C. Aubrey Smith
Sir Charles Aubrey Smith, CBE, known to movie-goers as C. Aubrey Smith, was an English cricketer and actor. He was knighted in 1944 for services to the theatre.
Smith was born in London, England and educated at Charterhouse School and St John’s College, Cambridge. 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.
As a cricketer, Smith was primarily a seam bowler, though he was also a useful lower-order batsman and slip fielder. His oddly curved bowling run-up gave him the nickname “Round the Corner Smith”. W. G. Grace commented that “it is rather startling when he suddenly appears at the bowling crease”. He played for Cambridge University 1882-85 and for Sussex at various times between 1882 and 1892. While in South Africa he captained the Johannesburg English XI. He captained England to victory in his only Test match, against South Africa at Port Elizabeth in 1888-89, taking five wickets for 19 runs in the first innings. In 1932 he founded the Hollywood Cricket Club and created a pitch with imported English grass. He attracted fellow expats such as David Niven, Laurence Olivier, Leslie Howard 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”. 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.”