He was the man who entertained millions with his comedy genius – although his fondness for scantily clad women would likely see him get the boot today.
With his eponymous show that ran for nearly 35 years from 1955 until 1989, Benny Hill was a national treasure.
This week it was revealed that the late star is enjoying a revival in Spain, with a 2,000 word feature in a glossy supplement in El Pais getting attention as young Spaniards watch repeats of his show on Youtube.
But despite the enduring popularity, Hill suffered a sad decline later in his career and was accused of sexual assault decades after his death in 1992, when his body was found in his rented flat surrounded by dirty crockery and clutter.
Benny Hill entertained millions with his comedy genius – although his fondness for scantily clad women would likely see him get the boot today. Above: A scene from the Benny Hill show in 1983
This week it was revealed that the late star is enjoying a revival in Spain, with a 2,000 word feature in a glossy supplement in El Pais getting attention as young Spaniards watch repeats of his show on Youtube. Above: Hill leaving hospital in 1992, the year of his death
Born Alfred Hawthorne in 1925 in Southampton, Hill was remembered by his relatives and school friends as the ‘class clown’.
How Benny Hill is big in Spain
Last weekend, a glossy supplement in Spain’s El Pais newspaper published a 2,000-word feature on Benny HIll, amid the ongoing popularity of the comedian in the country.
The piece noted: ‘Spaniards, we are a little strange sometimes.
‘There are international cultural phenomena, like A-ha, that for some reason are big in Spain.
‘And for some reason, Benny Hill is big in Spain.’
The Benny Hill show was hugely popular in the country in the 1980s and 1990s, due to the fact it was broadcast on prime time television.
Now, his episodes are watched on Youtube by younger generations.
He dropped out of school when still a teenager and worked first as a milkman before serving as a mechanic in the British Army during the Second World War.
During the conflict, he entertained troops in variety shows and adopted his stage name in homage to comedian Jack Benny.
After the war, he performed in music halls in London and then his first appearance on TV came in 1950.
The Benny Hill show – which consisted of short, often risqué sketches, aired for the first time in 1955 and continued on the BBC until 1968. Then, from 1969 onwards, it aired on ITV.
At his height of his fame more Britons tuned in to watch Benny Hill than the moon landing and the comedian won his first of many awards in 1954 when voted TV Personality of the Year.
The Benny Hill Show received a total of 11 awards during his time with ITV and his shows were exported to more than 140 countries.
But by the time his show came to an end – when Hill was sacked by production company Thames Television – the comedian’s star had already been tarnished.
Former Page Three girl Stefanie Martin accused him in 1985 of forcing her to ‘perform’ while he pleasured himself. Hill had promised her a speaking part on his show.
Hill’s agent also alleged that he squeezed her breasts during rehearsal, prompting her to slap his face.
And then in 2017, 1980s punk rocker Hazel O’Connor said she was sexually assaulted by the comedian.
Laughter until the end: Hill’s health declined in the late ’80s and he died in London on April 20 1992 aged 68, two months after suffering a mild heart attack. The cause of death was recorded as coronary thrombosis. Pictured in hospital
Benny HIll is seen with two ‘Benny Girls’ on his show in 1984, when he was still hugely popular
Cheapskate: Although he was worth millions thanks to royalties from The Benny Hill Show, the late actor was extremely frugal and had a phobia of spending money
Benny Hill is seen with his ‘Benny Girls’ – women who featured on his show – in 1978
The Benny Hill Show first aired in 1955 and ran until 1989, when it was cancelled by Thames Television
Benny Hill is seen on his show in 1985, four years before it was cancelled – much to the comedian’s horror
O’Conner, who starred in and wrote the soundtrack for cult film Breaking Glass, said Hill demanded sexual favours from her in return for work
She claimed Hill would only let her work as one of his famous Benny Hill girls unless she agreed.
Hill added that she had to push the comedian off when he pounced on her one evening, trying to kiss her at his flat.
The star also never married, with the women he proposed to turning him down. He is said to have felt unattractive and unloved.
And although he was worth millions thanks to royalties from The Benny Hill Show, the late actor was extremely frugal and had a phobia of spending money.
He was so tight-fisted that he would wear the same clothes until they were threadbare and even glued the soles of his shoes back on when they became loose.
The comic would only buy groceries when they were on sale, and would walk to the BBC headquarters rather than pay for a taxi.
The news of Benny Hill’s death made the front page of the Daily Mail on April 21, 1992
Owning a car or his own home was also out of the question, according to his close friend Sarah Kemp, because such a large expenditure would have upset him.
When his show was cancelled, the man responsible – John Howard Davies from Thames Television – said: ‘Benny was all right when he was young, but when you’re in your 60s, it’s a slightly different matter to leer at a pretty girl.’
Hill’s health took a turn for the worse after the bad news about his show.
He suffered a mild heart attack in February 1992 and spent four weeks in hospital a month before his death, in April 1992.
The star was not found until two days after his death, with the cause of death being listed as coronary thrombosis.
His body was found by his press agent Dennis Kirkland after neighbours reported a smell coming from his home in Teddington, south-west London.