Sir Charles Aubrey Smith was an actor and cricketer who was known in the U.S. primarily for his roles as upper-class Brits.
Born July 21, 1863, in London, Smith was the son of a physician and was educated at the Charterhouse School and St. John's College, Cambridge.
Smith was a man of versatile hobbies. He was, at various times, captain of the Sussex cricket team and of the English cricket teams in Australia and South Africa. He enjoyed carpentry and had a flair for painting. He once set Rudyard Kipling's "Barrack-Room Ballads" to music, and he was a better than average piano player.
After his cricket team went to South Africa he worked in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, then eagerly gave up business to join a stage company touring the provinces. His first professional appearance was in "The Idler" in 1892.
Smith first appeared on the London stage at the Garrick in 1895 in "The Notorious Mrs. Ebbsmith." Other major roles of the period were Black Michael in "The Prisoner of Zenda" and Frederick in "As You Like It." He was business manager of St. James' Theater, London, from 1898 but bobbed up again on the board as Maj. Lascelles in "The Ambassador." Many other theatrical roles followed.
Meanwhile, he had appeared in the British cinema, and in 1915 he made his debut in American motion pictures in "The Builder of Bridges."
After several more British pictures, he made a hit in the screen version of "The Bachelor Father." Other American roles were in "The Barbarian," "Morning Glory," "Queen Christina," "House of Rothschild," "The Prisoner of Zenda," "Garden of Allah," "Romeo and Juliet," "Lloyds of London," "Rebecca," "Clive of India," "Lives of a Bengal Lancer," "Cleopatra" and "The Gilded Lady."
His salty Briticisms and his portrayal of tolerance and understanding behind a rugged exterior made the tweedy, beetle-browed character actor a symbol of England to audiences.
He played command performances before King Edward VII and King George V, and was made a Commander of the British Empire before being knighted in 1944 in recognition of his part in bolstering Anglo-American amity.
Smith had just completed a part in the film version of "Little Women" (1949) and was preparing to play old Jolyon Forsyte in "The Forsyte Saga" when he developed pneumonia. He died at age 85 at his Beverly Hills home on Dec. 20, 1948.