There’s an interesting photo available on eBay right now – it’s of Buster Crabbe giving Ruth Etting a swimming lesson on September 3, 1935. Buster was a former Olympian – in 1928 he won the bronze medal for the 1,500 meter freestyle, and 1932, he won the gold medal for the 400 meter freestyle. He also starred in the 1933 Tarzan serial Tarzan the Fearless, and went on to make over 100 movies.
Wikipedia states “Crabbe is the only actor who played Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers — the top three comic strip heroes of the 1930s.”
This photo was taken after Buster had appeared as Tarzan, and before Flash Gordon, so right at the start of the peak of his career. Ruth on the other hand had appeared in 3 full-length movies in the two years before the photo was taken, and had no more major movies on the horizon – so it was slightly after her peak in Hollywood. So the question is, who was more famous at the time this photo was staged? Who did it help more? The Olympian who had one hit serial? Or the torch singer who had starred on Broadway, had dozens of hit records, and starred in three movies, but whose popularity might be waning a bit? It’s an interesting question.
Another question is did he really teach her anything? Did they actually get wet? Did she really need swimming lessons? If so, the photos from that part of the lesson might have been even more interesting!
The photo is currently listed at $179.99 on eBay, so if you’re interested, here’s the link!