This topic isn’t really worth two posts, I know, but after some commenters mentioned other obvious examples of distinguished athletes turned actors the Rant Sports incompetent post ignored, I did some additional research myself.
The first thing I discovered was that Renae Juska’s list was about 90% lifted from other similar web lists that had appeared on various sites over the past three years. These lists were almost as incompetent as hers, though one of them included Johnny Weismuller, and another included Esther Williams. For the most part, however, all included the same basic group of athlete-actors, clearly serving as the basis for the next blogger looking for a cheap post.
This is how bad or misleading information gets stuck in the public mind and discourse, and the process occurs regarding topics and issues that matter, not just gratuitous lists.. This is why politicians still talk about women only earning 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man, and how 50% of marriages end in divorce. This how rumors and mistaken beliefs take hold and spread, changing the results of elections and the course of history…lazy writers cribbing dubious facts, unsubstantiated stats and lazy compilations of data from other lazy writers. The phenomenon feeds itself. Take the current case: someone asking themselves the question, “Gee, I wonder who the most prominent actors who were also accomplished athletes are?” will google the question and check four or five sites, read virtually the same names on all of them, and think the topic has been accurately researched. That will be an illusion, and soon there will be another post, confirming the earlier ones, and further validating informational garbage.
I also checked the biographies of actors whom I knew had athletic backgrounds, and the performing credits of prominent athletes whom I knew worked in TV, stage and films. I also considered some of the candidates, omitted by Juska, that various commenters had suggested. The result is this list of 30 athlete/actors who were ignored by Juska and Rant Sports, every one of whom is beyond question more deserving of a place on an “all-time” list of “Top 25 Athletes Turned Actors” than many of the choices on the Rant Sports list, and quite a few of which—Robson, Williams, Henie, Rigby, Weismuller, Crabbe, Norris, Beradino, and others—should rank near the top.
It’s an intriguing list, and some of the names on it will surprise you–they certainly will surprise Ms. Juska, whose knowledge of sports and the performing arts is short and shallow. Very few of these names appear on any of the other lists, yet they were or all genuine actor-athletes.In some cases, the Rant Sports list created an opportunity to learn about important American cultural figures they might be ignorant about, like Weismuller, John Wayne and Steve Reeves, some of whom are American heroes whose lives should be known to everyone as part of our historical legacy, such as Paul Robeson and Canada Lee, who were also important civil rights champions. That opportunity was squandered.
I’m sure the Ethics Alarms isn’t a complete list either—it’s not intended to be— and it is not ranked. I simply offer it to show what a little thought, diligence and research can accomplish. It is also offered so the next Renae Juska, and there are a lot of them out there, conspiring to make us stupid, might stumble upon some additional names to consider, rather than to stop their inquiry with lists that suggest that the career of Bubba Smith was superior to that of Paul Robeson.
The Ethics Alarms list…
- Esther Williams: Competitive swimmer; MGM movie star (“Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” “Dangerous When Wet”)
- Sonja Henie: Olympic figure skating champion; movie star (Sun Valley Serenade”)
- Paul Robeson: Football All-American and NFL player; world-renowned singer and actor on stage and in films (“Show Boat” “Othello”))
- Canada Lee: Professional boxer; stage and film actor (“Native Son,” “Cry the Beloved Country”)
- Johnny Weismuller: Olympic swimming champion and record-holder; popular movie and TV star (“Tarzan,” “Jungle Jim”))
- Buster Crabbe: Olympic medal-winner in swimming; TV and movie star (“Tarzan,” “Flash Gordon” and “Buck Rogers”)
- Lou Costello: Boxer, acrobat and basketball player; film and TV comedian and comic actor (Abbott and Costello)
