C. Aubrey Smith

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C. Aubrey Smith
Charles Aubrey Smith c1895.jpg
Smith c. 1895
Personal information
Full nameCharles Aubrey Smith
Born(1863-07-21)21 July 1863
London, England, United Kingdom
Died20 December 1948(1948-12-20) (aged 85)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
BowlingRight arm fast
International information
National side
Only Test (cap  66)12 March 1889 v  South Africa
Domestic team information
1882–1896 Sussex
1889–1890 Transvaal
1886 Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC)
1882–1885 Cambridge University
Career statistics
Competition Tests First-class
Runs scored32,986
Batting average 3.0013.63
Top score385
Balls bowled15417,953
Wickets 7346
Bowling average 8.7122.34
5 wickets in innings 119
10 wickets in match01
Best bowling5/197/16
Catches/stumpings 0/–97/–
Source: CricketArchive, 23 September 2008

Sir Charles Aubrey Smith, CBE (21 July 1863 – 20 December 1948) was an England Test cricketer who became a stage and film actor, acquiring a niche as the officer-and-gentleman type, as in the first sound version of The Prisoner of Zenda (1937). In Hollywood, he organised British actors into a cricket team, much intriguing local spectators.

Test cricket the longest form of the sport of cricket; so called due to its long, grueling nature

Test cricket is the form of the sport of cricket with the longest duration, and is considered the game's highest standard. Test matches are played between national representative teams with "Test status", as determined and conferred by the International Cricket Council (ICC). The term Test stems from the fact of the form's long, gruelling matches being both mentally and physically testing. Two teams of 11 players each play a four-innings match, which may last up to five days. It is generally considered the most complete examination of a team's endurance and ability.

<i>The Prisoner of Zenda</i> (1937 film) 1937 film by John Cromwell

The Prisoner of Zenda is a 1937 American black-and-white adventure film based on Anthony Hope's 1894 novel of the same name and the 1896 play.


Early life

Smith was born in London, England, to Charles John Smith (1838–1928), a medical doctor, and Sarah Ann (née Clode, 1836–1922). [1] His sister, Beryl Faber (died 1912), was married to Cosmo Hamilton.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of both England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

Cosmo Hamilton English novelist

Cosmo Hamilton, born Henry Charles Hamilton Gibbs, was an English playwright and novelist. He was the brother of writers A. Hamilton Gibbs and Sir Philip Gibbs.

Smith was educated at Charterhouse School and St John's College, Cambridge. [2] [3] He settled in South Africa to prospect for gold in 1888–89. While there he developed pneumonia and was wrongly pronounced dead by doctors. He married Isabella Wood in 1896.

Charterhouse School English collegiate independent boarding school

Charterhouse is a boarding school in Godalming, Surrey. Originally founded by Thomas Sutton in 1611 on the site of the old Carthusian monastery in Charterhouse Square, Smithfield, London, it educates over 800 pupils, aged 13 to 18 years, and is one of the original Great Nine English public schools. Today pupils are still referred to as Carthusians, and ex-pupils as Old Carthusians.

St Johns College, Cambridge college of the University of Cambridge

St John's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. The college was founded by Lady Margaret Beaufort. In constitutional terms, the college is a charitable corporation established by a charter dated 9 April 1511. The aims of the college, as specified by its statutes, are the promotion of education, religion, learning and research.

Pneumonia Infection of the lungs

Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lung affecting primarily the small air sacs known as alveoli. Typically symptoms include some combination of productive or dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Severity is variable.

Cricket career

As a cricketer, Smith was primarily a right arm fast bowler, though he was also a useful right-hand lower-order batsman and a good slip fielder. His oddly curved bowling run-up, which started from deep mid-off, earned him the nickname "Round the Corner Smith". [4] [5] When he bowled round the wicket his approach was concealed from the batsman by the umpire until he emerged, leading W. G. Grace to comment "it is rather startling when he suddenly appears at the bowling crease." [6] He played for Cambridge University (1882–85) and for Sussex at various times from 1882 to 1892. [2] While in South Africa he captained the Johannesburg English XI. [2] He captained England to victory in his only Test match, [4] against South Africa at Port Elizabeth in 1888–89, taking five wickets for nineteen runs in the first innings. [7] The English team who played were by no means representative of the best players of the time and nobody at the time realised that the match would enter the cricket records as an official Test match.

Fast bowling

Fast bowling is one of two main approaches to bowling in the sport of cricket, the other being spin bowling. Practitioners of pace bowling are usually known as fast bowlers, quicks, or pacemen. They can also be referred to as a seam bowler or a 'fast bowler who can swing it' to reflect the predominant characteristic of their deliveries. Strictly speaking, a pure swing bowler does not need to have a high degree of pace, though dedicated medium-pace swing bowlers are rarely seen at Test level these days.

W. G. Grace English cricketer

William Gilbert "W. G." Grace, was an English amateur cricketer who was important in the development of the sport and is widely considered one of its greatest-ever players. Universally known as "W. G.", he played first-class cricket for a record-equalling 44 seasons, from 1865 to 1908, during which he captained England, Gloucestershire, the Gentlemen, Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the United South of England Eleven (USEE) and several other teams.

