Howzat For Hollywood

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2017060320171207

Jim Carter tells the story of the Hollywood Cricket Club.

In the heyday of Hollywood, there was only one place to be if you were an aspiring British actor - the Hollywood Cricket Club. Jim Carter tells the story of the club's glory days when Errol Flynn and David Niven flashed the willow, Nigel Bruce and Basil Rathbone waited for a tickle at slip, Boris Karloff kept wicket, and Elizabeth Taylor and Olivia De Havilland were in the pavilion preparing the cream teas.

The club was presided over by C. Aubrey Smith who played for - and captained - England in a test match against South Africa in 1899, before moving to Hollywood to pursue a career in the burgeoning film industry. His bushy eyebrows, beady eyes, handlebar moustache and towering presence made him instantly recognisable, and he featured in 113 films during a 30 year year career.

Smith commanded any visiting British actors to play for the team. Famously, when Laurence Olivier arrived in Hollywood to start filming Wuthering Heights, he found a pair of flannels in his hotel suite, and a handwritten note from Smith saying "Net practice - tomorrow at 4".

Actor Jim Carter - a proud ex-Chairman of Hampstead Cricket Club - explores the links between the Hollywood Club and cricket's controlling elite (it was rumoured that MCC bastion Gubby Allen once dated Joan Crawford after meeting at a match), talks to director Sam Mendes about how cricket glued the community together, meets the man who took Boris Karloff to The Oval test match of 1953, and uncovers the connection between the Hollywood Cricket Club and the foundation of the Screen Actors Guild, the union which protected the rights of those working in the film industry.

Producers: David Prest and Oliver Morris.
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.