- Kirk Douglas: Professional wrestler; movie star (“Lust for Life,” “Spartacus”)
- Burt Lancaster: Circus acrobat; movie star (“Bird Man of Alcatraz,” “Elmer Gantry”)
- Michael Warren: All-American basketball star; TV and film actor (“Hill Street Blues)
- Steve Reeves: Bodybuilding champion; movie star (“Hercules,” “Hercules Unchained”)
- O. J. Simpson: Heisman Trophy winner and NFL star; actor (“The Naked Gun,” “The Towering Inferno”)
- John Wayne: USC football player; movie star (“The Searchers,” “Red River”)
- John Berardino: Major league baseball player; soap opera star (“General Hospital”)
- Strother Martin: Competitive swimmer and diver; classic character actor ( “Cool Hand Luke,” “True Grit”)
- Kurt Russell: Minor league baseball player; child star and adult movie star (“Tombstone,” “Breakdown”)
- Alexander Gudonov: Professional ballet star; movie actor (“Witness,” “Die Hard”)
- Tony Danza: Professional boxer; TV star (“Who’s the Boss?”, “Taxi”)
- Jesse Ventura: Pro wrestler; movie actor (“Predator,'” “The Running Man”)
- Cathy Rigby: Olympic gymnast; musical comedy star (“Peter Pan,” “The Wizard of Oz”)
- Max Baer, Sr.: Heavyweight boxing champ; TV and movie actor (“Requiem for a Heavyweight,” “The Harder They Fall”)
- Chuck Norris: Martial arts champion; TV and movie star (“Way of the Dragon,” “Walker, Texas Ranger”)
- Steven Seagal: Martial arts champion; TV and movie star (“Under Seige,” “Executive Decision”)
- Roosevelt Greer: NFL star; TV actor (“Movin’ On,” “Daniel Boone”)
- Sean Connery: Competitive bodybuilder; Academy award winning movie star (“The Untouchables,” James Bond)
- Ed O’Neill: College football star; TV and movie actor (“Modern Family,” “Married With Children”)
- Mikhail Baryshnikov: Ballet icon; Academy Award-nominated actor (“Turning Point,” “White Nights”)
- Cynthia Rothrock: Martial arts champion; martial arts movie star (“Above the Law,” “China O’Brien”)
- Ben Johnson: Rodeo star and champion; Academy Award-winniing movie actor (“The Last Picture Show,” “Shane”)
- Dolph Lundgren: Martial arts champion; movie actor (“Rocky IV,” “The Expendables”)
Graphics: Brian’s Drive-In
37 thoughts on “Post Script: Rant Sports And Its “Top 25 Athletes Turned Actors of All Time” vs. The Ethics Alarms List”
What ??? No Rowdy Roddy Piper??
See my reply to JJ.
I was just yanking your chain. I love Rowdy just for the movie They Live!!
No Alex Karras? Burt Reynolds? And what about Jim Brown? Dirty Dozen? These guys are far more deserving than half those people. They were all truly iconic in sport and/or acting.
A more exclusive list would be Athletes who became Politicians…. Dollar Bill Bradley!
JJ—you’re just not following.
Those guys—Reynolds, etc.— were all on the ORIGINAL list. By definition, these are 30 who were NOT on that list. Dod you read the original post? Tell me you aren’t one of those people who writes comments without reading what you’re commenting on.
I also said that the list wasn’t complete or definitive, or intended to be. My list and Juska’s constitute 55 athlete/actors.
There are plenty of actors I left off, like Piper, Tim Rossevich, others, like about ten martial arts champions who act. I admit to being sick of pro wrestlers. However, Piper is far more qualified than Hulk Hogan, who is on Juska’s list.
Good choices – pity there isn’t some way to squeeze Ted Williams into an honorable mention status, who gave up two chunks of a lucrative professional baseball career to serve as a pilot in the USMC, and might have provided some inspiration for Jimmy Stewart’s baseball-player turned pilot Robert “Dutch” Holland in the 1955 film “Strategic Air Command.” BTW, what IS the current statistic for marriages that end in divorce?
How could you omit Roderick Toombs, a/k/a Rowdy Roddy Piper? Have you not seen “They Live”?
I can see an argument for leaving out Mr. T, since his football career kind of fizzled, but he was a high school wrestling champ.
Ronald Reagan played college football and was captain of the swim team
Jean Claude Van Damme
From a previous reply:
“Those guys—Reynolds, etc.[ AND Arnold]— were all on the ORIGINAL list. By definition, these are 30 who were NOT on that list. Did you read the original post? Tell me you aren’t one of those people who writes comments without reading what you’re commenting on.