Cambridge University Cricket Club cricket team

Cambridge University Cricket Club, first recorded in 1817, is the representative cricket club for students of the University of Cambridge. Depending on the circumstances of each individual match, the club has always been recognised as holding first-class status. The university played List A cricket in 1972 and 1974 only. It has not played top-level Twenty20 cricket.

In 1932, he founded the Hollywood Cricket Club and created a pitch with imported English grass. He attracted fellow expatriates such as David Niven, Laurence Olivier, Nigel Bruce (who served as captain), Leslie Howard [8] and Boris Karloff to the club as well as local American players. Smith's stereotypical Englishness spawned several amusing anecdotes: while fielding at slip for the Hollywood Club, he dropped a difficult catch and ordered his English butler to fetch his spectacles; they were brought on to the field on a silver platter. The next ball looped gently to slip, to present the kind of catch that "a child would take at midnight with no moon." Smith dropped it and, snatching off his lenses, commented, "Damned fool brought my reading glasses." [9] Decades after his cricket career had ended, when he had long been a famous face in films, Smith was spotted in the pavilion on a visit to Lord's. "That man over there seems familiar", remarked one member to another. "Yes", said the second, seemingly oblivious to his Hollywood fame, "Chap called Smith. Used to play for Sussex." [10]

The Hollywood Cricket Club (HCC) is an amateur cricket club in Los Angeles, California. It is a member of the Southern California Cricket Association. The club was formed in 1932 by British actor and cricketer C. Aubrey Smith.

David Niven English actor and novelist

James David Graham Niven was a British actor, memoirist and novelist. His many roles included Squadron Leader Peter Carter in A Matter of Life and Death, Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days, and Sir Charles Lytton in The Pink Panther. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in Separate Tables (1958).

Laurence Olivier English actor, director and producer

Laurence Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier, was an English actor and director who, along with his contemporaries Ralph Richardson, Peggy Ashcroft and John Gielgud, dominated the British stage of the mid-20th century. He also worked in films throughout his career, playing more than fifty cinema roles. Late in his career, he had considerable success in television roles.

Acting career

C. Aubrey Smith (1940) C Aubrey Smith in Waterloo Bridge trailer.jpg
C. Aubrey Smith (1940)

Smith began acting on the London stage in 1895. His first major role was in The Prisoner of Zenda the following year, playing the dual lead roles of king and look-alike. Forty-one years later, he appeared in the most acclaimed film version of the novel, this time as the wise old advisor. When Raymond Massey asked him to help him understand the role of Black Michael, he answered "My dear Ray, in my time I have played every part in The Prisoner of Zenda except Princess Flavia. And I always had trouble with Black Michael!" [11] He made his Broadway debut as early as 1895 in The Notorious Mrs. Ebbsmith. In 1907 he appeared with Marie Doro in The Morals of Marcus, a play Doro later made into a silent film. Smith later appeared in a revival of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion in the starring role of Henry Higgins.

West End theatre term for mainstream professional theatre staged in and near the West End of London

West End theatre is a common term for mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres of "Theatreland" in and near the West End of London. Along with New York City's Broadway theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world. Seeing a West End show is a common tourist activity in London.

A look-alike, double, or doppelgänger is a person, real or fictitious, who closely resembles another person—respectively, real or fictitious—in appearance.

Raymond Massey actor

Raymond Hart Massey was a Canadian actor, known for his commanding, stage-trained voice. For his lead role in Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940), Massey was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. He also was well known for playing Dr. Gillespie in the NBC television series Dr. Kildare (1961–1966). Today he is most often seen in his role as the malevolent Jonathan Brewster, who looks like Boris Karloff, and violently attacks anyone who mentions the resemblance, in Arsenic and Old Lace (1944).

Smith appeared in early films for the nascent British film industry, starring in The Bump in 1920 (written by A. A. Milne for the company Minerva Films, which was founded in 1920 by the actor Leslie Howard and his friend and story editor Adrian Brunel). [12] Smith later went to Hollywood where he had a successful career as a character actor playing either officer or gentleman roles. He was also regarded as being the unofficial leader of the British film industry colony in Hollywood, which Sheridan Morley characterised as the Hollywood Raj, [13] a select group of British actors who were seen to be colonising the capital of the film business in the 1930s. Other film stars considered to be "members" of this select group were David Niven (whom Smith treated like a son), Ronald Colman, Rex Harrison, Robert Coote, Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce (whose daughter's wedding he had attended as best man), Leslie Howard (whom Smith had known since working with him on early films in London), [14] and Patric Knowles.

Smith expected his fellow countrymen to report for regular duty at his Hollywood Cricket Club. Anyone who refused was known to "incur his displeasure".[ citation needed ] Fiercely patriotic, Smith became openly critical of the British actors of enlistment age who did not return to fight after the outbreak of World War II in 1939. Smith loved playing on his status as Hollywood's "Englishman in Residence". His bushy eyebrows, beady eyes, handlebar moustache, and height of 6'2" made him one of the most recognisable faces in Hollywood.

