Dance with a Stranger

Dance with a Stranger is a 1985 British tragedy film[2] directed by Mike Newell. Telling the story of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain (1955), the film won critical acclaim, and aided the careers of two of its leading actors, Miranda Richardson and Rupert Everett. The screenplay was by Shelagh Delaney, author of A Taste of Honey, and was her third major screenplay. The story of Ellis, which this film dramatises, has resonance in Britain since it provided part of the background to the extended national debates which led to the progressive abolition of capital punishment from 1965 on.

Dance with a Stranger
Film poster
Directed byMike Newell
Produced byRoger Randall-Cutler
Written byShelagh Delaney
StarringMiranda Richardson
Rupert Everett
Music byRichard Hartley
Theme song by Mari Wilson
Distributed byThe Samuel Goldwyn Company
(United States)
20th Century Fox
Release date
1 March 1985 (UK)
9 August 1985 (United States)
Running time
102 min.
Box office£850,000 (UK)
$3 million (US)
$1 million (other territories)[1]

The theme song "Would You Dance With a Stranger" was performed by Mari Wilson, and was also released as a single.


A former nude model and prostitute, Ruth is manageress of a London drinking club frequented by racing drivers and lives 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 discharged from her job, which also means that she is 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, shoots him dead with four shots. She is arrested, tried and hanged.



The film made a comfortable profit[1]. Goldcrest Films invested £253,000 in the film and received £361,000, making them a profit of £108,000.[3]


The film currently holds a 90% approval rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.[4]


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.


  1. Borne, Nigel. "Little film little profit." Sunday Times [London, England] 26 Jan. 1986: 31. The Sunday Times Digital Archive. Web. 29 Mar. 2014.
  2. Dobson, Michael (30 November 2006). "Performing Shakespeare's Tragedies Today: The Actor's Perspective". Cambridge University Press via Google Books.
  3. Eberts, Jake; Illott, Terry (1990). My indecision is final. Faber and Faber. p. 656.
  4. "Dance with a Stranger". 1 January 1985. Retrieved 11 June 2016.

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