If he were around today, Nat Pendleton’s tale would have been told again and again—amateur wrestling star, represents his country at the Olympics, turns professional, then becomes a major player in Hollywood. But because his story begins in the 1920s, few today know of his fascinating story.
Fortunately, wrestling historian Mike Chapman is there to help keep his legacy alive.
The award-winning Chapman has just published Pendleton: The amazing story of Columbia’s wrestling Olympian and star of Hollywood, and it is a worthy addition to your bookshelf, whether you are into wrestling or movies.
Pendleton was born in Iowa in 1895, and went on to be an undefeated college star at Columbia University in New York City. He was also a two-time AAU national champion and silver medalist at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium.
Upon returning home, he turned professional and battled big names like Earl Caddock, John Pesek and others in the 1920s.
Next up, he tried his hand at the film business, both as a producer and as an actor, and would end up appearing in close to 100 features, including a couple as the leading man.
To compliment his prose, Chapman has dug up tons of great photos from both Pendleton’s wrestling days and his movie career.At a little more than 100 pages, Pendleton is not a long read, but it is a fascinating one. In part, it’s intriguing because there’s so much that we DON’T know about Pendleton. Chapman does his best, but some things just aren’t known about him: his early days flash by in an instant; how legitimate were his early pro wrestling matches (and when did pro wrestling officially become predetermined?); did he really run down spies for the Mexican government?; why did he stop acting?
The various lives of Nat Pendleton certainly make for a good yarn, and given how long ago it all happened, it’s unlikely that the mysterious questions will ever be answered.
Pendleton biographer Chapman happily grappling with the past