Reginald Leslie "Snowy" Baker (8 February 1884 – 2 December 1953) was an Australian athlete, sports promoter, and actor. Born in Surry Hills, an inner-city suburb of Sydney, New South Wales, Baker excelled at a number of sports, winning New South Wales swimming and boxing championships while still a teenager. Playing rugby union for Eastern Suburbs, he played several games for New South Wales against Queensland, and in 1904 represented Australia in two Test matches against Great Britain. At the 1908 London Olympics, Baker represented Australasia in swimming and diving, as well as taking part in the middleweight boxing event, in which he won a silver medal. He also excelled in horsemanship, water polo, running, rowing and cricket. However, "His stature as an athlete depends largely upon the enormous range rather than the outstanding excellence of his activities; it was as an entrepreneur-showman, publicist and businessman that he seems in retrospect to have been most important."
|Birth name||Reginald Leslie Baker|
|Date of birth||8 February 1884|
|Place of birth||Surry Hills, New South Wales, Australia|
|Date of death||2 December 1953(aged 69)|
|Place of death||Los Angeles, California, United States|
|Notable relative(s)||Harald Baker (brother)|
|Rugby union career|
Baker retired from competition after being injured in a motor-vehicle accident, and became involved in boxing promotion, bringing a number of top fighters from North America and Europe to fight in Australia. During this time, he began to act in a number of silent film roles which showcased his horsemanship, including The Enemy Within, The Man from Kangaroo, and The Shadow of Lightning Ridge. In 1920, Baker left Australia for the United States, where he became known as an entrepreneur and stunt coach. He died in 1953 in Los Angeles, California, from cerebrovascular disease.
Baker played 26 sports during his lifetime and excelled at most of them:
- At the age of 13 Baker was the New South Wales open swimming champion for 110 and 220 yards (100 and 200m).
- At 16 he played in the Australian Rugby Union team against Great Britain.
- At 17 he was middleweight boxing champion of New South Wales, and
- At 18 took the middleweight and heavyweight boxing titles of Australia.
Baker was also prominent at polo, water polo, cricket and diving, and proficient in surfing, fencing, hockey, rowing, yachting and equestrian events. He appeared at the 1908 London Olympics, representing Australasia in the 4 × 200 m freestyle relay, finishing fourth, and in the diving where he lost in the first round, coming seventh against the powerful Germans who dominated the sport at the time. He also took part in the Olympic boxing competition, where he lost the final match against Johnny Douglas, winning a silver medal. Baker is the only Australian athlete to complete in three separate sports at the Olympic Games, and he did it all at the same Olympics. Supporters of Snowy Baker, later claimed that Douglas' father was the referee and sole judge, but Douglas Sr was there merely to present the medals, in his role as president of the ABA, and had no part in the actual judging.
Rugby union careerEdit
Baker was a scrum-half who claimed two international rugby caps for Australia. His debut game was against Great Britain, at Sydney, on 2 July 1904.
Olympic boxing resultsEdit
After his retirement from professional sport following a motor vehicle accident, Baker turned his hand to boxing promotion. Working with a dubious, larger-than-life character by the name of Hugh D. "Huge Deal" McIntosh, Baker became one of the premier boxing promoters in Australia, bringing to the country many of the best boxers of the day from North America and Europe. Numbered among these was the New York light and welterweight Harry Stone. Baker was responsible for starting the careers of many of Australia's best pugilists, most notably Les Darcy. However, he and Darcy had a major falling out, resulting in the latter stowing away to the United States. Having publicly denounced Darcy over the matter of war service , when Darcy died in May 1917 from complications resulting from a botched dental procedure, many Australians blamed Baker for his death. It was this fall from grace in the eyes of the Australian public that would ultimately result in Baker's permanent relocation to California.
During this same time, he was also writing and editing a publication titled 'Snowy Baker's Magazine'. For many years, until he settled in the United States, Baker was Australia's leading actor and matinee idol. He was called "Australia's first action movie star".
Baker moved to California in the 1920s. While residing there he acted in some films, managed a polo club and coached such actors as Douglas Fairbanks in horse riding. He taught Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley Temple, Greta Garbo and Rudolph Valentino how to ride, fence and swim.
- The Enemy Within (1918)
- The Lure of the Bush (1918)
- The Man from Kangaroo (1920)
- The Shadow of Lightning Ridge (1920)
- The Jackeroo of Coolabong (1920) aka The Fighting Breed
- Sleeping Acres (1921)
- Pals (1923)
- His Last Race (1923)
- The White Panther (1924)
- Empire Builders (1924)
- The Sword of Valor (1924)
- Fighter's Paradise (1924)
- Big City (1937)
- The Kid From Texas (1939)
- The Bonded Woman (1922) - Los Angeles
- "Snowy Baker, Australia". Scrum.com. Retrieved 12 July 2010.
- "Snowy Baker". Olympedia. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
- Mandle W. F. "Baker, Reginald Leslie (Snowy) (1884–1953)", Australian Dictionary of Biography 1979. Accessed 30 January 2015
- "Reginald 'Snowy' Baker". Australian Olympic Committee. Retrieved 14 April 2017.
- Boxing Monthly Archived 13 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine
- Snowy Baker at sports-reference.com, accessed 30 January 2015
- Growden, Greg (2003). The Snowy Baker story. Milsons Point, N.S.W.: Random House Australia. pp. 329–330. ISBN 1740512367.
- Vagg, Stephen (12 July 2019). "Good Sports: Australian Athletes Who Act". Filmink.
- Vagg, Stephen (18 August 2019). "Australian Movie Stars". Filmink.
- Growden, Greg (2003). The Snowy Baker story. Milsons Point, N.S.W.: Random House Australia. pp. 317–318. ISBN 1740512367.
- Title Sunday Times, Sydney, 18 March 1923, at Trove
- Schallert, Edwin. Review: "Show Has Large Map; Bonded Woman, "Snowy" Baker, at Grauman's Los Angeles Times 8 August 1922: p.11.