I also said that the list wasn’t complete or definitive, or intended to be. My list and Juska’s constitute 55 athlete/actors.
There are plenty of actors I left off, like Piper, Tim Rossevich, others, like about ten martial arts champions who act. I admit to being sick of pro wrestlers. However, Piper is far more qualified than Hulk Hogan, who is on Juska’s list.”
As to the others—you could do a full 25 of just martial arts actors, who are marginal, as anyone who’s watched Norris or Rothrock try to act knows. I considered Reagan. You have to cut somewhere—on college athletics, I’d say playing on a national powerhouse football squad like USC or Notre Dame makes the cut; being on the football team of a small college doesn’t. Reagan’s sport was really swimming, and the reason I left him off is that I didn’t want to take up the question of whether lifeguards qualify as athletes.
Well, I have to admit that Lou Costello and Strother Martin were surprises. Especially Costello as an acrobat and basketball player. I can see boxer, but the other 2 are enlightening. And Strother Martin?! Who could imagine? But I’m truly glad that you included Burt Lancaster, my favorite actor of all time, and an excellent athlete.
Everyone is nuts over who they think should be included or not included.
I don’t think that’s the point. The take-away lesson from this, is not who Jack included in this list. The lesson is that: through even just a little bit of research, analytical thought and imagination, you can come up with a fairly comprehensive list.
This lesson underlines the unethical laziness and probable plagiarism of the original Renae piece.
Gads, my comment is a solid exposé on terrible punctuation usage.
Thanks. I really didn’t think the message was that hard to grasp, but apparently so.
By the way, everyone should know about Canada Lee.
I knew who he was but didnt know he had been a boxer. Thanks for the information.
On a side note. I can’t watch Cinderella Man because of the way they portray Max Baer.
Lee was also a professional jockey. Great jockeys turned boxers would be a short list, don’t you think?
I agree about Cinderella Man, though the script redeems Max a bit at the end, since he comes up and sincerely congratulates Braddock after losing the bout. It made me think that the character had been playing the role of a vicious ass for PR purposes. But you’re right, that wasn’t Baer. He was a genuinely good guy, and those deaths in the ring ruined him as a fighter
Whose son, coincidentally, did become an actor.
Yes, and I’d bet Jethro has a place on the list, though I couldn’t confirm it. It would be amazing, with his size and background, if he didn’t play sports and wasn’t athletic.
you can see he was cast as if he walked off the pages of “lil abner.”
I see what you did there.
“This is how bad or misleading information gets stuck in the public mind and discourse, and the process occurs regarding topics and issues that matter, not just gratuitous lists.. This is why politicians still talk about women only earning 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man, and how 50% of marriages end in divorce. This how rumors and mistaken beliefs take hold and spread, changing the results of elections and the course of history…lazy writers cribbing dubious facts, unsubstantiated stats and lazy compilations of data from other lazy writers. The phenomenon feed itself.”
Excellent points forcefully made. Thanks. I withdraw my objection to the original post.
Now I’m going to google “women only earning 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man, and how 50% of marriages end in divorce” and find out what’s really up with those purported pillars of current social thought.
I agree that you have to limit the martial arts stars, but I would include Bruce Lee before Dolph Lundgren, or really before any of the other martial arts folks you listed.
Yes, Bruce Lee is probably a better call. I think of him as a foreign star; Lundgren’s biggest movies were US blockbusters. Both belong more than the wrestlers on the Rant list.
I know we don’t really disagree, I’m just nit-picking for entertainment’s sake: Don’t forget that Lee co-starred in an American TV series (The Green Hornet) and his final movie “Enter The Dragon” was produced by Warner Brothers and was very successful in the US.
I think you’re underestimating the influence Lee had on film.
As a side note Lundgren is probably the best action star you will ever see as I think he has two or three degrees in chemical engineering.
I think why Martial Arts athletes to movie stars ought to be limited in consideration is that the movies are essentially exposés of their martial arts athleticism.
If kungfu movies weren’t popular but heroic displays of swimmers saving their hometowns or beautiful women through aggressive swimming in some alternate universe were popular, I’m sure we’d see a million former swimmers becoming actors.
