David Carradine was the eldest son of legendary character actor John Carradine and he presided over an acting family that included brothers Keith Carradine, and Robert Carradine as well as his daughters Calista Carradine, Kansas Carradine and nieces Ever Carradine and Martha Plimpton.
He was born in Hollywood and educated at San Francisco State College, where he studied music theory and composition. It was while writing music for the Drama Department's annual revues that he discovered his own passion for the stage, joining a Shakespearean repertory company and learning his craft on his feet.
After a two-year stint in the army, he found work in New York as a commercial artist and later found fame on Broadway in "The Deputy" and "The Royal Hunt of the Sun" opposite Christopher Plummer. With that experience he returned to Hollywood, landing the short-lived TV series "Shane" (1966) before being tapped to star opposite Barbara Hershey in Martin Scorsese's first Hollywood film, Boxcar Bertha (1972). The iconic "Kung Fu" (1972) followed, catapulting Carradine to super-stardom for the next three years, until he left the series to pursue his film career.
That career included more than 100 feature films, a couple of dozen television movies, a whole range of theater on and off Broadway, and another hit series, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (1992) (TV). Carradine received the Best Actor Award from the National Board of Film Review as well as a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of Woody Guthrie in Hal Ashby's Bound for Glory (1976), and won critical acclaim for his work as Cole Younger in The Long Riders (1980). "Kung Fu" also received seven Emmy nominations in its first season, including one for Carradine as Best Actor. In addition he won the People's Prize at the Cannes Film Festival's "Director's Fortnight" for his work on Americana (1983), and a second Golden Globe nomination for his supporting role in "North and South" (1985).
Among his other most notable film credits were Gray Lady Down (1978), Mean Streets (1973), Bird on a Wire (1990), The Long Goodbye (1973), The Serpent's Egg (1977) and Circle of Iron (1978).
He returned to the screen in what could be his greatest performance, playing the title role in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) and Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004) (Miramax), for which he received his fourth Golden Globe nomination.
Carradine also continued his devotion to music, and he recorded some 60 tracks from various musical genres and sung in several movies. He made his home in Los Angeles with his fifth wife Annie, her four children and their two dogs.
He was found dead in Bangkok, Thailand on 3rd June 2009 aged 72.
|Annie Carradine||(26 December 2004 - 3 June 2009) (his death)|
|Marina Anderson||(20 February 1998 - 12 December 2001) (divorced)|
|Gail Jensen||(4 December 1988 - 26 January 1997) (divorced)|
|Linda Gilbert||(2 February 1977 - 4 October 1983) (divorced) 1 child|
|Donna Lee Becht||(29 December 1960 - 21 December 1967) (divorced) 1 child|
Frequently played villainous characters
Often used his fighting and karate skills in roles
Lived with Barbara Hershey from 1972-1975 (she changed her last name to Seagull during this time). They have a son they named Free Carradine at birth, but who has since changed his name to Tom Carradine.
Convicted of drunk driving in October 1989. Served 48 hours in jail and did community service.
Had a lifelong fascination with Eastern philosophies and culture which resulted in him writing the book "Spirit Of The Shaolin" about the philosophy of Kung Fu.
Father of Calista Carradine (born April 27, 1962) with Donna Lee Becht.
Began studying the Martial Arts after getting cast in "Kung Fu" (1972).
Studied drama at San Francisco State University.
Was suppose to attended the Armaggeddon Pulp Culture Expo Convention in Wellington, New Zealand, in September 2004 as a special Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) guest but had to pull out at the last minute due to filming commitments.
Because of his look, his stint on the TV series "Kung Fu" (1972) and his fascination with Eastern philosophies, people often assume that he is at least part Asian. He isn't.
A great deal of his characters posses lethal martial arts skills. This is a nod to his most famous character, the deadly yet benevolent Kwai Chang Caine in the TV series "Kung Fu" (1972).
Was a close friend of Larry Cohen since they served together in the military.
He was born in Hollywood, but he was brought up all over the country, mostly by boarding school teachers and reform school wardens.
