'Have you seen my Fanny?'
'Blimey, I saw The Curse of Frankenstein - that was enough!'
Robin Askwith replies to Rita Webb (who is looking for her daughter, Frances), Confessions of a Pop Performer (1975)
Born 12 October, 1950, in the seaside town of Southport in North-West England, Robin Askwith was the product of a public school education curtailed, he claims, after he was expelled for holding up a local post office. He would grow up to be one of Britain's biggest comedy actors in the 1970s. Despite attempts at branching out, however, he will always be remembered as the gap-toothed randy workman in the Confessions... sex comedies.
Robin Askwith's film debut came with Lindsay Anderson's If..., playing school bully Ben Keating. Despite such an auspicious start, Askwith soon found himself heading along the less-prestigious path of British exploitation films, with a mixture of schlock-horrors like Tower of Evil (also known as 'Horror of Snape Island') and Horror Hospital and bawdy comedies such as Cool it Carol! and a small part in No Sex Please, We're British!. In 1974 he starred in the first Confessions... film, Confessions of a Window Cleaner. While the saucy Carry On... films had been an integral part of the British film industry for nearly 20 years1, the Confessions series tried to take that cheap, innuendo-riddled style and up the ante a little. The sex was more graphic, the nudity pretty-much full-on, and the general storylines geared towards a slightly older audience than that of the giggling-teenage Carry Ons. Like the Carry Ons, however, they were never even remotely sexy, especially when compared with the similarly exploitative films of Roger Corman and Russ Meyer.
Confessions of a Window Cleaner introduced Askwith's Timmy Lea, a randy young man who had a knack for finding himself in compromising positions with manipulative young women whose boyfriends/husbands/fathers invariably caught them while Timmy hid in a wardrobe trying to get his trousers back on. Confessions of a Window Cleaner was directed by Val Guest, a stalwart of that other bastion of the British film industry, Hammer Films. For the sequels, Guest 'stepped aside' for Norman Cohen, who gave us Confessions of a Pop Performer, Confessions of a Driving Instructor and Confessions from a Holiday Camp. Different versions of each film had to be assembled. The main edit would include male and female nudity, a second contained just underwear scenes, while a third version, made for the South African distributors, contained only fully-clothed heavy-petting.
Inevitably, Askwith tired of his 'sex symbol' label and tried to branch out into theatre, but audiences and casting directors already identified him with his smutty, cheeky screen persona and he found himself restricted to productions such as The Further Confessions of a Window Cleaner and Who Goes Bare, and two series of the ITV comedy Bottle Boys (a sitcom about randy milkmen). Robin Askwith now spends most of his time on the island of Gozo, near Malta, where his interests include long-distance swimming and yacht racing. In 1999 he wrote his autobiography - predictably entitled Confessions of Robin Askwith. His acting career has enjoyed something of a revival at the beginning of the 21st Century, having apeared in the World War II drama U-571, though his part didn't extend too far from those that made him famous - he played a 'British Seaman'.