The story of Steven Truscott is more like one of a Hollywood crime movie than true life.
Steven was arrested and sentenced to death in 1959 for the rape and killing of a schoolmate two years younger than himself when he was 14-years-old.
Throughout the trial, and his subsequent imprisonment, Steven maintained his innocence. Fortunately, his execution was not carried out, and instead his sentence was changed to life in prison.
Steven Truscott’s now wife, Marelene Truscott, became interested in his case seven years after his trial after reading a book by a journalist who believed in his innocence. Believing in his innocence herself, Marlene even helped with a failed appeal to get the conviction overturned.
A decade after his trial, Steven Truscott was paroled; he changed his name and moved to Vancouver to start a new life, eventually reconnecting Marlene. They soon fell in love and were married, Marlene always believing in his innocence.
Nearly five decades later, in 2007, Steven’s claims of innocence were vindicated when his verdict was overturned, thanks to the help and work of Marlene, who pored over literally thousands of documents looking for the information which subsequently cleared Steven’s name.
While the Truscott story has been told through several books over the years, it has now been turned into a feature film titled Marlene, penned and produced by Calgary filmmaker Wendy Hill-Tout.
“It was a real travesty of justice,” said Hill-Tout, about why she made the film.
“(Marlene) was like a dog with a bone. Eventually they won their case.”
According to Hill-Tout, it took close to 10 years to get the film from inception to filming, with the film ready for release in 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the producers of the film put it on the festival circuit where the film’s art department won some awards for their showcasing of the sixties, seventies, eighties, and nineties.
The show is now touring Ontario and Western Canada, with a stop made in Stettler on May 11 at the Jewel Theatre.
“It was special to direct this one,” said Hill-Tout.
“It’s so great to have an audience again.”
Hill-Tout and Forestburg actor Aidan Fink, who plays 14-year-old Steven, were on hand at a nearly full house in Stettler where they participated in a question and answer session after the screening.
The nearly two-hour film covers decades of time as it examines the Steve Truscott story from the very beginning to its final conclusion with the Court of Appeals decision which cleared his name.
Despite knowing the outcome of the story, the way it was presented was still an emotional journey for the viewer in the way it discussed the highs and lows as Marlene Truscott worked to clear her husband’s name.
“It’s such a big story, the hardest part was honing it in,” said Hill-Tout, during the question and answer segment.
“There were hundreds and hundreds of important details in this case. There were many drafts balancing her emotional story and the case.”
Marlene Truscott worked with Hill-Tout as a consultant as she developed the story.
While not initially intending to direct, Hill-Tout took the reigns of the production when the original director backed out three weeks before the shoot.