Jane Asher was born on April 5th 1946, and was the middle of three children born to Dr. Richard Alan John and Margaret Asher, n?e 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 and Paul McCartney to play the recorder. Jane has a brother, Peter, who was two years older and a sister, Claire, who was two years younger. All three Asher children had the distinctive Titian-red hair. Jane was educated at Queen's College, Harley Street.
'16 Magazine' March 1965 issue, in an article entitled "Jane Asher's rise to Stardom in pix" explains: "ABOUT 12 years ago three children were playing in London's Hyde Park - three children with such flame-colored hair that a posserby turned to their mother and said, "You ought to do something about putting them on the stage. They'll be the talk of London. They're much a striking trio."
Jane Asher doesn't remember the incident, but this praise from a stranger had a profond effect on her life. For her mother, Margaret Asher, wife of a Wimpole Street doctor and a professor at the Royal Academy of Music in her own right, began to take her older daughter to agents for tiny parts in films. Jane was then five. "
At the age of five she made her film debut in 'Mandy' (1952). Her interest in acting began when her parents took their three children to a theatrical agency, thinking it would be fun for them to learn to act.
Her other screen appearances over the years have included 'Third Party Risk' (1953); 'Dance Little Lady', 'Adventure In The Hopfields' (1954); 'The Quatermass Xperiment' (1955); 'Charley Moon', 'the Greengage Summer' (1956); 'The Prince And The Pauper' (1962), 'Girl In The Headlines' (1963); 'The Masque Of The Red Death' (1964); 'Alfie' (1966); 'The Winter's Tale' (1967); 'The Buttercup Chain', 'Deep End' (1970); 'Henry V111 And His Six Wives' (1972); 'Runners' (1983) and 'Success Is The Best Revenge' (1984).
Her television appearances are numerous and a brief selection includes: 'The Cold Equations' episode of 'Out Of This World' (1962); Nigel Kneale's 'The Stone Tape' (1972); 'Brideshead Revisited' (1981); 'A Voyage Round My Father' (1982); 'The Mistress' (1987); 'Wish Me Luck' (1990) and 'Murder Most Horrid (1991). This is in addition to appearances in various series such as 'The Adventures of Robin Hood', 'The Adventurer', 'The Saint' and 'The Buccaneers', plus prestigious productions including the part of Lisle in 'The Brothers Karamazov' and Maggie Tulliver in 'The Mill on the Floss.'
At the age of 12 she made her stage debut as Alice in 'Alice In Wonderland' at the Oxford Playhouse. In 1960 Jane became the youngest actress to play Wendy in a West End stage version of 'Peter Pan.' Her stage roles included the Broadway production of 'The Philanthropist', playing Perdita in 'A Winter's Tale' and Cassandra in 'The Trojan Women.' She also featured in various productions for the Bristol Old Vic, including the title role in 'Cleo' by Frank Marcus, the part of Ellen Terry in 'Sixty Thousand Nights' and Eliza in 'Pygmalion.'
Jane appeared in further acting parts, including a TV production of 'Romeo and Juliet'. After the birth of Katie she curtailed her acting career for a while, but appeared in the stage version of 'Whose Life Is It Anyway?'
She returned to acting in the 1980s with many television appearances. they included the part of Celia Rider opposite Jeremy Irons in 'Brideshead Revisited', with James Fox in 'Love Is Old, Love Is New', a drama about a couple obsessed with the 1960s which featured a lot of Beatles music, and with Laurence Olivier in John Mortimer's 'A Voyage Round My Father.'
Other TV appearances included the costume drama 'Hawkmoor' and an episode of 'Tales of the Unexpected.' She teamed up with James Fox again for the film 'Runners' and in 1985 appeared with Ian Holm and Coral Browne in 'Dreamchild.'
The 1990s was the most successful decade of her career. She continued with acting, appearing in the TV movies 'Closing Numbers (1994) and 'The Choir' (1995), in the stage play 'The Things We Do For Love', the cult TV series 'Absolutely Fabulous' and in 2000 appeared in two plays at the National Theatre: 'House' and 'Garden.'
Crossroads Mark III (2003) as hotel owner Angel Samson who, as the series ended,woke up behind a supermarket checkout to realise she had dreamt the whole thing and the characters in the hotel were made up of colleagues and customers.
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. In 2007, she portrayed the widow Sandra in the Frank Oz film Death at a Funeral. Asher appeared in the BBC medical Drama, Holby City as Lady Byrne, a role she still occasionally reprises. In October 2007, she played Andrea Yates in a story in The Sarah Jane Adventures, in the episode "Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?" Asher co-starred in the 2008 ITV drama series The Palace, filmed in Lithuania; she played Queen Charlotte, mother of King Richard IV. The Palace broadcast 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. 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. In 2009, she played Sally in the BBC One comedy series The Old Guys.
