Dorothy Renée Ascherson
19 May 1915
Kensington, London, England
|Died||30 October 2014 (aged 99)|
Primrose Hill, London, England
(m. 1953; died 1958)
Dorothy Renée Ascherson (19 May 1915 – 30 October 2014), known professionally as Renée Asherson, was an English actress. Much of her theatrical career was spent in Shakespearean plays, appearing at such venues as the Old Vic, the Liverpool Playhouse, and the Westminster Theatre. Her first stage appearance was on 17 October 1935, aged 20, and her first major film appearance was in The Way Ahead (1944). Her last film appearance was in The Others (2001).
Dorothy Renée Ascherson was born in Kensington, London, the younger daughter of shipowner Charles Stephen Ascherson (1877–1945) and Dorothy Lilian (née Wiseman; 1881–1975). Her father was of German-Jewish extraction. She was brought up in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, as well as Switzerland and Anjou. She later trained for the stage at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art.
Asherson made her first stage appearance on 17 October 1935, as a walk-on in John Gielgud's production of Romeo and Juliet, though she was also the second understudy for Juliet. It was the production in which Gielgud and Laurence Olivier alternated the roles of Romeo and Mercutio. For eighteen months from 1937 through 1938, Asherson was a member of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre company. She first appeared at The Old Vic in May 1940 as Iris in The Tempest. Asherson toured with the Old Vic company from 1940 through 1941 in the roles of Kate Hardcastle in She Stoops to Conquer, Maria in Twelfth Night, Nerissa in The Merchant of Venice, and Blanche in King John. Asherson appeared at the New Theatre as Blanche in July 1941 before resuming her tour with the Old Vic company.
Asherson appeared at other venues. It was at the Westminster Theatre that she gained especially good notices for her appearance in Walter Greenwood's The Cure for Love in 1945 with Robert Donat. Laurence Olivier wanted her to join his company at The Old Vic, but she chose to continue working with Donat instead. At the Aldwych Theatre, she played Beatrice to Donat's Benedict in Much Ado About Nothing in 1947 and Stella in the first London production of A Streetcar Named Desire in 1949. The latter production was directed by Olivier, with Vivien Leigh as Blanche.
On film, Donat and Asherson reprised their stage roles in The Cure for Love (1949) in Donat's only film as director. During its production, the couple fell in love. They frequently appeared together in later films, such as The Magic Box (1951). In 1945 she appeared in The Way to the Stars as Iris Winterton, the love interest of Peter Penrose (John Mills).
Her final film role was as the unnamed old woman in the haunted house thriller The Others.
In 1976, she played the tragic Miss Gailey over seven episodes of ATV's epic dramatisation of Arnold Bennett's "Clayhanger" opposite Janet Suzman and Denis Quilley. In 1978, she portrayed Mother Ancilla in the Armchair Thriller adaptation of the Antonia Fraser novel Quiet as a Nun, and appeared as Mrs Wainwright in the 1979 TV miniseries A Man Called Intrepid. In 1981, Asherson played the role of Sylvia Ashburton in the first season and for eight episodes of Tenko.She appeared in Midsomer Murders 1997 ‘The Killings at Badger’s Drift’ as Emily Simpson.
In 1953 she moved to 8 The Grove, Highgate upon her marriage to fellow actor Robert Donat, separating before his death five years later. She never remarried and died in Primrose Hill, London on 30 October 2014, aged 99. Among her surviving relatives is her nephew, the journalist Neal Ascherson.
|1944||The Way Ahead||Marjorie Gillingham|
|1944||Henry V||Princess Katherine|
|1945||The Way to the Stars||Iris Winterton|
|1945||Caesar and Cleopatra||Iras||Uncredited|
|1949||Once a Jolly Swagman||Pat|
|1949||The Small Back Room||A.T.S. Corporal|
|1949||The Cure for Love||Milly Southern|
|1951||Pool of London||Sally|
|1951||The Magic Box||Miss Tagg|
|1953||Malta Story||Joan Rivers|
|1954||Time Is My Enemy||Barbara Everton|
|1954||The Red Dress||Megan||(segment "Red Dress' story)|
|1961||The Day the Earth Caught Fire||Angela|
|1966||Rasputin, the Mad Monk||Tsarina|
|1969||The Smashing Bird I Used to Know||Anne Johnson|
|1973||Theatre of Blood||Mrs. Maxwell|
|1984||Edwin||Lady Margaret Truscott|
|1985||A Murder is Announced||Miss Dora Bunner 'Bunny'|
|1992||Memento Mori||BBC play|
|1999||Grey Owl||Carrie Belaney|
|2001||The Others||Old Lady||(final film role)|
- "Obituary: Renée Asherson". The Daily Telegraph. London. 4 November 2014. Retrieved 1 September 2020.
- Jennings, Alex (2018). "Asherson, Renée [real name Dorothy Renée Ascherson]". doi:10.1093/odnb/9780198614128.013.108059. Cite journal requires
- Coveney, Michael (4 November 2014). "Renée Asherson obituary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
- Herbert, Ian, ed. (1981). "ASHERSON, Renée". Who's Who in the Theatre. 1. Detroit: Gale Research. pp. 26–27. ISBN 978-0810302341.
- Farquhar, Simon (6 November 2014). "Renée Asherson: Actress renowned for her grace and beauty". The Independent. London. Retrieved 1 September 2020.
- Renée Asherson Filmography BFI Database.
- "Robert Donat, 8 The Grove, 1953-1956". Hampstead & Highgate Express, page 31. 7 November 1969.
- "Obituary: Renée Asherson, actress". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. 6 October 2014.