Cricket in a Hollywood Golden Era

The Hollywood Cricket Cub was founded in 1932 by C Aubrey Smith, an ex-pat British character actor who specialised in officer-class types, and was a good enough player to have captained England for one Test match in South Africa in 1889. Smith was helped by the hugely famous  actor Boris Karloff – in reality a south Londoner called William Pratt – and in its pomp the club could put out teams that featured Karloff, David Niven, Errol Flynn, Cary Grant, Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce – who played Dr Watson to Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes – and Ronald Colman. Female stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland would take tea in the clubhouse on Sunday afternoons.

Boris Karloff, pictured above bowling, at an match in 1948 for the OCC (Overseas Cricket Club).

 

Novelist Evelyn Waugh satirized the HCC and  C. Aubrey Smith in his novel “The Loved One”,  calling him Sir Auberon Abercrombie.

 

The city authorities gave a portion of Griffith Park, close to the film studios in Burbank. Another $30,000 was raised to build a clubhouse and English grass seed was imported for the pitch. PG Wodehouse, the highest-paid scriptwriter in Hollywood at the time, took the minutes at the first meeting. It was very much the thing to do and the place to be to seen for British actors – Laurence Olivier played one game.” Famously Olivier arrived at the Chateau Marmont Hotel in Hollywood in 1933 to find a handwritten note from Smith: “There will be nets tomorrow at 9am. I trust I shall see you there.”
 Elizabeth Taylor and Cary Grant attend a benefit match.

 

With such a cast, one imagines life was lively at the club. David Niven and Errol Flynn lived down on the beach in a place nicknamed Cirrhosis-by-the-Sea.

They enjoyed all the benefits that being a film star brought them to the absolute full. I think they were very naughty boys.  Sadly the glory days of the Hollywood Cricket Club are over. In the early era those actors knew their stock-in-trade was their Englishness and they maintained it through their lifestyle with the Hollywood Cricket Club. The more English they were the more saleable they were, in a way. It was a brand extension. Today though British actors routinely play American roles and what was once a three-week journey from the UK to LA can now be done in ten hours. So the social side, almost inevitably, died out.

Below:   Bob Hope and Bung Crosby with Joan Collins filming The Road to Hong Kong – the picture has no connection with the Hollywood Cricket Club – this film was made in England at Shepperton Film Studios – BUT then again the connection could just be CRICKET !!!

 Playing Cricket

 

 

 

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