Flynn in Vancouver 1936—Cricket, anyone?

17 Apr

Here is the 1985 article on Errol Flynn's Vancouver visit. Editorial comments [by me] are in square brackets.


The Vancouver Courier — Wednesday 27 February 1985, page 14

Saga of the Hollywood XI


We were “bowled over” by the response we received to a cricket photo published in the February 6 [1985] edition of the Courier, under the title “Those Wicket Ways”.

Donated by a local cricketer, the photograph taken [Saturday] July 4, 1936 at Brockton Point [in Stanley Park, Vancouver], showed members of the Hollywood Cricket Club posing with their Vancouver counterparts.

What made the photo all the more interesting was that Errol Flynn — who had just completed his first major motion picture”Captain Blood” — was seated in the front row. Seated in the centre of the front row was veteran English actor C. Aubrey Smith, captain of the Hollywood cricketers. [Flynn and Bruce had just finished CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE. According to the TCM website, production started 30 March and wrapped 1 July 1936.]

With just that smidgen of information, we solicited help from Courier readers in identifying other members of both teams.
We were delighted with the response from all the people who wrote, called or came to visit us and can now complete most of the faces and stories behind the photo.

We quickly learned that the large gentleman wearing the wicket keeper’s pads seated adjacent to Flynn was “Dr. Watson” — veteran actor Nigel Bruce who so ably supported Basil Rathbone in the many Sherlock Holmes films.

A local celebrity was Alan Roughton, who had a radio program on CKMO (now CFUN) for 15 years called “British Varieties” and was also on the CBC Farm Broadcast and a local series entitled “Dick and Dolly”. Roughton was also in the original Theatre Under The Stars for nine seasons and was a long-time Kerrisdale resident.

A most pleasant visitor to our offices was Reginald Burleigh, himself in the photograph, and now a resident of Crofton Manor. A sprightly and active 86 year-old, Burleigh fondly recalled memories of those days.

“The Vancouver Cricket Club originally went down to play the Hollywood team in 1935 and they reciprocated by travelling here the next year. I met Flynn — he seemed a very approachable chap. And I really got along quite famously with C. Aubrey Smith. He wired me one year, saying: ‘Reggie, we’re short of cricket bats…can you help’. Well, I got some bats together and sent them right off.”

Burleigh said Smith’s nickname was “Round-the-Corner-Smith,” for his habit of suddenly nipping out from behind the umpire and firing down his fast ball.

This fact is confirmed in the late David Niven’s book, “The Moon’s A Balloon” in which he relates the origins of the club. Niven wrote that there were as many as 22 cricket clubs in the Hollywood area in the 30’s, what with the influx of British filmdom. Smith, incidentally, named his house on Mulholland Drive “The Round Corner,” and on his roof were three cricket stumps and a bat serving as a weather vane.

Other notables on the Hollywood team were Henry Stephenson (he played Oliver Twist’s father in the movie); E.E. Clive, Eric Blore and H.B. Warner.

A very descriptive letter of the match that actual day was supplied by Geoffrey Parkinson of Vancouver:

“…My father, Cecil Parkinson, played for Vancouver in the match and I was a spectator. I vividly remember the match because of the contrast in scene from the usually drowsy spectacle at Upper Brockton of a few friends and relatives sitting around the boundary in deck chairs.

“Instead, on this occasion, the ground was packed with an enthusiastic but non-cricketing crowd consisting principally of teenage girls anxious to see and get close to Errol Flynn.”

Another lesser-known Hollywood actor in the photo (right of C. Aubrey Smith) was Frank Lawton, who appeared in Noel Coward’s film “Cavalcade” and married British songstress Evelyn Laye.

Seated directly centre in the front row was J. Fyfe Smith, who arrived from Australia here in 1904. He opened the J. Fyfe Smith Co. Ltd. Hardwood Lumber Distribution yard on Seymour Street where the Hudson Bay parking lot is present!y located.

He was also involved in rugby and was instrumental in both rugby and cricket trips to Japan and China.

Others identified on the Vancouver team were Dr. Harry Warren, Professor Emeritus of UBC; Bunny Hobday, Meredith Berridge, Judge Stan Remnant, Fergie Ward, E.H. Grubbe, R.P. Woodward, Cecil Parkinson, Gerry O’Hara and David Seaton.

The Courier would like to thank George Hutchinson, W.B. MacWilliam, Pat Waldron, E. Sheppard, Vic Gowan, Robert Berridge, Reg Burleigh, Geoff Parkinson, Lyall Bell, G.F. Pearson and Doug Sturrock for their informative letters.

P.S. While Flynn went on to greater fame, ironically he died in Vancouver at the age of 50 while in the company of a young starlet named Beverly Aadland, the year was 1959…as Reg Burleigh aptly put it…”he left us at age 50 . . . not out.”

[The club house at Brockton oval still stands, and the photo may be hanging yet on a wall. It was still on display a few years ago. I don't know about now.]

— daveboz


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  1. Anonymous

    April 12, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    I've just finished reading David Rayvern Allen's rather good, 'Sir Aubrey', a biography of the legendary character actor and cricketer C. Aubrey Smith. The book briefly looks at this match, according to the author C.Aubrey had the players in bed at 10.00pm the night before the match; although there are doubts that Flynn and Frank Lawton actually stuck to the curfew.
    Errol made 14 runs before being bowled out.
    The book itself is a great read and fully captures what a great man C.Aubrey was, loved by all and a very fine actor to boot. This has been a bit of a collectors item over the years and very, very tough to get hold of but luckily was reprinted in 2005 and much easier to get hold of now. Defintely recommended.
    best wishes,

  2. Anonymous

    April 12, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    Hi Brian;
    Thank you for letting us know, which is very appreciated!
    Does it give a good account and reading about Errol's days of cricket?
    Have to look into it!
    Btw, are you going to participate with the quizzes? I am sure you could come up with some great questions with all your fantastic knowledge! What about the present question? I am quite sure you must have come across it!
    Please let me know about the book and how much is in it about Errol being Cricket!
    Take care,

  3. Anonymous

    April 12, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    Hi Tina,
    There is very little mention of Flynn apart from the one cricket match and I have pretty much given you all the Flynn content. I thought the extra information to the original post would be an interesting bit of trivia (we now know Errol scored 14 runs, looking back now it would have made a great quiz question, wouldn't it?)
    I bought the book, not for any Flynn content, but to find out more about C.Aubrey; who I have always admired.
    I very much doubt I will be participating in the quizzes. My knowledge on Flynn is not what it once was and even then it was never all that. So I would imagine most of the questions would go right over my head.
    best wishes,

  4. Anonymous

    April 12, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    Hi David;
    This is a wonderful posting and I never saw it to this day! I wonder where I was?
    An absolute great account of Errol's Cricket days and so many other notables!
    I was just thinking, I think that was Errol's first visit to Vancouver and I don't think that he ever was there back again, unless somebody has information to the contrary. How ironical that he had a first and last final visit in that town. Meaning at the beginning of his carrier and at the end of it!

  5. Anonymous

    April 13, 2011 at 3:51 am

    Hi Brian;
    Thank you for your reply! You are right that would have been a great Quiz question, buy who would have known it? I think that is not a news item I ever heard anybody mentioning or ever read in any of the books.
    Take care til the next time we talk!