F. Finch Smiles
(b. Ramsgate, **/**/1865? – d. **/**/1940?). Actor. Though the British Census of 1881 lists Francis Augustine Finch-Smiles (also known as Frank Finch Smiles) as a clerk with an insurance broker, in 1892 he was on a theatrical tour of the United States with the celebrated Richard Mansfield, playing a footman in the play Ten Thousand a Year. In 1898 he arrived in Victoria, British Columbia and by the following year he was heavily involved in the local theatre scene, not only as actor but also as stage manager of the Victoria Dramatic Club. When the Anglo Boer War broke out, Finch-Smiles joined the Royal Canadian Regiment to fight in South Africa and in February 1900 he was badly wounded at Paardeberg when he was shot in the left leg. By 1901 he was back in Victoria and was the proprietor of The Outlook, “a fortnightly journal of local and general interest”.
At some stage he got married (either in Canada or Great Britain) to Hannah Emmeline Healey and in June 1912 he left England for South Africa, with his wife and two young sons following in September. By 1916 he was in the town of Parys, in what was then the Orange Free State, where he was manager of the Recreation Department. In 1924 he acted in the only film he made in South Africa, namely The Reef of Stars, based on the novel by H. De Vere Stacpoole and directed by Joseph Albrecht.
This may have inspired him to try his luck in the United States, because later that year he turned up as Finch Smilesin his first Hollywood film, entitled For Sale, directed by George Archainbaud. He played a butler and this was a part he played again and again in a number of his subsequent 15 films. His most significant role was as Austin in Harry O. Hoyt’s adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (1925), though Austin is, of course, Professor Challenger’s butler. While in some films he wasn’t even credited, his directors included the likes of Clarence Brown, Maurice Tourneur, John Ford, Tod Browning and Sidney Franklin and amongst his fellow actors were Mary Pickford, Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer and Lon Chaney. It is not known what became of him after the introduction of sound, but he is reported to have died in 1940. His wife apparently predeceased him in 1928, presumably in California. (FO)
Victoria Daily Colonist, 9 April 1899
Victoria Daily Colonist, 25 May 1899
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