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Buster Crabbe was born Clarence Linden Crabbe II in Oakland, California in 1908. He was named for his grandfather, and he was nicknamed "Buster" at an early age. Buster was raised in Hawaii, where he became a great swimmer, and he was went to college at USC, and was in both the 1928 and 1932 Olympic Games, and he medaled in both. He got bit parts in movies starting in 1930, but after he married his girlfriend, Adah Held, in 1933, he set about trying to become a full-time actor. It seemed he would have been a natural to play Tarzan in 1932's Tarzan the Ape Man, but that part went to the winner of five Olympic medals, Johnny Weissmuller. But in 1933 Paramount Pictures decided to make an imitation Tarzan movie (it was King of the Jungle, starring "Kaspa the Lion Man", but everyone "knew" he was Tarzan!), and Crabbe got the part. That got him the role of Tarzan in PDC's Sol Lesser's Tarzan the Fearless the same year, but it had a much smaller budget than the MGM Tarzans. Buster had signed a contract with Paramount, and he appeared in lots of their movies over the next three years, usually billed as Larry 'Buster' Crabbe, but they really didn't know what to do with him. In 1936 he starred in Flash Gordon for Universal Pictures (based on the classic Alex Raymond newspaper comic strip), and that is the role he is most remembered for, and it was released in both a serial and feature version, and was followed by two sequels, Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars, and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. Original movie posters from all three of these movies are extremely rare and quite desirable! In 1938, Crabbe starred in another newspaper strip adaptation, Red Barry, and in 1939 he was Buck Rogers! Crabbe had played in some Paramount westerns, and he made a series of westerns for PRC, starring as "Billy the Kid" starting in 1941. By the 1950s Crabbe's movie career had slowed greatly, and he starred in a TV show, Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion, and he got his real life son cast on the show as well. In the mid 1950s, he bought a swimming camp for kids, and also got heavily involved in a company that sold swimming pools, and these business pursuits meant he did little acting. You may remember him from his TV commercials in the 1970s where he pitched the Magic Mold Bodyshirt, and he modeled it himself, and looked great! Crabbe was still married to his college sweetheart, and they remained married for 50 years, Buster passed away in 1983 at the age of 75. Right before he passed away, he starred in a wacky movie, The Comeback Trail, a sort of rip-off of The Producers, where two promoters take an over the hill former cowboy star, and cast him in a movie, and give him dangerous stunts to perform in the hopes he will drop dead and they can collect the insurance on him!
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