Monday, 20 December 2010

Hollywood Cricket Club

Fantasy Bob would like to pay tribute today to C Aubrey Smith -  known to his friends as Sir C Aubrey Smith - who died on 20 December 1948.

Sir Aubrey Smith KBE CBE
He is the only English Test Captain to have his star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.  Smith had been an effective seam bowler for Cambridge University and Sussex – his curved run up giving him the nickname Round the Corner Smith.  In his first class career he took 346 wickets at 22.34.

He played only one Test, against South Africa in 1888-89, which he captained, taking five wickets for 19 runs in the first innings. He was actually living in S Africa at that time (an interesting selection policy) having gone there to prospect for gold.  A year earlier he had caught pneumonia and had been pronounced dead.  His short Test career was a bit of a come-back in many ways.

He then embarked on an acting career on stage at first but then in films and eventually went to Hollywood where in 1932 he founded the Hollywood Cricket Club.  During the golden years of Hollywood, many stars of the silver screen were to turn out for the team including David Niven, Ronald Colman, Errol Flynn, Douglas Fairbanks Jnr and Laurence Olivier. 

July 1936 - Errol Flynn is bottom left
There are many anecdotes of Smith's aristocratic approach to managing the club.  Laurence Olivier came to town and checking in to his hotel found a note from Smith: ‘There will be net practice tomorrow at 4 pm. I trust I shall see you there.’
Olivier showed up wearing cricket boots borrowed from Boris Karloff.

Smith’s own movie career was dominated by character roles in which he played stereotypical English crusties.  Colonels and Generals abound.  He was unmistakable with his large handlebar moustache.  In his filmography are such titles as The Scarlet Empress (1934),  Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), The Four Feathers (1939) and Rebecca (1940).  He died at the age of 85 - by one of those strange ironies, his final illness was pneumonia.
From its illustrious beginnings, the Hollywood Cricket Club continues to take a leading in the development of California cricket.    Look at its website to see how active it is, although it no longer plays at the Aubrey Smith Cricket Field.  Also, look in vain for names of George Clooney or Tom Cruise in its team lists since the club no longer seem to attract the present stars of Hollywood.


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