Quentin Tarantino had originally envisioned the character "Bill" in the "Kill Bill" films as a suave "James Bond-type" man and had first approached Warren Beatty for the role. Beatty turned it down and suggested that Quentin get David for the role.
Found dead in a hotel in Bangkok, Thailand on June 4, 2009.
His manager was Chuck Binder.
Friends with: Raymond Burr, Mickey Rooney, Andy Griffith, Chuck Norris, Jane Seymour, Bruce Lee, James Drury, Alex Cord, Robert Ito, Michael Parks, M. Emmet Walsh, Maxwell Caulfield, Quentin Tarantino, Fred Williamson, Frances Fisher, Tom Selleck, Martin Scorsese, David Winters and Michael Madsen.
Was an honorary member of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Was a member of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
Stepmother Sonia Sorel died in 2004, just 3 months before he was married to Annie Bierman.
In Bound for Glory (1976), Carradine played a legendary folk singer, in real-life, he was also a folk singer, before becoming a successful actor.
His first series, "Kung Fu" (1972), was canceled after the third season, due to the injuries he sustained on the set.
Was a Democrat.
Has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Was working on a movie in Bangkok entitled "Stretch" the day he died.
Was an alcohol abuser for many years, until he entered rehab. He was sober at 59.
Before he was an actor, he worked as a manual laborer, where he began an open experiment with drugs.
He had 12 hobbies: collecting comic books, painting, writing, sculpting, singing, dancing, Kung-Fu, spending time with family, race car driving, exercising, traveling, horse breeding and reading.
His obituary stated he was survived by four children.
His ancestry included Irish, English, Scottish, Welsh, German, Spanish, Italian, Ukrainian and Cherokee.
Stepson of Sonia Sorel.
His ex-wife Marina Anderson tried unsuccessfully suing him in 2003 for $300,000, alleging that she got him his role in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003), and that he gave no compensation in return. He was successfully represented in that matter by Vicki Roberts.
Best remembered by the public for his starring role as Kwai Chang Caine on the "Kung Fu" (1972) TV series.
First came to public attention in 1963, appearing in the Armstrong Circle Theatre, on television.
Was sent to a reform establishment for a while, and spent time in foster homes in the Massachusetts.
Played truant from school at the age of 13.
Appeared in more than 200 films and television dramas.
Step-father of Max Carradine, who is intent on following his step-dad's footsteps and continuing the family acting dynasty.
Before "Kung Fu: The Legend Continues" (1993), he was a spokesperson for Lipton Ice Tea.
Began his contract career for MGM in 1969.
Was also a friend of Jane Seymour.
Was the second of five children.
Was healthy and physically active until his death of accidental asphyxiation at age 72.
Was a vegetarian.
Despite high ratings, his second series "Kung Fu: The Legend Continues" (1993) was canceled in early 1997, because he decided to call it quits.
Step-son: Max Richard Bierman (b. 1998).
Step-daughter: Olivia Jane Bierman (b. 1998).
Step-daughter: Madeleine Rose Bierman (b. 1995).
Step-daughter: Amanda Fraser Eckelberry (b. 1989).
Knew absolutely nothing about the practice of the martial arts, at the same time he was starring in "Kung Fu" (1972), instead it was his dancing experience that convinced him to accept the part.
He played various instruments: piano, guitar, flute, among many others.
Met his first wife, Donna Lee Becht, when they were both sweethearts in high school, and continued living with her off the base in Virginia, while he was stationed at Fort Eustis. They were married, near the end of 1960 through 1968, where the marriage ended in divorce.
Graduated from Oakland High School in Oakland, California, in 1955.
Before he was an actor, he was inducted into the U.S. Army, where he drew pictures for training aids.
As a teenager, he moved back to California - residing in Oakland, in the early 1950s.
Legally changed his name from John to David, to not only become a professional actor, but also to avoid confusion with his famous father.
When he was seven, his parents were divorced and his father left California to escape court actions in the alimony settlement.
His great-grandmother, Beverly Carradine, was a Methodist evangelical author.
