Clarence Linden Crabbe II (//; February 7, 1908 – April 23, 1983), known professionally as Buster Crabbe, was an American two-time Olympic swimmer and movie actor. He won the 1932 Olympic gold medal for 400-meter freestyle swimming event, which launched his career onto the silver screen. He starred in a variety of popular feature films and serials released between 1933 and the 1950s. He is also the only actor to portray the top three syndicated comic-strip heroes of the 1930s: Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers.
Circa early 1940s
Clarence Linden Crabbe II
February 7, 1908
Oakland, California, U.S.
|Died||April 23, 1983 (aged 75)|
Scottsdale, Arizona, U.S.
|Resting place||Green Acres Memorial Park, Scottsdale, Arizona|
|Alma mater||University of Southern California|
|King of the Jungle|
Adah Virginia Held (m. 1933–1983)(his death)
|Relatives||Nick Holt (grandson)|
Crabbe was born in 1908 to Edward Clinton Simmons Crabbe, a real estate broker, and Lucy Agnes (née McNamara) Crabbe, in Oakland, California. He had a brother, Edward Clinton Simmons Crabbe Jr. (1909–1972). Crabbe grew up in Hawaii and graduated from Punahou School in Honolulu. He then attended the University of Southern California, where he was the school's first All-American swimmer (1931) and a 1931 NCAA freestyle titlist. He also became a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity before graduating from USC in 1931.
|Olympic medal record|
|Representing the United States|
|1932 Los Angeles||400 m freestyle|
|1928 Amsterdam||1500 m freestyle|
Crabbe competed in two Olympic Games as a swimmer. At the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, he won the bronze medal for the 1,500 meters freestyle, and at the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, he won the gold medal for the 400 meters freestyle when he beat Jean Taris of France by a tenth of a second.
In some movies he is credited as "Larry Crabbe" or "Larry (Buster) Crabbe". Crabbe's role in the Tarzan serial, Tarzan the Fearless (1933), began a career in which he starred in more than a hundred movies. In King of the Jungle (1933), Jungle Man (1941), and the serial King of the Congo (1952), he played typical "jungle man" roles. He starred in several popular films at this time, including The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi (1933) alongside Betty Grable and Search for Beauty (1934).
In 1936 he was picked over several stars to play Flash Gordon in the very successful Flash Gordon serial, followed by two sequels, released by Universal in 1938 and 1940. The series was shown later extensively on American television in the 1950s and 1960s, then edited for release on home video. He also starred as Buck Rogers for Universal playing the role with dark hair unlike Flash Gordon's blonde hair. In 1939, Crabbe reunited with Grable for a lead role in the mainstream comedy Million Dollar Legs.
During World War II Crabbe was contracted to Producers Releasing Corporation in lead roles from 1942-1946. He portrayed a Western folk-hero version of Billy the Kid in 13 films, and Billy Carson in 23 with Al St. John as his sidekick. As a 34-year-old married man, Crabbe had a deferment from the draft but made Army training films for the field artillery at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma along with St. John. Crabbe also played some jungle roles for the studio.
Following the war, Crabbe appeared opposite Weissmuller as a rival in two jungle films, Swamp Fire (1946) and Captive Girl (1950). Crabbe returned to the jungle for his final serial playing the role of Thun'da in King of the Congo (1952).
Crabbe starred in the television series, Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion (1955 to 1957) as Captain Michael Gallant; the adventure series aired on NBC. His real-life son, Cullen Crabbe, appeared in this show as the character "Cuffy Sanders".