The fighting athletes being cast primarily for knowing how to fight, not acting ability, being why you see such a long list here.
My god, I so want such a movie to exist now…
I disagree. Martial arts stars in movies aren’t fighting; they’re fake-fighting. Obviously, knowing how to really fight is a helpful background for learning how to fake-fight well, but they’re not the same thing. There are plenty of great tournament fighters who can’t act, and some of the biggest martial arts stars in the world have never been competitive fighters (Jackie Chan, for example).
And yet, the athletic skill of martial arts is why they were cast for the roles. I don’t think it is an opposable point. It merely supports your first assertion with a logical reason why there are so many available to list, and therefore a reason why one must be more discriminate when adding them to an “all time” list.
So interesting to consider actors who were also highly successful athletes – never considered that duality of talent much but the idea is very interesting to me. Thanks, Jack!
I always thought some of my favorite baseball movie actors MUST have played baseball at some point in their lives. But none of them are on either list. So, to satisfy my curiosity I went looking and this is what I discovered: Kevin Costner (Crash Davis in Bull Durham (1988), Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams (1989) and Billy Chapel in For Love of the Game (1999)) is a fan at best and also a part owner of an independent team. Charlie Sheen (Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn in Major League (1989), Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn in Major League II (1994) and Happy Felsch in Eight Men Out (1988)) played in HS and reportedly needed no pitching double when being filmed – had a natural 80+ mph pitch that he placed near the plate. Dennis Quaid’s (Jim Morris in The Rookie (2002)) last stint with baseball was little league.
I checked those guys out too, as well as Reagan (who played Grover Cleveland Alexander), Dan Dailey (Dizzy Dean) and Jimmy Stewart (who played pitcher Monte Stratton), Gary Cooper as well as Robert Redford. Some of the ballplayers in “The Natural” played in the majors (like former rookie of the year Joe Charbaneau, but amazingly, I couldn’t find any actors who played the game beyond high school.
I am equally amazed. And it looks like I have some more baseball movies to add to my “must watch” list.
Great rebuttal article! Thanks for mentioning Sonja Henie and Esther Williams in particular. Also Esther has mentioned in interviews that her husband Fernando Lamas was the only one of her leading men who could REALLY swim. In fact, he was the South American freestyle champion in 1937.
I just want to add a shout-out for actor Dean Cain, who played Superman for four years in the television show “Lois and Clark”. Not that he would make a “greatest” list on either athletes or actors, but he was definitely successful at both. From IMDB: “While at Princeton, he set an NCAA record for interceptions in a season. After signing with the Buffalo Bills, a knee injury in the pre-season ended his pro career before it began.”
Also, although he didn’t go on to have a further career as an actor, baseball legend Jackie Robinson did a creditable job portraying himself in the movie about his life. So a little honorable mention for him, too, since I really like that movie.
How about Chuck “the Rifleman” Connors! He played for the Boston Celtics, Chicago Cubs and the Brooklyn Dodgers and was drafted by the Chicago Bears… His acting career lasted from 1952 – 1991
Hey! How about reading the damn post? Chuck Connors is on the Rant Sports list, one of the few older actor-athletes the author bothered to find. The list I offered specifically was a list of those not on her list.
Nobody’s making you read what I write, but if you’re going to take up my time with a comment, I expect the comment to be based on the post. Too much to ask, is it?
I know this thread is long-dead, but I wanted to add Woody Strode to it.
In college, Strode was a noted decathlon player and football player – his teammates included Kenny Washington (!) and Jackie Robinson (!!). Strode then turned pro and played for the LA Rams, making him the second player to break pro football’s color barrier (after Kenny Washington) since pro football turned all-white in 1933. After an injury took him out of football, Strode was a successful pro wrestler for a few years, before becoming a full-time actor.
Strode acted in dozens of movies, including “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence,” “The Ten Commandments” and “Spartacus” (his performance there earned him a Golden Globe nomination), as well as playing the lead in John Ford’s “Sergeant Rutledge,” and playing the villain in three Tarzan films.
Did I leave out Woody Strode??? Yes…a great one, and he deserves to be remembered. He was a ground-breaker.