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Robinson, Cardew (1917-1992)

Actor, Writer

Main image of Robinson, Cardew (1917-1992)

Tall, gangly, with protruding teeth framing a cheerfully gormless grin, Cardew Robinson is best remembered today for his enduring schoolboy comedy persona, 'Cardew the Cad of the School'. Developed in 1942 for a rhyming monologue to fill a few minutes in an RAF Gang Show, the character provided the basis for a stage act and later caught the public imagination, becoming popular on radio programmes including the BBC's Variety Bandbox.

Robinson's screen career was confined to small parts in quickie 'B' pictures until he was given the chance to bring 'The Cad' to the screen. Wreathed in his trademark stripy scarf, he proudly played his sole starring role, improbably romancing pert Vera Day, in a bizarre classroom comedy based around his creation, Fun at St. Fanny's (d. Maurice Elvey, 1955). One reviewer described the film, produced by the tiny family-run independent, Adelphi, as "the British school joke stretched almost to infinity".

Charming, well-spoken, seemingly innocent, but with a cheeky twinkle in his eye, Robinson was possessed of unusual looks that ensured a steady stream of character parts in film and television after the Cad was retired. He played an undertaker in Waltz of the Toreadors (d. John Guillerman, 1962), a gravedigger in I Was Happy Here (d. Desmond Davis, 1965); a vicar in Smashing Time (d. Davis, 1967), a minister in a 1967 episode of The Avengers (ITV, 1961-69) and had a memorable small role in Carry On... Up the Khyber (d. Gerald Thomas, 1968).

Despite his sometimes ecclesiastical air, Robinson was unafraid to venture into the world of 'adult' films, providing light relief in Harrison Marks' The Nine Ages of Nakedness (1969), and Derek Ford's What's Up Nurse (1977). Working with Marks again, Robinson appeared as Scotsman McIvor in the massively successful smut comedy Come Play with Me (1977), in the process revealing exactly what is worn beneath a kilt.

There were more respectable parts, too: latter days saw Robinson as a lawyer with no tongue in Roman Polanski's Pirates (France/Tunisia,1986) and concluding his film career with a small role in Shirley Valentine ((d. Lewis Gilbert, 1989). Off screen, Robinson also appeared in numerous stage plays, wrote comedy scripts for distinguished performers including Peter Sellers, Dick Emery and Dave Allen, and penned a light-hearted book, How to be a Failure. Enduringly popular with the public and a genial raconteur, he remained a frequent guest on television and radio shows until his death in 1992.

Vic Pratt

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Thumbnail image of Carry On... Up the Khyber (1968)Carry On... Up the Khyber (1968)

Highly entertaining Empire spoof from the usual team

Thumbnail image of Fun at St. Fanny's (1956)Fun at St. Fanny's (1956)

Slapstick comedy in a boys' school, with one surprisingly grown-up pupil

Thumbnail image of Go Kart Go (1963)Go Kart Go (1963)

Children's comedy-thriller about rival go-kart gangs

Thumbnail image of Heavens Above! (1963)Heavens Above! (1963)

Comedy of clerical misunderstanding starring an on-form Peter Sellers

Thumbnail image of I'm All Right Jack (1959)I'm All Right Jack (1959)

Peter Sellers is a militant trade unionist in this peerless workplace satire

Thumbnail image of Wrong Arm of The Law, The (1962)Wrong Arm of The Law, The (1962)

Imaginative crime comedy with Peter Sellers in his last wholly British film

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