In October 2009, she appeared as Delia in Peter Hall's revival of Alan Ayckbourn's Bedroom Farce at the Rose Theatre, Kingston and in her first pantomime, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Richmond Theatre in December 2009, receiving enthusiastic reviews for both.
She was 17 years old when she first met the Beatles on Thursday 18 April 1963. They were appearing on the BBC radio broadcast 'Swingin' Sound' at the Royal Albert Hall. Jane went along to pose for Radio Times photographer Tony Asper who pictured her screaming in the audience. The article appeared in the 2 May 1963 edition of the Radio Times with Jane commenting, "Now these I could scream for."
Jane then approached them while they were having a snack in the Royal Court Hotel in Sloane Square, where they were staying. She mentioned to them that she had been asked to write about them in the Radio Times. They were aware of her as she'd been a guest panelist on the TV show 'Juke Box Jury' and they were all charmed by her.
Brian Epstein returned to his own hotel and Ringo stayed behind to have an early night. Singer Shane Fenton, who'd also been on the concert bill that day drove John, Paul, George and Jane to journalist Chris Hutchins' flat, situated on the top floor of Kings House on the Kings Road. Initially, it was George who seemed to engage most of her attention. During the course of the next few hours Paul began to show his interest in Jane and the others left him to talk to her alone. Later he escorted her home and arranged to meet her again.
Recalling the meeting, Paul commented, "We all said 'Will you marry me?' which is what we said to every girl at the time. She was a rare London bird, the sort we'd always heard about."
The romance became public when they were snapped by a photographer as they left the Prince of Wales Theatre after attending Neil Simon's play 'Never Too Late.'
Paul moved into the Asher family home at 57 Wimpole Street, a five story town house. It happened shortly after Paul had missed his last train home to Liverpool following a date with Jane and stayed the night. Margaret Asher suggested that he regard the house as his London home, thus saving on hotel bills. He moved into the top floor where there were two rooms and a bathroom. The second room was Peter's bedroom. Jane and Claire had the two rooms below.
This relationship with an upper middle-class family broadened his cultural horizons. There were stimulating discussions around the Asher family dinner table and the two of them attended musicals, classical concerts, plays and exhibitions and went on holiday together to exotic places. Paul even opened an account at Coutts, the Queen's bankers, and ordered Jane's birthday cake from Maxim's in Paris, while Jane helped Paul select his new car, a midnight-blue Aston Martin DB6.
The young actress became the inspiration for a number of his songs, initially purely love songs, which changed as the relationship entered stormy patches - primarily because she refused to give up her career. 'She Loves You' was written in the music room at Wimpole Street. Songs inspired by Jane included 'And I Love Her', 'Every Little Thing', 'We Can Work It Out', 'You Won't See Me', 'I'm Looking Through You' and 'Here, There And Everywhere.'
The crisis in their relationship arose from the fact that Jane had a successful career which she was determined to pursue. Paul wanted his girlfriend to dedicate herself to him in the type of relationship common between men and women in working-class Liverpool. However, Jane came from a different world and had her own strong opinions; extending her own horizons as an actress didn't include becoming a subservient woman and sacrificing her career for 'her man.' At one point she refused to answer his telephone calls, which inspired 'You Won't See Me.' Jane was appearing in 'Great Expectations' at the Theatre Royal, Bristol, when he recorded the number.
He obviously tried to give messages to her through his songs and told Beatles' biographer Hunter Davies: "I knew I was selfish, it caused a few rows. Jane went off and said 'OK, then, leave. I'll find someone else.' It was shattering to be without her. That was when I wrote 'I'm Looking Through You.'
Jane said, "I shan't give up my career unless it interferes with our being together. I love Paul. I love him deeply and he feels the same. I don't think either of us has looked at anyone else since we first met."
Of course, the womanizing Paul continued with his affairs throughout the relationship with Jane, who was a virgin when they met.
During the five year romance, Paul was not exactly faithful to his inamorata. When Paul was in America during February 1964 he had a relationship with actress Jill Haworth, who he first met at a press conference at the Plaza Hotel. He then began to visit her at her apartment. "He wanted a good cup of tea and he couldn't get it at the Plaza and he came to my apartment," she said. He next called her up and invited her to stay in Miami while the Beatles were there. Paul arranged for payment of her trip, although she was booked into another hotel while they stayed at the Deauville. "A car would be sent for me to take me over there," she said. Paul wanted to keep the relationship out of the press as Jane was still his girlfriend.
Daily Express reporter Ivor Davis, who traveled with the Beatles on their 1964 American tour alleged that Paul was the most sexually active member of the group. He recalled Paul's affair with 16-year-old Peggy Lipton, who'd been introduced to him by photographer Ron Joy when the group were in Los Angeles in August of that year. Paul and Peggy became extremely close and continued to keep in touch for years after the tour ended. She was later to star in the 'Mod Squad' television series and married Quincy Jones', but was to say that she would have married Paul, but he never asked her.
