Buster Crabbe

Clarence Linden "Buster " Crabbe ( born February 7, 1908 in Oakland, † April 23, 1983 in Scottsdale ) was an American swimmer and actor.

Buster Crabbe, the Olympic champion, held 35 national records and 16 world records in swimming. As an actor, he participated in over one hundred films and several serial and was the only performer of all three popular comic book heroes of the 1930s embodied: Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and Tarzan.


Youth, swimmers and early film career

Clarence Linden "Buster " Crabbe was born on February 7, 1908 in Oakland, California. When he was 18 months old, his family moved to Hawaii, where his father took over the post of overseer on a pineapple plantation. There the little Buster learned to swim under ideal conditions and with a great model: Duke Kahanamoku was not only the founder of modern surfing, but also more time Olympic gold medalist in swimming.

1927 Crabbe returned to the mainland to study at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles Jura. Because of its success for the high school team he was nominated for the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam. While his team-mate Johnny Weissmuller swam two gold, bronze Crabbe reached over 1,500 meters freestyle.

Weissmuller and Crabbe flirted with the film, and when MGM in 1931 for her first Tarzan film was looking for a buoyant sports star, Crabbe, who has worked at the time as an extra in the John Wayne movie " That's My Boy" was looked at and immediately sorted out again. Got the role Johnny Weissmuller, who played in 12 Tarzan films from then on for 16 years in the title role.

Crabbe joined the University from 1931, but remained active in sports. In the summer of 1932 he participated at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. About 400 meters freestyle Crabbe had a thrilling duel with the French world record holder Jean Taris. This led from the start, but Crabbe graduated about 25 meters in front of the goal to him and beat the French by a tenth of a second. His victory should remain the only U.S. gold medal in the male swimmers this Olympics, all other gold medals went to Japan.

Through the Olympic victory Hollywood became aware of Crabbe again. Paramount Pictures hired him for " Kaspa, the Lion Man" (Eng. " adventure on two continents "), which was thematically inspired by the popular Tarzan movies.

1933 Crabbe married his college love Adah Virginia Held. In the same year he was awarded with " Tarzan the Fearless" his first and only role as Tarzan and enrolled as a seventh in the list of Tarzan cast member. Against the popular movies with Weissmuller as Tarzan, the low-budget production could not keep up with audiences and critics.

The film was shot both serial as well as a feature film. When the serial came out, most movie theaters showed only the first episode and then gave up the other. Since no copies were archived, exists today only the long version of the film.

Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers

1936 actor for the title role in Flash Gordon was sought, the first true science fiction serial. Crabbe thought the idea was too outlandish for the cinema audience and would flop. However, he liked the comic strip and went to the audition with Universal Pictures to see who would play the role. When he saw the soldier producer Henry MacRae there, he went up to him and offered him the role on the spot. As it turned out, MacRae had seen some of Crabbe's films and chosen him as the ideal candidate, but thought that Paramount was in Crabbe under contract, would not release him.

The deal, however, came into being and Buster Crabbe turned not only the highly successful Initial Serial Flash Gordon, but struggled in subsequent films Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars ( 1938) and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe ( 1940) against Ming the Cruel. To similar as possible to see the comic book hero Flash Gordon, Crabbe had to dye their hair. This made him very embarrassed and in public, he always wore a hat. He was afraid that he nachpfiffen men.

As with " Buck Rogers " in 1939 and the second successful science fiction comic book of the 1930s was to be filmed, there was the view of the production company only a worthy title Starring: Buster Crabbe. Maybe it was also the fact that Crabbe was just cheaper than other actors, because even in this serial was saved front and rear. Were recycled as background shots from the futuristic musical " Just Imagine " (1930 ), decorations of "Flash Gordon" and even clothes that were previously not seen in years in Flash Gordon's Trip Mars.

Western, swimming pools and Television

From 1941 to 1946 turned Crabbe - sometimes under the name " Larry Crabbe " - for the B-movie production company, Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC ) to the 40 Western, often in the role of Billy the Kid or Billy Carson. In this low-budget productions ( his fee for " Prairie Rustlers " (1945 ), for example, was 3,000 dollars) was his sidekick Al "Fuzzy " St. John, who could already look back on a long career as a silent film comedians.

After 1946 Crabbe turned fewer films and began to build its own swimming pool company. He also toured for five years with a show called "Buster Crabbe 's Aqua Parade" by America and Europe. In 1950 he played for the first time along with Johnny Weissmuller in " The Jungle Goddess". This Weissmuller was the hero, the villain Crabbe mimed.

Early 1950s was the heyday of the B-movies over and Buster Crabbe got his own TV show, which was aimed at children and was later renamed " Buster's Buddies". He was more successful, however, with the title role in the series "Captain Galliant of the Foreign Legion" ( 1955-57 ), in which his son Cullen participated.

Died in 1957 Crabbe's daughter sands from anorexia. It concerned itself now increasingly with the swimming pool business, its products were sold in over 28 countries. In parallel, he ran a summer camp for young people, where the swimming was in the foreground and at least one swimming instructor from Hawaii, was always present.

1965 Buster Crabbe was inducted into the Hall of Fame International Swimming Sports. In 1970 he was guest of honor at the science fiction convention " MultiCon 70 " in Oklahoma City. His last world record he swam in 1971 in the age group Ü60 over 400 meters freestyle. In 1979, he starred in the remake of Buck Rogers film of a veteran pilot named " Gordon ", a reference to his signature role "Flash Gordon".

On April 23, 1983 ten days after his golden wedding Buster Crabbe died of a heart attack.

Filmography (selection)