Jane Asher (born 5 April 1946, London) is an English actress, who is well known in the United Kingdom for her numerous appearances in film and television dramas. She has also developed a second career as a cake decorator and cake shop proprietor.
Asher was the second of three children born to Dr. Richard Alan John and Margaret Asher, née Eliot, in Willesden, north-west London. Her father was a consultant in blood and mental diseases at the Central Middlesex hospital in Acton, West London as well as being a broadcaster and author of many notable medical articles; her mother was a professor of oboe at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and taught George Martin to play the instrument. She also taught Paul McCartney to play the recorder. Jane was educated at Queen's College in Harley Street, London. Her younger sister is the radio actress Clare Asher; her older brother is record producer Peter Asher, formerly one half of the duo Peter & Gordon, and whose daughter is Victoria Asher, keytarist of the band Cobra Starship.
Asher's first appearance as a child actress was as Nina in the 1952 film Mandy. Other film appearances were the 1955 science fiction film The Quatermass Xperiment, and, co-starring with Kenneth More and Susannah York and in the 1961 UK film The Greengage Summer, which was released in the United States as Loss of Innocence. She also appeared as her distant relative Lady Jane Grey in the 1962 film and Disney TV programme, The Prince and the Pauper. British TV appearances included three episodes (1956–1958) of the British TV series, The Adventures of Robin Hood (working alongside her brother Peter), and as a panelist on the BBC's Juke Box Jury.
Relationship with Paul McCartney
In 1963, Asher interviewed The Beatles. A photographer for the BBC's Radio Times asked them to pose with Asher. Asher subsequently commenced a five-year relationship with Paul McCartney, getting engaged in 1967. She inspired many of McCartney's songs, such as "All My Loving," "And I Love Her," "I'm Looking Through You," "You Won't See Me," "We Can Work It Out," "Here, There and Everywhere," and "For No One" (all credited as Lennon/McCartney). Lennon/McCartney penned the number one hit "A World Without Love" for her brother Peter.
McCartney stayed in the Asher family home at 57 Wimpole Street from 1964-66 and wrote several Beatles songs there. He wrote in a room usually used for music lessons. The Asher house was also a place of intellectual stimulation for McCartney. He enjoyed the rarefied atmosphere of upper-middle class conversation and company that the house afforded, and to which he aspired. According to Cynthia Lennon, McCartney was "as proud as a peacock" to have Jane as a girlfriend, and saw her as "a great prize." Marianne Faithfull remembered McCartney and Asher "never getting on very well," and described one evening at Cavendish Avenue when McCartney wanted a window to be open and Asher wanted it shut. McCartney would repeatedly get up and open the window and then Asher would get up and close it, although neither of them made any comment about it during the whole evening.
McCartney did not stop having one-night stands with other women during his time with Asher, because he felt that since they were not married, it was allowed. On 25 December 1967, McCartney and Asher announced their engagement, and she accompanied McCartney to India in February and March 1968. Asher broke off the engagement in early 1968, after coming back from Bristol to find Paul in bed with another woman, Francie Schwartz. They attempted to mend the relationship, but finally ended it on 20 July 1968 when Asher told the BBC. Asher has consistently refused to publicly discuss McCartney or her time with him, and has maintained her position on the matter to this day. On this basis, she is described by the Beatles' 1968 biographer Hunter Davies as the only major Beatles associate not to have published her recollections.
Asher appeared in Roger Corman's The Masque of the Red Death (1964), Alfie, opposite Michael Caine in 1966, and in Jerzy Skolimowski's Deep End. Thereafter, she was more commonly seen on television: she guest-starred in an episode of the British television comedy series The Goodies in the episode "Punky Business," as a trend setting newspaper writer, patterned on the punk journalist Caroline Coon alias Caroline Kook; The Stone Tape; Rumpole of the Bailey; Brideshead Revisited; as Faith Ashley, A Voyage Round My Father opposite Laurence Olivier; Wish Me Luck (three series in 1987–89); The Mistress (1985–87); Crossroads Mark III (2003) as hotel owner Angel Samson. Although the series was unpopular with die-hard Crossroads fans, and only lasted a matter of months, the sharp-tongued wit of Mrs Samson and brilliant acting from Asher made the part a huge success.
In 1994, she portrayed the Doctor Who companion Susan Foreman in a BBC Radio 4 comedy drama Whatever Happened to Susan Foreman?. Another notable radio appearance was in The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in 2002, in the episode "The Peculiar Persecution of Mr John Vincent Harden." She starred in "The World's Biggest Diamond," by Gregory Motton, at the Royal Court Theatre in 2005. In 2006 Asher starred in the Richard Fell adaptation of the 1960s science fiction series A for Andromeda, which aired on the British digital television station BBC Four. More recently in 2007, she portrayed the widow Sandra in the 2007 Frank Oz film Death at a Funeral. Asher appeared in the BBC medical Drama, Holby City as Lady Byrne. In October 2007, she played Andrea Yates in a story in The Sarah Jane Adventures, in the episode "Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?" She is currently appearing in the ITV drama series The Palace, filmed in Lithuania; she is set to play Queen Charlotte, the mother of King Richard IV. The Palace broadcasts on ITV1 at 9pm every Monday for eight weeks, beginning on the 14 January 2008. In August 2008 Asher appeared in the reality TV talent show-themed television series, Maestro on BBC Two.
Marriage and later career
Asher met the illustrator Gerald Scarfe in 1971, and they married ten years later when Asher was expecting their second child. They have three children - Katie (b.1974), Alex (b.1981) and Rory (b.1984).
Now well known as an author, Asher has written three best-selling novels: The Longing, The Question and Losing It. She has also had more than a dozen lifestyle, costuming, and cake decorating books published. Asher runs a company making party cakes and sugar crafts for special occasions, and still acts on television and in the theatre. Her general books are similar to those of Julia Hamilton, Elizabeth Jane Howard and Shena Mackay.
She is a shareholder in Private Eye, President of Arthritis Care and a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association. She is also President of the National Autistic Society, in which she takes an active role. She was also a speaker at the launch of the National Autistic Society's "Make School Make Sense" campaign alongside Joshua Muggleton (ASD speaker/writer). She is also President of the Parkinson's Disease Society.
In summer, 2008, Asher participated in the BBC's Maestro series where eight well-known show business personalities competed for the "prize" of conducting during Proms in the Park. She is also currently in the BBC One comedy series The Old Guys.