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Renee Asherson, the petite, husky-voiced actress who famously played Princess Katherine opposite Laurence Olivier’s Henry V in the 1944 cinema adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, died on Oct. 30. She was 99.
Born in London in 1915, Asherson — originally Dorothy Renee Ascherson before she dropped the ‘c’ — began her career onstage, appearing first as a walk-on in a 1935 production of Romeo and Juliet, and going on to star as Iris in The Tempest at the Old Vic theater, with whom she would later tour. Performances in Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of the Shrew, to name just a few, would follow.
Asherson’s first major film role was alongside David Niven in the 1944 WWII drama The Way Ahead, released in the U.S. as The Immortal Battalion. But it was her experience with Shakespeare that paved the way for her starring role with Olivier in his own adaption of Henry V the same year, quickly followed by WWII air force thriller The Way to the Stars, starring John Mills.
Having already appeared in the stage version of The Cure for Love with Oscar winning-actor Robert Donat (Goodbye, Mr. Chips) in 1945, it was when the two reprised their roles for a film adaptation in 1949 that they would fall in love, marrying four years later. But this would only last five years, with Donat passing away in 1958. She would never remarry, and the two had no children together.
The following decades would see Asherson dip into both theater and cinema while also making numerous noted appearances on television. Her last film role was in Alejandro Amenabar’s multi award-winning horror The Others in 2001 as an elderly blind woman.
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