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Buster Crabbe Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (1)  | Trivia (19)  | Personal Quotes (5)  | Salary (3)

Overview (4)

Born in Oakland, California, USA
Died in Scottsdale, Arizona, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameClarence Linden Crabbe
Height 6' 1" (1.85 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Buster Crabbe graduated from the University of Southern 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 400-meter freestyle swimming championship 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. Just prior to the film's release, Crabbe married his college sweetheart and gave himself one year to either make it as an actor or start law school at USC. Paramount put him in a number of Zane Grey westerns, then Universal Pictures gave him the lead in very successful sci-fi serials (Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers) from 1936 to 1940. In 1940, he began a string of Billy the Kid westerns for low-budget (very low-budget) studio PRC. After World War II, he 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 in 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. Buster Crabbe died at age 75 of a heart attack on April 23, 1983.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Spouse (1)

Adah Virginia Held (13 April 1933 - 23 April 1983) ( his death) ( 3 children)

Trivia (19)

Was on the 1928 and 1932 United States Olympic swimming teams. Won a gold medal in the 400 Meter Swimming Freestyle at the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Also won a bronze medal in the 1500 Meter Freestyle at Amsterdam.
In 1971, Crabbe broke the world swimming record for the over-sixties in the 400-meter free style.
Attended and graduated from Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii (1927).
Guest of Honor at "Multicon 70" science fiction convention (Oklahoma City, USA, June 18-21, 1970).
He was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6901 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California, on February 8, 1960.
He was the only actor who has played Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and Tarzan - the top three pulp heroes of the 1930s.
Crabbe did not test for the title role of his most famous film Flash Gordon (1936); in fact, he thought the idea was too far out for movie audiences to accept and would be a box-office flop. However, he was a huge fan of the comic strip and was curious to see who would be cast, so he went to the tryouts and stood in the back of the room watching the testing. The series' producer, Henry MacRae, saw him, came over and offered him the role right away. It turned out that MacRae had seen several of Crabbe's films and thought he would be perfect for the role, but the series was being made by Universal and Crabbe was under contract to Paramount, and MacRae did not think Paramount would loan him out. MacRae asked him if he would do the role if a deal could be worked out with Paramount. Crabbe said okay, a deal was arranged, and Crabbe became Flash Gordon.
Father of Cullen Crabbe; His daughter Caren Lynn "Sande" Crabbe (born July 14, 1936) died of anorexia at her maternal grandparents' home in Pacific Palisades on April 10, 1957. At the time of her death, she weighed only 60 pounds.
Grandson Nick Holt was head defensive football coach in 2006 at the University of Southern California, where Buster Crabbe graduated in 1931.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume One, 1981-1985, pages 192-193. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998.
Son of Edward Clinton Crabbe and wife Agnes Lucy McNamara.
First cousin four times removed of Confederate General James Longstreet (1821-1904).
In the 1970s, he was the commercial spokesperson for Continental Airlines.
Was a staunch conservative-minded Republican.
Inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1965.
Along with Charles Middleton and Frank Shannon, he is one of only three actors to appear in all three "Flash Gordon" serials: Flash Gordon (1936), Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938) and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940).
The self-described "King of the Serials," he starred in nine sound serials, more than any other actor: Tarzan the Fearless (1933), Flash Gordon (1936), Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938), Red Barry (1938), Buck Rogers (1939), Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940), The Sea Hound (1947), Pirates of the High Seas (1950) and King of the Congo (1952). Only William Desmond starred in more serials (ten), but all of them were silent.
He died ten days after his 50th wedding anniversary.
He died only three days before his Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940) co-star Shirley Deane.

Personal Quotes (5)

Some say my acting rose to the level of incompetence and then leveled off. I was a lot better actor than people gave me credit for. I didn't have any training, but I feel if I had been given the chance, I could have become a really good, top-rate actor. I didn't make it like a [Clark Gable] or [Charles Boyer]. But I wonder what would have happened if things had been different.
If you can believe it, we started my last movie for PRC on Monday and had it in the can on Thursday! That's when I decided I'd had enough and quit. I went in and told them I was through. They didn't even bat an eye. The next thing I knew they replaced me with Lash La Rue.
I was never one to think that because you are in the picture business, because you're an actor, you're a special person. Not at all, and I have little regard for any people who act that way. If you're lucky, you bring a little excitement to the world. If you're really lucky, you lend your fame to worthwhile causes -- as I was recently privileged to do raising money for the 1984 Olympics, or promoting healthy activities. Apart from that, you're just another human being, trying to make a living, doing it the best way you possibly can. That's the way I've always operated, and I will continue to do so, just doing the best I can.
[about working with cowboy stars Ken Maynard and his brother Kermit Maynard] The difference between Ken and Kermit was comparing night to day. Kermit always the gentleman, excellent horseman and a real pleasure to work with. Never an unkind word for anyone.
[on his acting in serials] We knocked off 13 chapters in five to six weeks and that didn't allow for much dramatic skill.

Salary (3)

The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi (1933) $200 /week
Prairie Rustlers (1945) $3,000
The Alien Dead (1980) $2,000

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