five shots. She is arrested, tried and hanged.


  • Miranda Richardson as Ruth Ellis
  • Rupert Everett as David Blakeley
  • Ian Holm as Desmond Cussen
  • Stratford Johns as Morrie Conley
  • Joanne Whalley as Christine
  • Tom Chadbon as Anthony Findlater
  • Jane Bertish as Carole Findlater
  • David Troughton as Cliff Davis
  • Matthew Carroll as Andy
  • Lesley Manville as Maryanne
  • David Beale as Man in Little Club
  • Charon Bourke as Ballroom Singer


The film made a comfortable profit.


Mike Newell won Award of the Youth at the 1985 Cannes Film Festival for Dance with a Stranger. Miranda Richardson won Best Actress at the Evening Standard British Film Awards, while Ian Holm won Boston Society of Film Critics Awards 1985 for this and other films.

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