Tuesday, 4 November 2014
Godspeed Renée Asherson
Renée Asherson was born in Kensington, London on 19 May 1915. She grew up in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, as well as Anjou and Switzerland. She studied acting at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Her first walk-on part was in 1935 in John Gielgud’s production of Romeo and Juliet at the New Theatre (now known as the Noël Coward Theatre) on the West End. Afterwards she spent 18 months as part of the Birmingham Repertory Company. In 1940 she appeared in Clifford Bax's play The Rose Without a Thorn. Afterwards she joined the Old Vic, appearing as Iris in The Tempest. She toured with the Old Vic company in the years 1940 and 1941, appearing in such parts as Maria in Twelfth Night, Nerissa in The Merchant of Venice, Ann Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Desdemona in Othello. In 1939 she made her television debut in Smiling at Grief.
It was in 1944 that Renée Asherson made her film debut in Carol Reed's film The Way Ahead. That same year she appeared as Princess Katherine in Laurence Olivier's film adaptation of Henry V. In the Forties she appeared in the films The Way to the Stars (1945), Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), Hour of Glory (1949), Once a Jolly Swagman (1949), and The Cure for Love (1949). She continued to appear on stage, appearing in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Westminster Theatre in 1942, a production of Lottie Dundass at the Vaudeville Theatre, and a production of The Cure for Love at the Westminster Theatre in 1945.
In the Fifties Miss Asherson appeared in the films Pool of London (1951), The Magic Box (1951), The Malta Story (1953), The Red Dress (1954), and Time Is My Enemy (1954). She also appeared frequently on television during the decade. She played Queen Victoria in the mini-series Happy and Glorious. She also appeared on the TV shows Lilli Palmer Theatre, Rheingold Theatre, and ITV Television Playhouse. She continued appearing on stage, most notably as Stella in the West End production of A Streetcar Named Desire. She also appeared in such productions as a revival of Three Sisters, The Big Knife, and The Waltz of the Toreadors, and The Unexpected Guest.
In the Sixties Renée Asherson appeared in the films The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966), and The Smashing Bird I Used to Know (1969). She appeared on television on such programmes as ITV Television Playhouse, BBC Sunday-Night Play, ITV Play of the Week, Love Story, Thirty Minute Theatre, and Strange Report.
In the Seventies Miss Asherson appeared in the film Theatre of Blood (1973). She was a regular on the television shows as Clayhanger and Flesh and Blood. She appeared in the Armchair Thriller serial "Quiet as a Nun". She also appeared on the television shows Country Matters, Away from It All, Victorian Scandals, Jubilee, and A Man Called Intrepid.
In the Eighties Renée Asherson was a regular on the show Tenko. She appeared on the shows Love and Marriage, Crown Court, Time for Murder, Tom's Midnight Garden, and Chain. She also appeared in such television productions as Edwin, Agatha Christie's Miss Marple: A Murder Is Announced, Romance on the Orient Express, and Norbert Smith, a Life.
From the Nineties into the Naughts Miss Asherson appeared on the TV shows Screen Two, Screen One, Lovejoy, Brighton Belles, Performance, and Midsomer Murders. She appeared in the films Grey Owl (1999) and The Others (2001).
Renée Asherson was a very talented actress capable of a diverse number of roles. She played the demure Princess Katherine in Henry V in 1944, then played the steady and resolute WRAF Iris in The Way to the Stars the following year. She played the Tsarina in the Hammer Film Rasputin, the Mad Monk in 1966, and then played Norbert Smith's daft wife in Norbert Smith: A Life in 1990. Miss Asherson had considerable versatility as an actress, and she almost never gave a bad performance. She was indeed a rare talent.