Jane was appearing at the Bristol Old Vic as Barbara Cahoun in John Dighton's 'The Happiest Days Of Your Life', when Paul visited Bristol to see her. While there he noticed the name on a shop, 'Rigby & Evans Ltd, Wine & Spirit Shippers', which he says gave him the surname for the song 'Eleanor Rigby.'
Rumours of the couple getting married were always denied by them, but the headline on Jack Bentley's show business page in the Sunday Mirror of 15 August 1965 read: "Says Jane: 'Yes, I AM Marrying Paul McCartney.'" When Bentley visited Jane he said there were rumours that Paul and Jane were already married. "No, I'm not Paul's wife," she told him, "But yes, we ARE going to get married."
When it was mentioned that the millions of girl fans would be dreading the news, she commented, "If it's any consolation to them, we won't be married for a while yet, but when it happens we've got a family planned. First we want a boy and then - come what may. There's no particular reason why we are not getting married right away, except that we're both pretty young. Paul is only twenty-three." Jane was eighteen at the time of the interview.
Asked if her marriage to Paul would affect her career as an actress, she said, "I shan't give up my career unless it interferes with our being together. Although I like acting, I'm not one of those dedicated actresses who would pine away if they couldn't perform. I get as much enjoyment out of good plays and good music."
Jane helped Paul to find the five-story Victorian house in Cavendish Avenue, St John's Wood, which they moved into in 1966. Jane decorated the house and always kept it in tip-top condition. Unfortunately, it was rumoured that during a spring-cleaning session a number of original early Lennon and McCartney songs were lost forever when she threw away a notebook full of lyrics while emptying a cupboard.
It was Jane who, in June 1966, persuaded Paul to buy High Farm, a 183-acre farm in Machrihanish, Campbeltown, Scotland, suggesting it would be a good idea for them to have a remote retreat to which they could escape from the pressures of being constantly in the public eye.
She embarked on a five-month tour of America in 1967, appearing with the Bristol Old Vic in 'Romeo and Juliet' in Boston, Washington and Philadelphia. Paul flew over to America to celebrate her twenty-first birthday, which took place during the tour. It was during this trip that he conceived the idea of 'Magical Mystery Tour.'
On her return, Jane said, "Paul had changed so much. He was on LSD, which I knew nothing about. The house had changed and it was full of stuff I didn't know about."
The two decided to get married and during an interview in the Daily Express in 1967, she said, "I want to get married, probably this year, and have lots and lots of babies. I certainly would be surprised indeed if I married anyone but Paul."
On New Year's Day 1968 he proposed, gave her a diamond and emerald ring and they travelled up north to 'Rembrandt' (his Liverpool home) to tell Paul's father.
But the five-year romance came to an abrupt end, despite the fact that they obviously loved each other. Jane had been a virgin when they met and fidelity to a partner obviously meant a great deal to her. On the other hand, Paul had always been a womanizer. During her absences when touring, he had been dating other girls and began an affair with an American, Francie Schwartz.
Jane arrived home unexpectedly when Paul was in bed with Schwartz. She walked out on him and sent her mother to Cavendish Avenue to collect her belongings.
On the 20 July edition of the BBC Television show 'Dee Time', she announced officially that their engagement was off. She was to say, "I know it sounds corny, but we still see each other and love each other, but it hasn't worked out. Perhaps we'll be childhood sweethearts and meet again and get married when we're about 70." The couple did meet once or twice after the Schwartz incident, but the split was final.
Jane met Paul again in 1994 for the first time in more than 20 years.
Jane Asher had a brief relationship with Scottish theatre director Robert Kidd from mid-1968 to early 1969.
Jane met Gerald Scarfe in 1971 at a ship board party given by the satirical magazine Private Eye..."I felt something had hit me," Jane recalls, "Something had arrived... We both called each other up the next day."
The two fell in love and their first child Katie was born on 17 April 1974. Two more children were born, both sons: Alexander in December 1981 and Rory in 1984. Jane and Gerald were eventually married in 1981 and settled in Chelsea.
Jane has written books on entertaining, fancy dress and ornate cake decoration and in 1995 launched her own national publication Jane Asher's Magazine, at a time when she regularly featured on television commercials.
She has had her various cake products sold in the supermarkets, her kitchen items in the do-it-yourself stores, a regular TV show of her own, and her own weekly column in a national newspaper, plus the publication of 14 lifestyle books. In 1998 she had her first novel 'The Longing' published, followed by others including 'The Question' and 'Trying To Get Out.'
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 a speaker at the launch of the National Autistic Society's "Make School Make Sense" campaign alongside Joshua Muggleton. She is President of Parkinson's UK.
In March 2010, Asher became Vice President to Autistica, a UK charity raising funds for autism research.