biography

Born Clarence Linden Crabbe in Oakland, California, on February 17, 1908, Buster Crabbe spent his formative years in Hawaii, where he learned to swim. Prior to winning a gold medal in 1932 for the 400-meter freestyle, Crabbe had graduated from college and attempted to break into films with a few bit parts while working as a stunt double. After his Olympic success, Crabbe landed a contract with Paramount Studios in 1933. Earlier, he had tested for the role of Tarzan at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer but lost out to Johnny Weissmuller. However, Paramount cast Crabbe in King of the Jungle, a thinly veiled Tarzan copycat film released in 1933. Later that year, producer Sol Lesser cast Crabbe in the Principal Pictures release Tarzan the Fearless to encourage a competition between Weissmuller and Crabbe. However, Fearless was poorly received by fans and critics alike, mostly due to its low production values and the popularity of Weissmuller's Tarzan the Ape Man. Although the film was shot both as a serial and as a feature, the full-length version is the only one that exists today. At the time of the serial's release, many theaters showed only the first episode of the serial and abandoned it. No print of the serial currently exists and is considered lost.

Buster Crabbe in the 1950sBuster CrabbeLloyd Nolan, John Howard, and Buster Crabbe

LEFT and CENTER: Various beefcake shots. RIGHT: Paramount Studio shot of Lloyd Nolan, John Howard, and Buster Crabbe on the beach

While the Tarzan film did not do much for his career, Crabbe eventually found screen fame in the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials. Between 1936 and 1940, Crabbe starred as Flash Gordon in three movie serials released by Universal Studios: Flash Gordon (1936); Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938); and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940). Some of these serials have alternate titles, resulting from their release to television. While Crabbe was the first actor to portray Flash Gordon onscreen, actor Gale Gordon voiced the radio serial in 1935. The movie serials with Crabbe were sold into a TV syndication package in the early 1950s. When his contract with Paramount lapsed in 1940, Crabbe headed over to poverty row studio PRC, where he acted in the studio's popular Billy the Kid western series. In 1947, Crabbe signed with Columbia to star in a string of action films.

the films of buster crabbe

Tarzan the Fearless (1933)

Buster CrabbeBuster CrabbeBuster Crabbe

From the poverty row production Tarzan the Fearless

You're Telling Me! (1934)

Jean Marsh and Buster Crabbe

With Jean Marsh in the W.C. Fields comedy You're Telling Me!, released by Paramount

Search for Beauty (1934)

Buster Crabbe and Ida LupinoIda Lupino and Buster Crabbe

Crabbe and Ida Lupino in the big-budget Paramount film Search for Beauty

Flash Gordon (1936)

Buster Crabbe as Flash GordonBuster Crabbe as Flash GordonBuster Crabbe as Flash GordonBuster Crabbe and Jean RogersBuster Crabbe and Jean Rogers

LEFT: Crabbe as the title character in the Universal serial Flash Gordon. RIGHT: With Jean Rogers

Forlorn River (1937)

Syd Saylor and Buster Crabbe

From the Paramount backlot western Forlorn River with Syd Saylor

Thrill of a Lifetime (1937)

Buster Crabbe and Betty GrableBuster Crabbe and Betty Grable

With Betty Grable in Thrill of a Lifetime

Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938)

Buster Crabbe as Flash GordonBuster Crabbe as Flash GordonBuster Crabbe as Flash GordonBuster Crabbe and  Charles Middleton

From Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars, aka Mars Attacks the World, with Jean Rogers as Dale Arden and Frank Shannon as Professor Zarkov

Call a Messenger (1939)

Buster Crabbe, Victor Jory, and Mary Carlisle

With Victor Jory and Mary Carlisle from the crime drama Call a Messenger

Buck Rogers (1939)

Buster Crabbe

Crabbe as the title character in the twelve-chapter Universal serial Buck Rogers

Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940)

