From Glamour to Tragedy: The Story of Ruth Ellis on ITV1

ITV’s upcoming drama series A Cruel Love: The Ruth Ellis Story will premiere soon on the ITV1 network and will also be available for streaming on ITVX. This four-part series, based on the life of Ruth Ellis, stars Lucy Boynton in the title role and is written by Kelly Jones. The series is produced by Silverprint Pictures, with Angie Daniell as the producer and Lee Haven Jones directing all four episodes.

The story is set in 1955 and follows two parallel timelines, revealing hidden truths about the case and Ruth’s life in the months before she killed her lover, David Blakely, and was hanged by the infamous hangman Albert Pierrepoint in Holloway Prison. The drama depicts Ruth’s entry into upper-class London and her glamorous lifestyle as a young nightclub hostess and manager. It explores her turbulent and abusive relationships, including her marriage to an alcoholic dentist, George Ellis, and her volatile relationship with Blakely.

The cast of Ruth includes Toby Jones as Ruth’s solicitor, John Bickford, who gradually realises the extent of the abuse she suffered. Laurie Davidson plays her abusive lover and victim, David Blakely. Mark Stanley portrays Desmond Cussen, Ruth’s lover and a regular at the Little Club, who becomes entangled in her toxic love triangle. The series also features Joe Armstrong, Arthur Darvill, Juliet Stevenson, and Toby Stephens in supporting roles.

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Ruth Ellis, born Ruth Neilson in 1926 in Wales, had a tumultuous early life marked by frequent family moves, name changes, and sexual abuse by her father. As a teenager, she entered the world of nightclub hostessing and led a chaotic life with unstable relationships. She had a brief affair with a married Canadian soldier, resulting in a son named Andy. Ellis worked as a nude model, prostitute, and escort, and in 1950, she married George Johnston Ellis, a divorced alcoholic dentist. Their relationship was violent, and they separated soon after the birth of their daughter, Georgina, in 1951.

In 1953, Ruth became the manager of the Little Club, a nightclub in Knightsbridge. She met David Blakely, a racing driver, and he soon moved into her flat above the club, despite being engaged to another woman. Their relationship was passionate but toxic and violent, with Blakely subjecting Ellis to physical abuse. In January 1955, she suffered a miscarriage after Blakely punched her in the stomach during an argument.

On Easter Sunday, 10 April 1955, Ruth Ellis shot and killed Blakely outside The Magdala pub in Hampstead, London. She was arrested immediately and tried for murder. Despite evidence of Blakely’s abuse, she was found guilty and sentenced to death. Attempts to halt the execution failed, and on 13 July 1955, Ruth Ellis became the last woman to be hanged in Britain. Her death sparked widespread controversy and played a significant role in the movement to abolish the death penalty, which was achieved a decade later.

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The life and death of Ruth Ellis have fascinated and intrigued audiences for decades, inspiring numerous adaptations and explorations of her story across different mediums.

In 1980, an ITV drama series, Lady Killers, recreated her court case. The first cinematic portrayal of Ellis came in 1985 with the film Dance with a Stranger, directed by Mike Newell and featuring Miranda Richardson in the lead role. Ellis’ story has also been told through stage plays, such as Follow Me and The Thrill of Love, and a 2015 opera, Entanglement.

In 2018, the BBC aired a three-part documentary series, The Ruth Ellis Files: A Very British Crime Story, which re-examined her case and suggested that domestic abuse and the involvement of Desmond Cussen may have been factors in the crime.

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I'm Noah Masire, I look after UK TV News at Memorable TV. From the gripping crime of Happy Valley to the feel good storytelling of All Creatures Great & Small, I bring you the latest news about what's what and who's who in the world of iconic British TV shows. Stay tuned!