It is 150 years this summer since the birth of a cricketer unique in Sussex Cricket history as the only player who also has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
Sir Aubrey Smith, the greatest actor-cricketer in the game's history, had a prolific career in the Sussex Cricket team at the end of the 19th century. ‘Round the corner’ Smith, so-called because his angled run up took him behind the umpire before he emerged at the bowling crease, took 342 wickets between 1882-96. He also captained England on their first tour to South Africa in 1888 and led them to victory in his only Test.
For a while Smith based himself in South Africa, running a successful stockbroking partnership. But he returned to London and began indulging himself in his other passion: acting.
At 6ft 4in with a handlebar moustache he epitomised the English gentleman. In 1896 he made his debut on the West End stage as Black Michael in the swashbuckling romance The Prisoner of Zenda and moved to Hollywood to make a career in acting.
He made an effortless transition from stage to film work in the 1920s as Hollywood’s ‘professional Englishman’. He starred alongside Hollywood greats such as David Niven, Elizabeth Taylor, Greta Garbo, Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable and Ronald Colman.
In 1932 he formed The Hollywood Cricket Club, laying his own pitch with imported grass-seed from England and took serious umbrage if any of the famous names he asked to play turned him down.
There was no shortage of fellow Englishmen happy to turn out for his team. Scorecards in the 1930s regularly featured the likes of PG Wodehouse, Niven, Laurence Olivier and Basil Rathbone.
Smith never forgot his Sussex roots, however. When he died in 1948, aged 85, his ashes returned to the county to be interred in his mother’s grave at St Leonards Church in Hove.