Ellis Powell – Mrs Dale on Radio

Ellis Powell played Mrs Dale in Mrs Dale’s Diary on BBC Radio in England from 1948 until 1963 when the role was taken over by Jessie Matthew.   Ellis Powell was married to well known film actor Ralph Truman who had many roles although one memorable one for me was as George Merry in Walt Disney’s Treasure Island made at Denham Film Studios and released in 1950.

Byron Haskin, the film’s director, said that he had realised when casting the film, that Robert Newton was just going to ‘let rip’ in the role of Long John Silver – which he did very successfully – so as a sort of balance, he cast Ralph Truman and with instructions for  him to go well over the top in his portrayal of George Merry – and so successfully did he do that, that Byron Haskin said that in the scenes they played together it almost made Robert Newton actually look as though he was underplaying his part. Ellis Powell and Ralph Truman

There is very little information about Ellis Powell available anywhere although she had the main role in the very earliest of Soaps on Radio – of course – Mrs Dales Diary.  She had been a Radio Drama actress from before the War – in fact right through the War until in 1948 she landed this part. She was part of the BBC Radio drama team that was shipped out of London during the War and based in Evesham where she appeared in many radio plays, although some of them were produced in Manchester. Ralph Truman also was a very well known BBC Radio drama actor with up to 5,000 broadcasts to his name. They may have met through BBC radio I would guess.

Mrs Dale 3 Above – a posed still for Mrs. Dale’s DiaryEllis Powell and Grace Allardyce in a scene Ellis Powell


Something that is not known generally is that shortly after she left the role as Mrs. Dale. she agreed to become a  Night Spot Club Hostess at the  Nitespot in Charing Cross, London owned by former Light-Heavyweight Boxing Champion Freddie Mills which was due to open at the end of April 1963.  Freddie Mills had been part owner of a Restaurant and was having this converted to the so-called Nite-Spot. It seems that Ellis Powell lost her job as Mrs. Dale in February of 1963.  She was then offered this job from late April 1963 and she died on 2 May 1963. Just over two years later Freddie Mills was found shot dead in his car – it was reported as suicide although there has been some dispute over this.

Ellis Powell at Home 1963 Above: Actress Ellis Powell sitting with her feet up and her pet cat next to her, pictured following her dismissal from the radio series ‘Mrs Dale’s Diary’, at her home in London, February 20th 1963 – this is the day after she walked out of Broadcasting House (BBC)  for the last time after being cruelly sacked from her long running part as Mrs Dale.

Ellis Powell was reported to have been ‘sacked’ from Mrs Dale’s Diary  – and from her long running role as Mrs. Dale – she walked out of Broadcasting House on 19 th February 1963 for the last time – very bitter. She had earned £ 30 per week for her role,  although her voice was well known to millions of listeners the country over – but her face was not- so she found fame of a sort but not a fortune – in fact very little. She had been fired partly it is alleged because of her drinking habits but also because – in typical BBC fashion – they wanted to give the programme a face-lift. ‘ The BBC have chucked me out like and old sock’ she said. Her fans believed that she never recovered from the shock and distress of her dismissal. In the last weeks of her life she is reported to have worked as a Demonstrator at the Ideal Home Exhibition and as a Cleaner at a Hotel – although this is at odds with what I have found out that she had lined up this job at Freddie Mills’ NiteSpot.  Maybe she was just taking any job that came in her desperation. There are also references to the vague similarity of the True Life story of Ellis Powell to the plot of The Killing of Sister George – but to me that is stretching things a bit far unless there is something that links the two which  is not  generally known – although on the other hand from the outline of the story of the film below does have a parallel – that is clear.

I have come across this mini article below :- Marcus’s play was inspired by a controversial incident in 1963 when the BBC sacked a beloved radio star and was replaced by Jessie Matthews. The radio soap Mrs Dale’s Diary had been running since 5 January 1948 when the BBC decided to replace the lead actors and move the setting to a new town, with new supporting characters. The actress who had played Mrs Dale for 15 years, Ellis Powell, never recovered from this blow and died three months later, at the age of 57, through the shock and distress of her summary dismissal by the BBC.

Also I have seen another reference to her ‘at one time married to the actor Ralph Truman’ but as far as I can see she remained married to him until her death.

In fact in an interview for a 1954 magazine, she says that she was like Mrs Dale I some ways – they both lover, gardening, They both loved children and they both loved cats although she said that she had three cats Joe, Tortese and Baby Bella , whereas Mrs Dale had one called Captain. Ellis Powell also said that Mrs Dale had a son called Bob and she had a son Clive who was a similar age both in their earl 20s in 1954.

She had married Ralph Truman on 8th March 1928 so presumably had her son Clive around 1930 ish – that is a very little reported fact.

Stags Head London W1W 6XWApparently Ellis Powell  did use this local –  the Stags Head – close to Broadcasting House.

Also just come across these stark facts which gives Ralph Truman’s  and Ellis Powell’s  full name :-

Ralph du Vergier Truman, 1900 – 1977

Ralph married Ellis Agnes Estelle Truman (born Powell).

Ellis was born in 1905, in London, England.

posted by Movieman in Uncategorized and have Comments (2)

2 Responses to “Ellis Powell – Mrs Dale on Radio”

  1. (1st. paragraph) …the role was taken over by Jessie Matthews, not Jessie Matthew.

    (1954 magazine interview) Didn’t “Captain” the cat belong, instead, to Mrs. Dale’s mother, Mrs. Rosemary Freeman? It was named after Mrs. Freeman’s late husband’s army rank.

  2. Richard Duployen says:

    My memories of Mrs. Dale’s diary include the harp introduction and the character of Elsie surely played by Vivienne Chatterton who like Marjorie Westbury was also a classical singer? Was she Mrs. Freeman’s friend? My grandmother and great-aunt thought the character was ” silly lady” but I thought it was a clever portrayal.

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