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|Also Known As:||John Arthur Carradine||Died:||June 3, 2009|
|Born:||December 8, 1936||Cause of Death:||accidental asphyxiation|
|Birth Place:||Hollywood, California, USA||Profession:||Cast ... actor songwriter director singer producer author laborer|
A leading and supporting player in television and movies, actor David Carradine rose to fame with his iconic role, Kwai Chang Caine, the half-Asian student of life on the popular TV series, "Kung Fu" (ABC, 1972-75), a role he would go on to reprise for a syndicated series in the late 1990s. The son of legendary actor John Carradine, he excelled at playing villains in action and terror films which, unfortunately, were often relegated to the straight-to-video shelf. Almost as famous as his Kung Fu persona, was his psychedelic lifestyle and devotion to Eastern philosophy, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s when Carradine seemed more engaged in his alternative lifestyle than in furthering his career - with the possible exceptions of his starring role as folk singer Woody Guthrie in the Oscar-nominated "Bound for Glory" (1976) and a turn in Ingmar Bergman's confusing "The Serpent's Egg" (1977). After two decades of relative quiet, Carradine found new life as the titular assassin in Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" (2003) and "Kill Bill, Vol. 2" (2004). He went on to recur on the popular series, "Alias" (ABC, 2001-06) and play the head of the Chinese Triad in the action thriller "Crank: High Voltage" (2009). But his resurgence was cut short following a tragic death under unusual circumstances, leaving fans wondering what else the venerable actor might have had in store.
Carradine was born Dec. 8, 1936 in Hollywood but raised in Manhattan, the eldest son in an acting brood that included famous half-siblings, Keith and Robert. Educated at San Francisco State University, 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. It was while sporadically attending college, during which he worked as a manual laborer, that he began openly experimenting with drugs. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, he found work in New York as a commercial artist and got his first taste of fame on Broadway in "The Deputy" and "The Royal Hunt of the Sun" opposite Christopher Plummer. In 1964, he also made his feature film debut with a bit part in "Taggart," a western based on a novel by Louis L'Amour. Carradine next inherited Alan Ladd's role of a fading gunslinger for the small screen version of "Shane" (ABC, 1966), a production that failed in the ratings despite predictions to the contrary.
Nevertheless, the actor found constant employment in a string of forgettable films, with the occasional masterpiece. Martin Scorsese tapped the actor to play a railroad union organizer in "Boxcar Bertha" (1972) and then cast him in a small but memorable role as a drunk who is shot while urinating in one of Scorsese's first classics, "Mean Streets" (1973). By the time the latter was released, Carradine was starring as the Martial artist on the popular TV series, "Kung Fu." The part catapulted Carradine to a whole new level, and so began the actor's life-long obsession with the Martial arts, an interest which would years later, result in the release of several exercise videos teaching the martial arts of Tai chi and Qi Gong exercises, which the actor would produce and star in. After only three seasons on his star-making show, he left to pursue a film career. Moving behind the camera, Carradine directed and starred in the little seen "You and Me" (1975). After his success with "Bound for Glory," it appeared as if Carradine was headed for more mainstream movie stardom, but his subsequent vehicles were lacking. Only Walter Hill's 1980 Western, "The Long Riders," which used the gimmick of teaming filmdom's real-life brother acts - the Carradines, the Quaids and the Keachs - onscreen as brothers, was above average. His second attempt in the director's chair, "Americana" (1983) also met with a less than stellar reception.
As an actor, however, Carradine continued to churn out genre fare to varying degrees of success. On the big screen, he was the villain tracked by Chuck Norris in "Lone Wolf McQuade" (1982) and an evil German soldier in "The Misfit Brigade/Wheels of Terror" (1987). Carradine continued his low-grade film streak with such efforts as "Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat" (1990), "Dune Warriors" (1991) and "Waxwork II" (1992). In 1997, he filmed roles in "Macon County Jail," opposite Ally Sheedy and "The New Swiss Family Robinson" with Jane Seymour. From there, Carradine's career continued seemingly on autopilot through a variety of forgettable, direct-to-video thrillers, low-grade foreign films and TV guest spots which almost always played on his familiar "Kung Fu" past. Occasionally those guest spots would showcase Carradine's largely untapped dramatic abilities and charisma, such as his recurring guest spots as Andrew Weller on the second season of the legal drama "Family Law" (CBS, 1999-2002). Surprisingly, he also ran against type by guesting as an old friend of Hilary Duff's father, Carradine's real-life half-brother Robert, in an episode of the Disney Channel's frothy tween sitcom "Lizzie McGuire" (2001-04).
Back to his Martial arts roots, thanks to director and fan Quentin Tarantino, Carradine finally had a chance to both revisit past glories and reinvent himself when he was cast as the enigmatic assassin leader Bill in the director's violent exploitation homage, "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" (2003) and its sequel, "Kill Bill, Vol. 2" (2004). The movies were a dual sensation, bringing the actor a new legion of younger fans who were not even alive during Carradine's "Kung Fu" run. Suddenly cool again, Carradine began landing commercial spots and high profile guest appearances on such hip television shows as the Jennifer Garner spy series "Alias" (ABC, 2001-06) and the Patricia Arquette thriller, "Medium" (NBC, 2005-2011). In the two-part television movie, "Son of the Dragon" (Hallmark Channel, 2008), Carradine was an aging con artist who helps a younger thief (John Henry Reardon) swindle his way into the heart of a rich princess (Desiree Siahaan), only to find his protégé falling in love for real.
Though flying under the radar post-"Kill Bill," Carradine nonetheless kept up an exhaustive schedule of film and television projects. He once again returned to his roots with "Kung Fu Killer" (Spike TV, 2008), playing a martial arts expert in 1920s China, seeking revenge against the man (Lim Kay Tong) who killed his mentor. After a small role in the biker flick "Hell Ride" (2008), Carradine shifted gears to romantic comedy with "The Golden Boys" (2009), playing a retired sea captain competing against two other aging seafarers (Rip Torn and Bruce Dern) to lure an attractive middle-age woman (Mariel Hemingway) into marriage. For the action sequel, "Crank: High Voltage" (2009), he was the 100-year-old elder of a Chinese triad, hunting down a hit man (Jason Stratham) with a battery-operated heart.
Meanwhile, in a sudden and tragic twist of fate, while beginning production on his latest film, "Stretch" in Bangkok, Thailand, Carradine was found dead in his hotel wardrobe closet, a rope hung around his neck. Originally reported as a possible suicide by Bangkok police, his extended family and close friends disputed the very idea, saying he would never take his own life. Almost a month after the the actor's untimely demise, pathologists revealed the official cause of death of the 72-year-old actor as asphyxiation with no apparent intention of suicide, due to the way he hands were bound above his head. Forensic pathologist Michael Baden who performed the family's requested second autopsy gave the official statement: "He didn't die of natural causes, and he didn't die of suicidal causes from the nature of the ligatures around the body, so that leaves some kind of accidental death."
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