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Askwith, Robin (1950-)


Main image of Askwith, Robin (1950-)

Robin Askwith's career in British cinema is a depressing illustration of the lack of opportunities open to personable young leading men in 1970s films. His CV includes work with such illustrious directors as Lindsay Anderson and Pier Paolo Pasolini, but it is as the star of the Confessions films (1974-1977) that Askwith earned his place in British film history, albeit one that is not always acknowledged with good grace.

Askwith was born in Southport and educated at public school, from which he was expelled; ironically his first screen role was as a fifth former in If..... (d. Lindsay Anderson, 1968). Over the next five years, he developed an eclectic CV from art house (Pasolini's The Canterbury Tales/I racconti di Canterbury, Italy/France, 1971) to British crime drama (All Coppers Are, d. Sydney Hayers, 1972) and the unusually thoughtful and downbeat exploitation film Cool it Carol (d. Peter Walker, 1970). His amiably oafish hero in the black comedy Horror Hospital (d. Antony Balch, 1973) and his charming relationship with screen father Sid James in Bless This House (d. Gerald Thomas, 1972) showed Askwith's potential as a light leading man.

Unfortunately, the vehicle for these talents was as the hero Timmy Lea in the Confessions sex comedies, a series of films that were as bleak as Get Carter (d. Mike Hodges, 1971) in their depiction of 1970s Britain. Four titles - Confessions of a Window Cleaner (d. Val Guest, 1974), ...of a Pop Performer (d. Norman Cohen, 1975), ...of a Driving Instructor (d. Cohen, 1976) and ...from a Holiday Camp (d. Cohen, 1977) - were produced to vast commercial success with an unvarying formula - there would be occasional full frontal female nudity, inept slapstick and plentiful shots of the Askwith bottom. However, the films earned the actor an Evening Standard Award for Best Newcomer in 1976.

After Holiday Camp the series petered out and Askwith transferred to television with The Bottle Boys (LWT 1984-1985), a comedy series with all of the inherent humour of nuclear holocaust drama Threads (BBC, 1984). The actor now lives in Gozo but maintains his career with occasional TV roles and, according to Askwith, the possibility of Quentin Tarantino directing a fifth Confessions film featuring Timmy Lea in outer space.

Andrew Roberts

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Thumbnail image of Britannia Hospital (1982)Britannia Hospital (1982)

Lindsay Anderson's unhinged satire of Thatcher's Britain

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