Smith starred alongside such screen legends as leading ladies Greta Garbo, Elizabeth Taylor, and Vivien Leigh and the actors Clark Gable, Laurence Olivier, Ronald Colman, Maurice Chevalier, and Gary Cooper. His films include such classics as The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), The Four Feathers (1939), Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941), And Then There Were None (1945) in which he played General Mandrake, and the 1949 remake of Little Women starring Elizabeth Taylor and Janet Leigh, in which he portrayed the aged grandfather of Laurie Lawrence, (played by a young Peter Lawford), who generously gives a piano to the frail Beth March (played by Margaret O'Brien). He also appeared as the father of Maureen O'Sullivan in Tarzan the Ape Man , the first Tarzan film with Johnny Weissmüller. Smith also played a leading role as the Earl of Dorincourt in David O. Selznick's literature adaption Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936).

He appears in Dennis Wheatley's 1934 thriller, Such Power is Dangerous, about an attempt to take over Hollywood, under the fictitious name of 'Warren Hastings Rook' (rather than Charles Aubrey Smith). Author Evelyn Waugh leaned heavily on Smith in drawing the character of Sir Ambrose Abercrombie for Waugh's 1948 satire of Hollywood The Loved One . Commander McBragg in the TV cartoon Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales is a parody of him. The cartoon character also appears in The Simpsons episode "The Seemingly Never-Ending Story".


Smith died from pneumonia at home in Beverly Hills on 20 December 1948, aged 85. He was survived by his wife and their daughter, Honor. [15] His body was cremated and nine months later, in accordance with his instructions, its ashes were returned to England and interred in his mother's grave at St Leonard's churchyard in Hove, Sussex.

Honours and awards

Smith has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. [16]

Smith was an officer in the Legion of Frontiersmen.

In 1933, he was on the first board of the Screen Actors Guild.

He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1938 [17] and was knighted by King George VI in 1944 [18] for services to Anglo-American amity. [19] [20] [21]

Complete filmography

See also

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  1. Who Was Who in the Theatre: 1912–1976 vol. 4, Q-Z, p. 2208; compiled from editions originally published annually by John Parker, this 1976 version by Gale Research.
  2. 1 2 3 Wills, Walter H., 1907. The Anglo-African Who's Who, Jeppestown Press, United Kingdom. p. 337. ISBN   0-9553936-3-9
  3. "Smith, Charles Aubrey (SMT881CA)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  4. 1 2 Frindall, Bill (2009). Ask Bearders. BBC Books. p. 46. ISBN   978-1-84607-880-4.
  5. "The Greatest: One Test Wonders". International Cricket Council. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  6. Sir Aubrey Smith. Content-uk.cricinfo.com. Retrieved on 19 May 2018.
  7. South Africa v England at Port Elizabeth, 1889. Content-uk.cricinfo.com. Retrieved on 19 May 2018.
  8. Eforgan, E. (2010) Leslie Howard: The Lost Actor. London: Vallentine Mitchell; p. 94, ISBN   978-0-85303-971-6.
  9. Jones, Grahame L (7 October 1989). "Howzat? It's Cricket: Popular From Karachi to Kingston, the Sport Is Also Alive and Well in the Southland". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  10. Lynch, Steven (28 February 2005). "The cricketer who died on the Titanic". Cricinfo Magazine. ESPN. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  11. Fairbanks, Douglas (1988). Salad Days (First ed.). New York: Doubleday. p. 275. ISBN   0-385-17404-7.
  12. Eforgan, E. (2010) Leslie Howard: The Lost Actor. London: Vallentine Mitchell; chapter 3. ISBN   978-0-85303-971-6.
  13. Sheridan Morley: The Brits in Hollywood: Tales from the Hollywood Raj (UK: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1983) ISBN   0-297-78289-4, also published as Tales From The Hollywood Raj: The British, the Movies, and Tinseltown (New York: Viking, 1983), ISBN   0-670-69162-3.
  14. Eforgan, E. (2010) Leslie Howard: The Lost Actor London: Vallentine Mitchell; chapter 5. ISBN   978-0-85303-971-6.
  15. "The Final Curtain". Billboard. 1 January 1949. Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  16. C. Aubrey Smith – Awards. IMDb
  17. Commanders of the Order of the British Empire – Supplement to The London Gazette, 9 June 1938, p. 3701.
  18. Recipients of the Honour of Knighthood – Supplement to The London Gazette, 2 June 1944, p. 2566.
  19. C. Aubrey Smith – Biography. IMDb
  20. The Home of CricketArchive. Cricketarchive.com (20 December 1948). Retrieved on 2018-05-19.
  21. Obituary Variety , 22 December 1948, p. 55.
  22. "Silent Preservation Premieres: The Unwanted (1924) & A Hundred Years Ago – French shorts". Cinemamuseum.org.uk (8 September 2011). Retrieved on 2018-05-19.

Further reading

Sporting positions
Preceded by
W. G. Grace
English national cricket captain
Succeeded by
W. G. Grace
Preceded by
Frederick Lucas
Sussex county cricket captain
Succeeded by
Billy Newham
Preceded by
Billy Newham
Sussex county cricket captain
Succeeded by
Billy Newham