Buster Crabbe


Larry 'Buster' Crabbe 1909 – 1983   Clarence Linden Crabbe was raised in Hawaii where he became a proficient swimmer.  He graduated from the University of Southern California (USC) in 1931.  Crabbe set many American swimming records, and was selected for the 1928 and 1932 Olympic swimming teams.  At the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, he had a disappointing fourth place in the 400 meter freestyle but earned a bronze medal in the 1500 meter freestyle swimming event.  And at the 1932 games in Los Angeles, Crabbe earned a gold medal in the 400 meter freestyle and set a new world record. 

Hollywood noticed the new Olympic champion, and his movie career began.  Crabbe became 'The Lord of the Jungle' in the 1933 serial, TARZAN THE FEARLESS.  Around the same time that Crabbe was in his loin cloth, friend and Olympic swimming champion Johnny Weissmuller was at MGM beginning his reign as the ultimate screen Tarzan.

During the next half dozen years, Crabbe appeared in many movies, some good and some not.  His best Paramount work is generally felt to be in about ten western adventures based on the novels of Zane Grey.  Paramount alsoloaned him out to Universal Pictures for a cliffhanger based on the Flash Gordon comic strip by Alex RaymondHe made 3 Flash Gordon serials, and one Buck Rogers serial.

PRC Movie Studio hired Buster Crabbe for B Westerns, and from 1941-1946, he would appear in about 36 westerns.  The initial entries had Crabbe as 'Billy the Kid' role, but his screen name was later changed to 'Billy Carson' (supposedly because of the negative connotation associated with 'Billy the Kid').

The remaining years of Crabbe's life included several more starring cliffhangers for Columbia Pictures; he did a few "nostalgia" westerns which featured a bunch of oldtime cowboy performers; along with son 'Cuffy' and comedian Fuzzy Knight, Crabbe starred in the CAPTAIN GALLANT OF THE FOREIGN LEGION TV series in the mid 1950s; there was the Buster Crabbe swimming pool company; he did an exercise book for arthritis sufferers; and he made an occasional TV appearance such as in the BUCK ROGERS TV show around 1980.


Buster Crabbe's Non-Western Movies:

King of the Jungle (1933) - Buster Crabbe stars as 'Kaspa the Lion Man' who was raised in the Jungle by animals but is then brought to the concrete Jungle of New York City as a Circus Attraction. Can Kaspa be tamed to live in the Big City?

KING OF THE JUNGLE (Paramount, 1933), directed by H. Bruce Humberstone, from Charles T. Stoneham's novel, "The Lion's Way," is an adventure story that capitalizes on the current success of TARZAN, THE APE MAN (MGM, 1932), that starred Olympic swimming champion Johnny Weissmuller. While it's quite evident for rival studios to come up with imitations of their own, this appears to have been the only one made during the height of all those "Tarzan" adventures and the long series of popular sequels and carbon copies. Paramount acquired its own Olympic swimming champion in the physique of Larry "Buster" Crabbe, much taller and broader shoulders than Weissmuller, in a Tarzan-like imitation as Kaspa, the Lion Man, but unlike "Tarzan," this one didn't develop into a "Kaspa" series in spite of it's somewhat left open conclusion.

NOTE:  Length of movie is 1 hr 10min

Buster Crabbe's Western Movies:


1.  Zane Grey’s Drift Fence (1936) - Buster Crabbe

Jim Traft (Benny Baker) gets rodeo champ Travis (Tom Keene) to take his place as the new owner of a ranch having trouble with rustlers. To stop the rustling Travis and his men build a drift fence. Out to stop them is Clay Jackson (Stanley Andrews) and his men led by Slinger Dunn (Buster Crabbe).

2.  Zane Grey’s Desert Gold (1936) - Tom Keene, Buster Crabbe, Robert Cummings

Chet Kasedon (Monte Blue) is after the Indians hidden gold mine but Chief Moya (Buster Crabbe) will not reveal it's location. He has also hired mining engineers Gale (Tom Keene) and Mortimer (Robert Cummings) to locate the mine.  When Gale sees Kasedon's cruelty to Moya, he switches sides.


After saving himself from hanging, Laramie Nelson (Buster Crabbe) saves Tracks Williams (Raymond Hatton) from the same fate. They then travel to Lindsay's ranch where they get jobs. There they run into Adams (Grant Withers) who they learn is planning to rustle Lindsay's horses.

4.  Forlorn River (1937) - Buster Crabbe

Visiting an old friend, Nevada (Buster Crabbe) and sidekick Weary (Syd Saylor) take jobs on a ranch rounding up horses.   But the buyer turns out to be Les Setter (Harvey Stephens), a man Nevada earlier caught robbing a bank.   Nevada knows Setter is a fake but bides his time waiting for Setter to make his move.   Setter knows this and Nevada soon finds himself in jail when Setter frames him for rustling.


5.  Billy the Kid Wanted (1941) - Buster Crabbe

First Billy the Kid movie starring Buster Crabbe.  Billy the Kid (Buster Crabbe) and his pal Jeff (Dave O'Brien) help their friend Fuzzy Jones (Al St. John) escape from jail, and the trio heads for Paradise Valley, where they find the Paradise Land Development Company, ran by Matt Brawley (Glenn Strange) and Jack Saunders (Charles King), is somewhat less than honest in their dealings with the homesteaders. They devise a plan to cause a split between Brawley and Saunders.

6.  Sheriff of Sage Valley (1942) - Buster Crabbe

Billy (Buster Crabbe) and his pals, on the run from the law again, travel to Sage Valley where Billy is made Sheriff.  The local outlaw gang is run by Kansas Ed (Charles King) who closely resembles Billy. 

Ed captures Billy and changing clothes with him, now plans to run the town as Sheriff.