Buster Crabbe and Carol Hughes

From the twelve-chapter Universal serial Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe with Carol Hughes

Billy the Kid Wanted (1941)

Buster Crabbe, Glenn Strange, and Al St. John

With Glenn Strange and Al St. John in PRC's Billy the Kid Wanted

Queen of Broadway (1942)

Rochelle Hudson and Buster Crabbe

From the PRC drama Queen of Broadway with Rochelle Hudson

Wildcat (1942)

Buster Crabbe

From Paramount's drama Wildcat

The Contender (1944)

Arline Judge and Buster Crabbe

With Arline Judge in the PRC crime drama The Contender

His Brother's Ghost (1945)

Buster Crabbe

Crabbe as Billy the Kid in the PRC western His Brother's Ghost with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John

Terrors on Horseback (1946)

Buster Crabbe

With Al 'Fuzzy' St. John in the PRC western His Brother's Ghost

Caged Fury (1948)

Buster Crabbe and Richard Denning

Crabbe wrestles with Richard Denning in Paramount's film noir thriller Caged Fury

King of the Congo (1952)

Buster CrabbeBuster Crabbe

From Columbia's low-budget actioner King of the Congo

Gunfighters of Abilene (1960)

Buster CrabbeBuster Crabbe and Rachel Ames

LEFT: As Kip in the western Gunfighters of Abilene, released by United Artists. RIGHT: With Rachel Ames

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-1981 NBC TV Series)

Buster Crabbe, Erin Gray, and Gil Gerard

Crabbe with Erin Gray and Gil Gerard in an episode of the NBC TV series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century titled Planet of the Slave Girls, which originally aired on September 27, 1979

later years

Crabbe's film career began to decline in the years following World War II. Although he still found roles into the 1950s, he focused his efforts on his swimming pool company, Buster Crabbe Swimming Pools, once a frequent prize on The Price is Right in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Also, from 1955 through 1957, Crabbe starred in the syndicated TV series Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion. Serving as co-stars were Fuzzy Knight and Crabbe's son Cullen.

In the 1960s Crabbe retired from the screen, but during the last years of his life he made a return to acting, taking roles in TV shows such as Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and acting in a few low-budget films, such as Alien Dead (1980). He died of a heart attack on April 23, 1983, at the age of 75. He was survived by his wife, son Cullen, and daughter Susan. Crabbe's other daughter, Caren, died of complications resulting from anorexia in 1957 at the age of 20.