Crabbe was featured frequently in archival footage in the children's television program, The Gabby Hayes Show. Prior to his playing "Captain Michael Gallant" Crabbe had hosted a local NYC based children's film wraparound television series The Buster Crabbe Show. The series, which was set against the backdrop of a ranch foreman's bunk house featured Crabbe engaging his viewers in games, stories, craftmaking, hobbies, informational segments, and interviews with guest performers and personalities in between reruns of old movie serials, westerns and comedies. The Buster Crabbe Show was seen weekday evenings on WOR-TV (Channel 9) in New York City from Monday March 12, 1951, to Friday October 3, 1952. The series returned to the NYC airways on WJZ-TV (Channel 7) (now WABC) on Monday September 21, 1953, and was retitled Buster's Buddies!. The WJZ TV version of the series included a studio audience of kids and became more of a kids' variety show. Despite the addition of the studio audience and Crabbe's personality, Buster's Buddies! was not a hit and it was canceled on Friday March 26, 1954.
Crabbe made regular television appearances, including one on an episode of the 1979 series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, in which he played a retired fighter pilot named "Brigadier Gordon" in honor of Flash Gordon. When Rogers (Gil Gerard) praises his flying, Gordon replies "I've been doing that sort of thing since before you were born." Rogers (who was born over 500 years earlier) responds "You think so, old timer?" to which Gordon replies "Young man, I know so." In fact, Crabbe had been playing "Buck Rogers" since long before Gerard was born.
Crabbe's Hollywood career waned somewhat in the 1950s and 1960s. The ever-industrious Crabbe became a stockbroker and businessman during this period. According to David Ragan's Movie Stars of the '30s, Crabbe owned a Southern California swimming pool-building company in later years. In the mid-1950s, Crabbe purchased the Adirondack campus of the Adirondack-Florida School, which advertised itself as a swim camp for youngsters aged eight to fourteen.
During this period of his life, Buster joined the swimming pool company Cascade Industries of Talmadge Road, Edison, New Jersey. In his capacity as Vice President of Sales, promoter and spokesman for Cascade – the world's first "package pool" company – he attended shopping mall openings and fairgrounds combining promotion of his swim camps and Cascade vinyl liner in-ground swimming pools. A pool line was named after him, and pools were sold by "Buster Crabbe Dealers" throughout the eastern seaboard and southern states from 1952 until 1990.
Though he followed other pursuits, he never stopped acting. However, his career in the 1950s and after was limited to lower-budget films, notably westerns such as Gunfighters of Abilene (1960), Arizona Raiders (1965) and The Bounty Killer (1965). He appeared as the father of a young swimmer in the comedy Swim Team (1979) and as a sheriff in the horror film Alien Dead (1980), followed by the feature film The Comeback Trail in 1982, one year before his death. Crabbe also appeared in television commercials for Hormel Chili, Icy Hot, and the Magic Mold Bodyshirt, an upper body male girdle of sorts, which purportedly helped in weight loss. Through Icy Hot, he was actively involved in arthritis education. Despite his numerous film and television appearances, he is best remembered today as one of the original action heroes of 1930s and 1940s cinema.
In the 1950s, two comic book series were published named after him. Eastern Color published 12 issues of Buster Crabbe Comics from 1951 to 1953, followed by Lev Gleason's The Amazing Adventures of Buster Crabbe for four issues in 1954.
In 1965, he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. During his senior swimming career Crabbe set 16 world and 35 national records. He continued swimming through his sixties, and in 1971 set a world record in his age group. In 1975, marketing guru Jeffrey Feinman, got him a five-book deal with Playboy Press. His first book Energistics is an exercise program for seniors. It sold quite well and went into several printings. Feinman then did a series of successful infomercials with Crabbe that marketed an array of products.
In 1933, he married Adah Virginia Held (1912 – 2004) and gave himself a year to make it as an actor. If he didn't, he would start law school at USC. Crabbe and his wife had two daughters, Sande and Susan, and a son, Cullen. In 1957, Sande died of Anorexia nervosa; she weighed 60 pounds at the time of her death at age 20. He was the maternal grandfather of the college football coach Nick Holt.
