Sports stars in motion pictures have been a U.S. cultural phenomenon since Gentleman Jim Corbett stepped in front of a hand-cranked camera in 1919 to make a silent film serial titled The Midnight Man. In the intervening half a century, sports figures of all assortments—boxers, football players and baseball stars—have lit the silver screen. Several of them are pictured on this page in their moments of thespian glory. The most successful transition—if not the most esthetic—from sport to film was made by Johnny Weissmuller, the Olympic swim champion who became the celluloid embodiment of Tarzan for three generations of Americans and whom Jerry Kirshenbaum presents in this issue (page 58). Swimmers, mysteriously, have seemed to have the best of it in movies. Besides Weissmuller, two other champions—Buster Crabbe and Esther Williams—have enjoyed long and presumably lucrative motion-picture careers. And among the complications in the life of Joe Namath, SI's cover subject this week, are movies. He's finished two of them this summer—the first a period piece called The Last Rebel, which provides our cover photograph, and the other a motorcycle epic called C. C. and Company. Considering Namath's opaque relationship with the Jets' management, you might think the initials stand for Can't Communicate.
This is an article from the Aug. 17, 1970 issue
Jack Dempsey as a strong-arm cop.
Max Baer with Waller Huston and Myrna Loy.
Bill Tilden foils a culprit.
Archie Moore in "Huckleberry Finn."
Jim Thorpe as a cigar-smoking Indian.
Jim Brown with noncigar-smoking Indian.
Babe Ruth emotes in "Speedy."
Sonja Henie in (what else?) an ice epic.
Buster Crabbe, swim star-cam-Flash Gordon.
Red Grange, not galloping now.
Gene Tunney in "The Fighting Marine."
Chuck Connors from glove to gun.
Johnny Mack Brown with Joan Crawford.
Esther Williams in (what else?) a water epic.