the buster crabbe gallery

Buster CrabbeBuster CrabbeBuster CrabbeBuster Crabbe

Buster CrabbeBuster CrabbeBuster CrabbeBuster CrabbeBuster Crabbe

Buster Crabbe and Charles MiddletonBuster CrabbeBuster Crabbe

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filmography

FILM
The Comeback Trail (1982) with Chuck McCann
Alien Dead (1980) directed by Fred Olen Ray
Swim Team (1979) with Stephen Furst and Gunilla Hutton
Arizona Raiders (1965) with Audie Murphy, Gloria Talbott, and Ben Cooper
The Bounty Killer (1965) with Dan Duryea, Rod Cameron, Johnny Mack Brown, Audrey Dalton, and Richard Arlen
Gunfighters of Abilene (1960) with Rachel Ames
Badman's Country (1958) with George Montgomery, Neville Brand, and Russell Johnson
The Lawless Eighties (1957) with John Smith
Gun Brothers (1956) with Ann Robinson and Neville Brand
King of the Congo (1952) with Jack Ingram
Pirates of the High Seas (1950) with Tommy Farrell and Lois Hall
Captive Girl (1950) with Johnny Weissmuller
Caged Fury (1948) with Richard Denning, Mary Beth Hughes, and Sheila Ryan
The Sea Hound (1947) with Pamela Blake
Last of the Redmen (1947) with Jon Hall and Evelyn Ankers
Outlaw of the Plains (1946) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John and Bud Osborne
Swamp Fire (1946) with Johnny Weissmuller and Virginia Grey
Overland Riders (1946) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John, Slim Whitaker, and Bud Osborne
Prairie Badmen (1946) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John
Ghost of Hidden Valley (1946) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John
Terrors on Horseback (1946) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John and Kermit Maynard
Gentlemen with Guns (1946) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John
Prairie Rustlers (1945) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John, Bud Osborne, and Kermit Maynard
Fighting Bill Carson (1945) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John, Bud Osborne, and Kermit Maynard
Border Badmen (1945) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John and Arch Hall Sr.
Rustlers' Hideout (1945) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John
Stagecoach Outlaws (1945) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John and Kermit Maynard
The Gangster's Den (1945) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John and Kermit Maynard
Shadows of Death (1945) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John
His Brother's Ghost (1945) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John, Arch Hall Sr., and Bud Osborne
Lightning Raiders (1945) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John
Thundering Gun Slingers (1944) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John, Jack Ingram, and Kermit Maynard
Oath of Vengeance (1944) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John, Jack Ingram, and Kermit Maynard
Wild Horse Phantom (1944) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John, Kermit Maynard, and Budd Buster
Fuzzy Settles Down (1944) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John and Charles King
The Drifter (1944) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John, Jack Ingram, and Kermit Maynard
The Contender (1944) with Arline Judge and Glenn Strange
Valley of Vengeance (1944) with Glenn Strange
Frontier Outlaws (1944) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John, Jack Ingram, and Kermit Maynard
Nabonga (1944) with Julie London, Fifi D'Orsay, and Ray 'Crash' Corrigan
Devil Riders (1943) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John and Kermit Maynard
Blazing Frontier (1943) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John and Kermit Maynard
The Renegade (1943) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John
Cattle Stampede (1943) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John
Western Cyclone (1943) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John, Jack Ingram, Glenn Strange, and Kermit Maynard
Fugitive of the Plains (1943) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John, Jack Ingram, and Kermit Maynard
The Kid Rides Again (1943) with Al "Fuzzy' St. John, Iris Meredith, and Glenn Strange
Queen of Broadway (1942) with Rochelle Hudson
The Mysterious Rider (1942) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John and Kermit Maynard
Wildcat (1942) with Richard Arlen, Arline Judge, William Frawley, and Elisha Cook Jr.
Sheriff of Sage Valley (1942) with Dave O'Brien
Law and Order (1942) with Wanda McKay, Al St. John, Dave O'Brien, and Kenne Duncan
Jungle Siren (1942)
Billy the Kid's Smoking Guns (1942) with Dave O'Brien
Billy the Kid Trapped (1942) with Glenn Strange
Billy the Kid's Roundup (1941) with Glenn Strange
Billy the Kid Wanted (1941) with Dave O'Brien and Glenn Strange
Jungle Man (1941) with Charles Middleton
Sailor's Lady (1940) with Nancy Kelly, Jon Hall, Joan Davis, and Dana Andrews
Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940) with Carol Hughes, Charles Middleton, and Anne Gwynne
Buck Rogers (1939) with Constance Moore
Call a Messenger (1939) with Billy Halop, Huntz Hall, Robert Armstrong, Mary Carlisle, Anne Nagel, and Victor Jory
Colorado Sunset (1939) with Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, Barbara Pepper, and Elmo Lincoln
Million Dollar Legs (1939) with Betty Grable, Jackie Coogan, Donald O'Connor, and Richard Denning
Unmarried (1939) with Helen Twelvetrees, Buck Jones, Donald O'Connor, Virginia Vale, and Robert Armstrong
Tip-Off Girls (1938) with Mary Carlisle, Lloyd Nolan, J. Carrol Naish, Evelyn Brent, and Anthony Quinn
Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938) with Jean Rogers, Charles Middleton, Kenne Duncan, and Kane Richmond
Hunted Men (1938) with Mary Carlisle, Lloyd Nolan, J. Carrol Naish, and Anthony Quinn
Illegal Traffic (1938) with J. Carrol Naish, Mary Carlisle, Robert Preston, and Richard Denning
Red Barry (1938)
Forlorn River (1937)
Murder Goes to College (1937) with Roscoe Karns
Daughter of Shanghai (1937) with Anna May Wong, Charles Bickford, J. Carrol Naish, Evelyn Brent, and Anthony Quinn
King of Gamblers (1937) with Claire Trevor, Lloyd Nolan, and Akim Tamiroff
Sophie Lang Goes West (1937) with Robert Cummings
Thrill of a Lifetime (1937) with Judy Canova, Ben Blue, Johnny Downs, Betty Grable, and Leif Erickson
Arizona Mahoney (1936) with Robert Cummings
Desert Gold (1936) with Tom Keene, Marsha Hunt, Monte Blue, Robert Cummings, and Leif Erickson
Drift Fence (1936) with Katherine DeMille, Tom Keene, and Leif Erickson
The Arizona Raiders (1936)
Flash Gordon (1936) with Jean Rogers, Charles Middleton, and James Pierce
Lady Be Careful (1936) with Lew Ayres and Mary Carlisle
Rose Bowl (1936) with William Frawley and Ellen Drew
Nevada (1935) with Leif Erickson
Wanderer of the Wasteland (1935) with Dean Jagger, Gail Patrick, Monte Blue, Anna Q. Nilsson, Leif Erickson, and Fuzzy Knight
Hold 'Em Yale (1935) with Patricia Ellis, Cesar Romero, William Frawley, and Andy Devine
She Had To Choose (1934) with Isabel Jewell, Sally Blane, and Regis Toomey
We're Rich Again (1934) with Edna May Oliver, Billie Burke, Marian Nixon, and Reginald Denny
Badge of Honor (1934)
Search for Beauty (1934)
You're Telling Me! (1934) with W.C. Fields
Sweetheart of Sigma Chi (1933) with Charles Starrett, Grady Sutton, and Leif Erickson
To the Last Man (1933) with Randolph Scott and Shirley Temple
Man of the Forest (1933) with Randolph Scott
Tarzan the Fearless (1933) with Carlotta Monti
The Thundering Herd (1933) with Randolph Scott
Island of Lost Souls (1933) with Bela Lugosi
King of the Jungle (1933)
Hollywood on Parade (1932)

