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HomePeopleRyeGPT People of Note: Buster Crabbe: Olympic Swimmer, Hollywood Actor

RyeGPT People of Note: Buster Crabbe: Olympic Swimmer, Hollywood Actor

(PHOTO: Buster Crabbe: Olympic swimmer and Hollywood actor from the 1930s-50s. He taught swimming and SCUBA lessons at the former Durland Scout Center on Milton Point in Rye. Credit: Movie studio, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.)
(PHOTO: Buster Crabbe: Olympic swimmer and Hollywood actor from the 1930s-50s. He taught swimming and SCUBA lessons at the former Durland Scout Center on Milton Point in Rye. Credit: Movie studio, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.)

RyeGPT: People of Note is a new series highlighting individuals who have a connection to the City of Rye. In the series we ask OpenAI’s ChatGPT to prepare a biography and explain the individual’s connection to Rye.

We welcome your feedback on this series – the use of artificial intelligence, the accuracy and usefulness of each article and your assistance in understanding other pertinent insights related to the person’s connection to Rye. You can add comments at the bottom of each article or you can send feedback via Tips & Letters.

Today, meet Buster Crabbe: Olympic swimmer and Hollywood actor from the 1930s-50s. He taught swimming and SCUBA lessons at the former Durland Scout Center on Milton Point in Rye.

(PHOTO: Buster Crabbe, famous actor at lunch with Jack, one of his lions and partner in his film, in a Hollywood restaurant on February 6, 1933 in Hollywood, California. Credit: Unknown (Keystone-France), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.)
(PHOTO: Buster Crabbe, famous actor at lunch with Jack, one of his lions and partner in his film, in a Hollywood restaurant on February 6, 1933 in Hollywood, California. Credit: Unknown (Keystone-France), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.)

Buster Crabbe, born in 1908 in Oakland, California, is best known as an Olympic swimmer and Hollywood actor. He grew up in Hawaii and graduated from Punahou School in Honolulu. Crabbe attended the University of Southern California, where he excelled as an All-American swimmer and a 1931 NCAA freestyle titlist. He shone in the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, winning a bronze medal in the 1,500 meters freestyle, and at the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, he clinched a gold medal in the 400 meters freestyle.

Crabbe’s acting career took off with his role in the 1933 Tarzan serial “Tarzan the Fearless.” He appeared in over a hundred films, including “King of the Jungle” and as the iconic Flash Gordon in the Universal Pictures serial. His portrayal of Flash Gordon and similar “jungle man” roles made him a familiar figure in Hollywood during the 1930s and 1940s.

In addition to his acting career, Crabbe had a notable connection to Rye, New York. He taught swimming and SCUBA lessons at the Durland Scout Center on Milton Point in Rye. Fondly referred to as “The Flash,” Crabbe was known for teaching SCUBA classes at the bottom of the pool without using an air tank, demonstrating techniques like mask clearing and buddy breathing. His unique teaching methods and impressive ability to hold his breath for long periods left a lasting impression on his students​​​​​​​​​​.

(VIDEO, below: Watch Buster Crabbe as Tarzan in Tarzan the Fearless (1933), full movie.)

5 COMMENTS

  1. “He taught swimming and SCUBA lessons at the Durland Scout Center on Milton Point in Rye. Fondly referred to as “The Flash,” Crabbe was known for teaching SCUBA classes at the bottom of the pool without using an air tank, demonstrating techniques like mask clearing and buddy breathing. His unique teaching methods and impressive ability to hold his breath for long periods left a lasting impression on his students​​​​​​​​​​.”

    True. And I was one of them. He was a great teacher, kind and very supportive.

  2. He didn’t just teach in Rye, he lived in Rye. I believe he lived near Forest Av and Manursing Way.

    He’d also come to RHS from time to time to give a talk and give a Tarzan yodel.

  3. Believe his daughter Susan Crabbe attended Rye High School during the mid 50’s. Only for a short time before transferring to another school.

  4. As Georgeie Reynolds pointed out, Buster Crabbe did guest appearances at RHS. He came onstage to do a finale with the students who took part in a benefit performance one year. And yes, we shared that stage!

  5. He did live in Rye in the 70’s. He drove around town in a convertible Shelby Mustang. And…what he taught us about diving at Durland helped keep me safe for the past 50+ years. Thank you sir…

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