Smiles from the Don, Book

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Quick Overview

The curious title of this short book begs closer scrutiny of the famous quote by the English Cricket writer. For the English there was little about Bradman and his ruthless approach to batting to make them smile. Yet he was warmly welcomed wherever he went in the British Isles and deeply respected. To Australians he brought much joy often in dark times, creating many smiles to which he always seemed to beam back.

Balanced by Merchant’s chronological narrative of Bradman’s life, both on and off the field, in good times (his wedding) and in bad (reprimanded by the Board of Control in 1930 for writing on the game), the reader can observe Bradman’s face becoming more familiar as the caricaturists learn to better depict his physical features. The stony faced portraits of the late 20s soften to ones invariably sporting the wry grin which both intrigued and enraged supporters and competitors. By the mid-1930s the cheeky smile and craggy countenance are firmly in place. The tough, uncompromising and ever resourceful Australian ‘skipper’ has arrived.

Smiles from the Don, Book

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As with Merchant’s 2016 book on ceramics depicting Bradman, Sir Donald Bradman Memorabilia. the author has allowed space to describe the artists behind the portraits. We learn that Sam Wells (Melbourne Herald & Age), Arthur Mailey (former Test bowler and raconteur), Tom Glover (Sydney Sun) and Frank Reynolds (Punch), among others, were invariably formally trained artists, one-time radio announcers or, in Ernest Shephard’s case, the visual creator of Winnie-the-Pooh. The reader is left with a strong sense of the time of Don Bradman being one when humour was often used to convey information, that cricket was embedded in the Australian community and, yet again, that Don Bradman was utterly unique … ‘that rarest of Nature’s creations, an artist without the handicap of the artistic temperament, a genius with an eye for business.’ R.C. Robertson – Glasgow

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