TELEVISION SERIES
Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion, 1955-1957 syndicated TV series with Crabbe in the title role. Costarring were Fuzzy Knight and Crabbe's son Cullen Crabbe

TELEVISION GUEST APPEARANCES
B.J. and the Bear, episode S.T.U.N.T., originally aired March 31, 1981
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, episode Planet of the Slave Girls, originally aired September 27, 1979
The Red Skelton Show, episode Freddie in Las Vegas, originally aired January 19, 1960
The Further Adventures of Ellery Queen, episode This Murder Comes to You Live, originally aired June 5, 1959
The Red Skelton Show, episode Desert Island, originally aired May 15, 1956
Star Tonight, episode Night, Be Quiet, originally aired November 3, 1955
Kraft Television Theatre, episode Million Dollar Rookie, originally aired May 25, 1955
Star Tonight, episode The Murderer, originally aired March 17, 1955
Kraft Television Theatre, episode The Cornered Man, originally aired January 27, 1955
The Gulf Playhouse, episode Prophet in His Land, originally aired September 4, 1953
The Philco Television Playhouse, episode A Cowboy for Chris, originally aired May 18, 1952

links

Flash Gordon
Wow! Everything you ever wanted to know about Flash Gordon is readily available at the Flash Gordon site! Very slick, with great graphics and photos of Buster Crabbe and many others.

buster crabbe film now showing

Watch Buster Crabbe's 1942 Paramount drama Wildcat

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