Buster Crabbe

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Duke Kahanamoku, Buster Crabbe, Stubby Kruger and Johnny Weissmuller shown in El Segundo, California
Clarence Linden "Buster" Crabbe II (7 February 1908 – 23 April 1983) was an American competitive swimmer and actor. He won the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games gold medal for 400m freestyle and the bronze medal in the 1500m freestyle in the 1928 Olympics before subsequently breaking into acting. In 1971, Crabbe broke the world swimming record for the 60-64 masters swimming age group in the 400m freestyle.

Crabbe graduated from Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii and the University of Southern California and was inducted in the Hawaii Swimming Hall of Fame.


Acting Career

He starred in a number of popular films in the 1930s and 1940s. He also played the title role in the serials Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers and was only actor who has played Tarzan, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon - the top 3 pulp fiction heroes of the 1930s. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6901 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.

In 1931, while working on That's My Boy (1932) for Columbia Pictures, he was tested by MGM for Tarzan and rejected. Paramount Pictures put him in King of the Jungle (1933) as Kaspa, the Lion Man (after a book of that title but clearly a copy of the Tarzan stories). Publicity for this film emphasized his having won the 1932 Olympic 400m freestyle and suggested a rivalry with Johnny Weissmuller. Producer Sol Lesser wanted Crabbe for an independent Tarzan the Fearless (1933), though he first had to get James Pierce to waive rights to the part already promised to him by his father-in-law, Edgar Rice Burroughs. The film was released as both a feature and a serial; most houses showed only the first serial episode, which critics panned as a badly organized feature.

Paramount put him in a number of Zane Grey westerns, then Universal Pictures gave him the lead him in very successful sci-fi serials (Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers) from 1936-40. In 1940, he began a string of Billy the Kid westerns for low-budget (very low-budget) studio PRC and starred in Swamp Fire, a film starring him and Johnny Weissmuller. After World War II, he had devoted much of his time to his swimming pool corporation and operation of a boys' camp in New York.

In 1950, he made the serials Pirates of the High Seas (1950) and King of the Congo (1952). In addition, he was very active on television in the 1950s. In 1953, he hosted a local show in New York City that featured his serials. He played the title role of the adventure series, Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion (1955). During television's "Golden Age", he had several "meaty" lead roles on such weekly anthology series as "Kraft Theater" ("Million Dollar Rookie") and "Philco Television Playhouse" ("Cowboy for Chris") He later returned to western features to play Wyatt Earp in Badman's Country (1958) and gave a stellar performance.


Crabbe invested in, produced, and starred in The Aqua Parade, a 2-hour water show. In 1947, his show played in cities and state fairs across the United States over a 5-month period. The show got good reviews. Crabbe was in the water ballet and in a part of the show called "The Evolution of Swimming". After a successful run throughout the United States and Canada, the show went to Europe in 1950 where it ran into logistical and financial problems.


1908 Born as "Clarence Linden Crabbe" in Oakland 1910 US Census with the Crabbes in California 1928 Participated in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games 1931 Graduated from the University of Southern California 1932 Participated in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, won gold medal in 400m freestyle 1933 played title role in Tarzan the Fearless 1936 played title role in Flash Gordon 1938 played title role in Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars 1939 played title role in Buck Rogers 1940 played title role in Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe 1941 begins work with Producers Releasing Corporation in a variety of westerns and jungle films 1955 Start of Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion 1957 End of Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion 1960–1983 Sales VP and promoter of the Buster Crabbe range of Cascade swimming pools 1980 Guest-starred in the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century episode "Planet of the Slave Girls" as an aged pilot named "Brigadier Gordon," a tongue-in-cheek reference – and salute – to his Flash Gordon roles 1983 Died in Scottsdale, Arizona at age 75

Swamp Fire

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