Was arrested in December 1994 for breaking a glass window at Rogers Center (formerly Skydome) in Toronto. He claimed he did this to avoid being mobbed by fans after a Rolling Stones concert.
In his autobiography, after his father's wife had a series of miscarriages, he discovered that she had had repeated illegal abortions without his knowledge. This rendered her unable to carry a baby to full term. It was with this backdrop of marital discord that, at the age of 5, Jack almost succeeded in committing suicide by hanging.
Nearly one year after his death, his third wife, Gail Jensen, died on April 23, 2010.
For most of his adult life, he was a heavy smoker.
Carradine's first arrest was for assaulting a police officer, when he was in his early 20s. He pleaded to a lesser charge of disturbing the peace.
His father ran away from home when John was age 14, but came back at one point to study sculpture at Philadelphia's Graphic Arts Institute. John lived with his maternal uncle in New York City for a while, working in the film archives of the public library.
His father, John Carradine, married Ardanelle McCool Cosner, almost one year, before they had him, near the end of 1936.
Just before John Carradine died, late in 1988, David and Keith Carradine were right at their father's bedside, unable to speak. Hours before he was stricken, he had climbed the 328 steep steps of Milan's Gothic cathedral, the Duomo. His father had just finished a film in South Africa and was about to begin a European tour. David was with him, reading Shakespeare to him, when he succumbed to his father's condition.
Interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills) in Los Angeles, California, USA.
Was arrested, a fourth time, for attempted burglary and malicious mischief. While under the influence of peyote, Carradine, nude, began wandering around his Laurel Canyon neighborhood. He broke into a neighbor's home, breaking a window and cutting his arm. He then bled all over the homeowner's piano. At some time during this episode he accosted two young women, allegedly assaulting one while asking, or demanding of her, if she was a witch. The police literally followed a trail of blood to his home. The burglary charges were dropped, as nothing was found to be missing, while Carradine pleaded "no contest" to the mischief charge and was given probation. He was never charged with assault, but the young woman sued him for $1.1 million and was awarded $20,000. .
His parents were John Carradine and Ardanelle McCool Cosner, were both actors.
His father, John Carradine, along with half-brothers Keith Carradine and Robert Carradine all guest-starred on an episode of "The Fall Guy" (1981), with him in 1984. Sadly, this was John's last appearance with his family.
Acting mentor and friend of Chris Potter.
If you cannot be a poet, be the poem.
There's an alternative. There's always a third way, and it's not a combination of the other two ways. It's a different way.
[on his late friend and one-time co-star, Brandon Lee]: He was always giving 110%, and it produced a light in the eyes, which is what you look for in movies.
Every day, at least six people will come up to me and say, "Your show ["Kung Fu" (1972)] changed my life".
[Reflecting on his lengthy acting career]: It's always seemed to me like a mission. A holy one, like the Blues Brothers. It's a marathon. You can't quit; even coming in dead last has honor. Quitting doesn't. Look, I had absolute faith in my future when I was starving in New York and no one believed in me besides me and my girlfriend. I'd be stupid to lose that faith after I've become a fucking icon. Oh, yes. And I love the work.
It's not even a matter of physical fitness, it's a matter of mind, body, unity and achieving a little tiny bit of spirituality, in your life.
[Before he played Caine]: I wasn't like a TV star in those days, I was like a rock 'n' roll star. It was a phenomenon kind of thing. ... It was very special.
[on his drug/alcohol abuse]: There was only a period of a few years when I was drinking too much. I had a friend who was a mentor, and he suddenly said, 'I've never seen you abuse a substance before.' I said, 'Am I doing that now?' And I was. That was spring of 1996. I like to think that I stopped drinking on St. Patrick's Day, but it was actually a month later.
[When "Kung Fu" (1972) was going to be a hit]: Man, I read that pilot script and flipped! But I never believed it would get on TV. I mean, a Chinese western, about a half-Chinese half-American Buddhist monk who wanders the gold rush country but doesn't care about gold, and defends the oppressed but won't carry a gun, and won't even step on an ant because he values all life, and hardly ever speaks? No way!