7.  Devil Riders (1943) - Buster Crabbe

A crooked lawyer and his gang are trying to steal some government land meant for a stagecoach company. The company hires a cowboy (Buster Crabbe) to stop them


8. Devil Riders (1943) – Buster Crabbe: [another version]

Farrell is bringing in a stage line and Stone, who wants the land the stage line will get, is out to stop him. Farrell's friendly competitor is Billy Carson's (Buster Crabbe) Pony Express. To run the stage line out of business, Stone plans to start a war between the two competitors. First he has his men run off Billy's horses making it look like Farrell did it. Then he has Farrell shot making it look like Billy did it.

Randall (Glenn Strange) is trying to get the Governor (Karl Hackett) impeached so he can take over control of the state.  Knowing the Governor and Billy (Buster Crabbe) are good friends, he has Billy framed for murder.  Fuzzy (Al St. John) finds the shell and Billy sees it has a peculiar mark. Now they have to find the owner of that gun.

Billy (Buster Crabbe) breaks jail in Texas and travels to Sundown at the request of his friend Fuzzy (Al St. John).  There he runs into Mort Slade (I. Stanford Jolley) who is after a mortgage held by banker Ainsley (Edward Peil Sr.).  Slade's men rob the bank and then incite a run on the bank knowing Ainsley does not have enough money.
Billy the kid (Buster Crabbe) and his sidekick Fuzzy Jones (Al St. John) take jobs as cowboys driving cattle to market, ending up in the middle of a range war and dealing with an unscrupulous cattle buyer who uses his men to stampede other people's livestock, offering to round up and buy them at cut-rate prices.

Billy the Kid (Buster Crabbe) and his sidekick Fuzzy (Al St. John) get involved in a land dispute between a crooked railroad and the angry settlers that were the victims of the railroad's swindle.

13.  Fugitive of the Plains (1943) - Buster Crabbe

Billy the Kid (Buster Crabbe) learns that someone in Red Rock is impersonating him, causing a warrant to be issued for his arrest. On the way there he and Fuzzy Jones (Al St. John) witness a hold-up by a gang of outlaws led by Kate Shelly (Maxine Leslie) and Billy decides to join the gang in order to clear his name.

14.  Wild Horse Phantom (1944) - Buster Crabbe

Billy Carson (Buster Crabbe) gets the Governor to let Daggett (Kermit Maynard) and his gang escape from prison in hopes that they will lead him to the money they got when they robbed the bank.  Billy and Fuzzy (Al St. John) trail the gang to an old mine, but it looks like Billy's plan will fail when Daggett is unable to remember where he hid the money

15. Fuzzy Settles Down (1944) - Buster Crabbe
Wishing to settle down, Fuzzy (Al St. John) uses his reward money to buy a newspaper. 
He then raises money for the new telegraph line.  When it is stolen, Barlowe (Charles King) incites the towns people to hang him.  But his pal Billy Carson (Buster Crabbe) is at work to clear him.

16. His Brother's Ghost (1945)– Buster Crabbe:

Thorne and his gang are wiping out the ranchers. When they get to the Jones ranch they wound Andy. When he dies, Billy Carson (Buster Crabbe) has his brother Fuzzy become Andy's ghost. They then set out to bring in the gang.


17. Oath of Vengeance (1944) – Buster Crabbe:

Fuzzy opens a store only to find that everyone buys on credit. The absence of cash is due to the range war between the cattlemen and the farmers started by Kinney. The Sheriff being worthless, Billy (Buster) is quickly drawn into the conflict.


18. Shadows of Death (1945) – Buster Crabbe:

With the railroad coming to Red Rock, trouble is expected and Billy Carson (Buster Crabbe) has been sent out help his friend Fuzzy who is the town's Sheriff, Judge, and barber. When the man that sent Billy is murdered and the railroad location map stolen, broken match sticks point to Vic Landreau. While Billy tries to find the missing map, Landreau suspects Billy is on to him and plans to have him killed.


19. Billy the Kid - Trapped (1942) – Buster Crabbe:

Here's another entry in PRC's long-running "Billy the Kid" series, again starring Buster Crabbe as Billy Carson and Al St. John as his comic sidekick Fuzzy Q. Jones.
In this outing, a bandit posing as Billy manages to pin several crimes on Our Hero.

Escaping from the Marshal, Billy (Buster Crabbe) and Fuzzy (Al St. John) ride to Laramie only to find it a ghost town.  Sykes (John Merton) and his gang have driven people away while they look for the gold mine of a man they have killed.  Billy hopes to straighten things out, but is in more trouble when his true identity becomes known.

With the railroad coming to Red Rock, trouble is expected and Billy (Buster Crabbe) has been sent to help his friend Fuzzy (Al St. John) who is the town's Sheriff, Judge, and barber.  When the man that sent Billy is murdered and the railroad location map stolen, broken match sticks point to Vic Landreau.  While Billy tries to find the missing map, Landreau suspects Billy is on to him and plans to have him killed.

Black (George Chesebro) is after both Taylor's (Karl Hackett) saloon and the Lane (Sydney Logan) ranch. Fuzzy (Al St. John) takes the gold from his and Billy's (Buster Crabbe) mine and buys Taylor's saloon. This puts him and Billy in conflict with Black and his gang.

23.  Rustlers' Hideout (1945) - Buster Crabbe

Bringing a herd of cattle to Dave Crockett (Hal Price), Billy (Buster Crabbe) halts before going through the pass where many herds have been rustled. He is right as there are two men after Crockett's ranch and packing plant which will be theirs if Crockett fails to pay off his note. When their attempt to get Crockett's son (Terry Frost) in financial trouble is broken up by Billy and their men fail to rustle the herd, they then poison the water hole.


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