theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…
I had the privilege of working with Renée Asherson in 1978 at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley. She was beautiful in every way. During that time she was robbed and many of the treasured items that belonged to her time as the wife of Robert Donat were stolen. It was heartbreaking to hear. But she was stoical and always had a ready smile.
Renée Asherson, a vivacious and stylish actor, who has died aged 99, enjoyed a career on stage and screen spanning 65 years. She will be remembered as the French princess in Laurence Olivier’s wartime propaganda film version of Henry V, pertly trimming her garden roses while rehearsing the English words for delicate body parts.
She had made her screen debut earlier the same year, playing a small role in Carol Reed’s The Way Ahead (1944), Peter Ustinov’s script (from Eric Ambler’s story) showing how an army officer (David Niven) organised a bunch of disparate conscripts into a plausible fighting unit. She followed that with another war-time adventure, this time with more love interest, Anthony Asquith’s The Way to the Stars (1945), scripted by Terence Rattigan, in which she played John Mills’s girlfriend, with Michael Redgrave and Rosamund John as a more straightforwardly middle-class pair.
Asherson’s clarity of diction, open demeanour, bright blue eyes and retroussé nose were distinct physical hallmarks; she often seemed to combine the kittenishness of Vivien Leigh with the grace and watery-eyed gravity of Celia Johnson, as she progressed from leading Shakespearean roles at the Old Vic before the second world war to West End stardom soon after it. She played sisters to both those exemplary actors in two major productions: the London premiere, in 1949, of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, as Stella Kowalski to Leigh’s Blanche DuBois; and as the youngest of…
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