Select filmography (serials)Edit
- Tarzan the Fearless (1933) as Tarzan
- Flash Gordon (1936) as Flash Gordon
- Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938) as Flash Gordon
- Red Berry (1938) as Red Berry
- Buck Rogers (1939) as Buck Rogers
- Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940) as Flash Gordon
- The Sea Hound (1947) as Captain Silver
- Pirates of the High Seas (1950) as Jeff Drake
- King of the Congo (1952) as Captain Roger Drum and "Thun'da"
References and notesEdit
- Saxon, Wolfgang (1983-04-24). Buster Crabbe, Swimmer and Actor, Dies at 75. The New York Times, 24 April 1983. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/1983/04/24/obituaries/buster-crabbe-swimmer-and-actor-dies-at-75.html.
- As with many Hollywood stars there is a conflict between the birth date given in his official documents, and the one used in his Hollywood publicity biographies. His birth certificate and his Social Security application both use the birthdate of February 7, 1908. See Age fabrication.
- "Buster Crabbe profile". Philadelphia Inquirer. April 24, 1983. Retrieved April 20, 2010.
Buster Crabbe, 74, an Olympic gold medal swimmer who became the undisputed king of motion-picture adventure serials during the 1930s and 1940s, died yesterday of a heart attack at his home. A family spokesman said that Mr. Crabbe's death yesterday morning was 'very sudden' and that he had been in good health. Funeral arrangements were pending. The muscular, blond athlete became a Saturday afternoon hero playing Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers...
- "Buster Crabbe Wins 400 Meter Olympic Swim". Chicago Tribune. August 11, 1932. Retrieved April 20, 2010.
Clarence [Buster] Crabbe, who learned his swimming in the Hawaiian islands, came from behind today to stage a Surprise victory for the United States in the 400-meter free style finals of the Olympic games before a crowd of 12,000.
- "Who Won". Time magazine. April 11, 1932. Retrieved April 20, 2010.
Clarence (Buster) Crabbe, 22, of Los Angeles, ablest distance swimmer in the United States: the 1,500-metre race in the A.A.U. championships, at New Haven, lowering his own American record by 20.9 seconds to 19:45.6. Later he won two other championships: the 300 yard medley and 500 yard free style. Los Angeles won the team championship with 45 points to New York's 37.
- pp 31-32 Vermilye, Jerry Buster Crabbe: A Biofilmography McFarland, 29 Apr 2014
- Info about Crabbe hosting The Buster Crabbe Show/Buster's Buddies can be found in "The NYC Kids Shows Round Up" section of TVParty.Com and in Children's Television: The First Thirty Five Years: Live, Taped And Filmed Shows by George Woolery, Scarecrow Press, Inc.
- "Adirondack Museum". Adirondack Museum. Archived from the original on April 3, 2007. Retrieved June 25, 2013.
- "Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe". Fulvuedrive-in.com. March 20, 2006. Retrieved June 25, 2013.
- Buster Crabbe (USA) – Honor Swimmer profile at International Swimming Hall of Fame
- Buster Crabbe. sports-reference.com
- "Buster Crabbe Daughter Dies of Strange Illness. Doctor Refuses to Sign Death Certificate for Girl, 20, Who Weighed Only 60 Pounds". Los Angeles Times. April 12, 1957. Retrieved April 20, 2010.
An investigation into the strange death of Caren Lynn (Sande) Crabbe, 20-year-old daughter of actor and former Olympic Games Swimming Champion Buster Crabbe, disclosed yesterday the girl apparently died of malnutrition...
- Condotta, Bob (January 6, 2009). "UW football hires USC's Nick Holt as defensive coordinator". Seattle Times. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
- Buster Crabbe on IMDb
- Buster Crabbe at the TCM Movie Database
- Buster Crabbe at AllMovie
- Buster Crabbe at Find a Grave
- Buster Crabbe at Olympics at Sports-Reference.com
- Clarence Crabbe at the International Olympic Committee
- Buster Crabbe at Brian's Drive-In Theater
- Buster Crabbe biography by Chuck Anderson
| Actors to portray Tarzan