[In 2004 about starring in low-budget films]: All I've ever needed since I more or less retired from studio films a couple of decades ago ... is just to be in one. There isn't anything that Anthony Hopkins or Clint Eastwood or Sean Connery or any of those old guys are doing that I couldn't do. All that was ever required was somebody with Quentin's courage to take and put me in the spotlight
[In 2004 about his suicidal thoughts]: I remember one time sitting at the window of the third or fourth floor of the Plaza Hotel for about an hour, thinking about just tipping off.
[on playing Bill]: It's got to be done a certain way. You can see these poses.
[In 1991 about his signature role]: What we did on "Kung Fu" (1972), stressing the philosophy and the desire for peace and the training, is something that has actually never been seen since then.
[In 1977]: Acting was the last thing I thought of because it didn't seem like you did anything.
[on his passion for auto racing]: There's no bullshit about it. It's real, you can't fake it, people actually die.
[When he alluded to his character's philosophy more often expressed in the original "Kung Fu" (1972) TV series]: The quest is never attainable: You cannot expect to achieve the goal. It's the journey that's the point of it all. Again, in the modern series, Caine is asked where he's going, and he says, 'Nowhere in particular. But, the person insists, 'Everyone has a destination.' Caine says, 'A destiny - yes. But not, necessarily, a destination implies some place to stop when you get there, while your destiny is a journey that continues.
[In 1997]: I don't have that much to say. I'm glad some people showed up. You know it's April 1, and I still thought people would think it was a joke.
[In 1993]: There is something, dare I say, very Christ-like here: reaching out to lepers, the downtrodden, the profligates. That was one reason I wanted to play someone like that. Whether or not that's the kind of guy I am, to be able to portray someone who has this sort of holy quality to him was very appealing.
With my tendencies as an anarchist and a revolutionary, this is the kind of place I would have wanted to blow up with a bomb in a paper bag. But I've reached a point now where I can see the limitations of Fidel Castro as easily as I can see the limitations of a Rockefeller. I don't want to be either of those guys.
I'm perhaps the most gifted actor of my generation.
[on his popularity while playing the fifty-something Kwai Chang Caine on "Kung Fu: The Legend Continues" (1993)]: It's a mission. I've been working putting this thing together for - what is it? Could it be? - 14 years.
[Whose father made the most amount of films than his son]: I've read in print that my father was the most indiscriminate actor in the history of movies. And I'm close to that.
I like to work, and you can only do what you're offered. If I'm offered something great, I'm going to accept it, for sure. If I'm not offered something great, I'm going to do something not so great. There is a bottom line. I've never done an actual horror movie, or a porno. If it's something odious, I'm going to turn it down. There have been times when I've been desperate for money, hopelessly in debt, with the IRS on me and an ex-wife suing me. And I've been offered a lot of money to do something about a scientist who gets eaten by this giant spider he creates, and I say to myself, 'I just can't do this.' And I don't. I feel that rejecting that sort of thing is always leading toward the light.
[In 2008]: Whenever I do an exhibit, I always specify. If you want to buy something, a great piece of it is going to go for Food for Africa. That's the way I do it and I'll always do it.
[In 2009]: One foot, in-front of the other, things happened, as I try to make them happen, so it wasn't exactly, no real surprises.
[Of his 1986 marriage to Gail Jensen, who met him on The Long Riders (1980)]: It works. We feel like we've known each other for a thousand years. Something will happen, and we'll say, 'Yeah, you did that to me 800 years ago.'
[Who said in 1992 about making the rounds in Hollywood, without relying on his father (John Carradine)]: It took me a long time to realize that he was having a hard time getting jobs himself. But I'm not sure he would have [helped] anyway-you were supposed to make it on your own.
[In 1992]: I had a house in the Hollywood Hills that virtually every brother has lived in. It was like this safe harbor. We all took care of each other.
|Death Race 2000 (1975)||$50,000|
(2006) Release of his book, "The Kill Bill Diary: The Making of a Tarantino Classic as Seen Through the Eyes of a Screen Legend".
(1995) Release of his autobiography, "Endless Highway".
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