Jane was born in London on April 5th 1946. Her father, Dr Richard Asher, was a consultant in blood and mental diseases at Central Middlesex Hospital in Acton, London, in addition to being a writer and broadcaster. Her mother, Margaret, was a Professor of Classical Music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Jane had 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. At the age of five she made her film debut in ‘Mandy’ (1953). 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.
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 Aspler, who pictured her screaming in the audience. The article appeared in the 2nd May 1963 edition of the Radio Times with Jane commenting; ”Now these I could scream for.” Jane and Paul McCartney started dating and 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 storey terraced 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.
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 holidays 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’. 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 August 15th 1965 read: “Says Jane: ‘Yes, I AM Marrying Paul McCartney.’”
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’. The two decided to get married and
during an interview by the Daily Express in 1967 she said: “I love Paul.
I love him very deeply, and he feels the same. I don’t think either
of us has looked at anyone else since we first met.” She was to add:
“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 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 womaniser. 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 20th July edition of the BBC Television show ‘Dee Time’, she announced officially that their engagement was off.
Jane met political cartoonist Gerald Scarfe at the tenth anniversary party of 'Private Eye'. The two fell in love and their first child, Katie, was born on 17th April 1974. 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?’
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. She returned to acting in the 1980’s 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 once again for the film ‘Runners’, and in 1985 with Ian Holm and Coral Browne in ‘Dreamchild’.
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 was regularly featured on television commercials.
The 1990s was the most successful decade of her career. She continued with acting, appearing in the TV movies ‘Closing Numbers' in 1994 and ‘The Choir’ in 1995, in the 1998 stage play ‘The Things We Do For Love’, the cult TV show ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ and in 2000 appeared in two plays at the National Theatre, ‘House’ and ‘Garden.’ She 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.’ Entering the 21st century she appeared in the ‘Crossroads’ and ‘Doctors’ series and TV plays and series including ‘Nobody’s Child’, ‘Murder At The Vicarage’, ‘New Tricks’, ‘Tisante el Blanco’, ‘Death At A Funeral’ and ‘Holby City.’
Tragically, her father died of an overdose of barbiturates and alcohol. His body was discovered on 26th April 1969. Her brother Peter went on to become Vice President of Sony USA and Claire, who’d appeared in the radio soap ‘Mrs Dale’s Diary’ and the TV series ‘The Mistress’ with Jane, gave up acting to become a school teacher.