David Carradine, 1936-2009


Actor David Carradine has been found dead in a Bangkok hotel room, reported hanged by a rope of “the kind that is used with curtains.” This is shocking as Carradine’s recent career suggests a highly pleasant life, full of fun stunts, including his villain role in Kill Bill and a recent appearance as a celebrity bocce player in Edmonton. Also, he had seven movies in post-production at the time of his death, though he doesn’t seem to have been the type to look forward to premieres.

In fact, most of his career looks like a blast. Though he did work on Ingmar Bergman’s depressing The Serpent’s Egg, his other famous roles were romps: the halt-voiced, ass-kicking Caine in the Kung Fu TV series, a kill-racer in Death Race 2000, Woody frickin’ Guthrie in Bound for Glory, and countless shitty TV and movie gigs — all played with the effortless panache one might expect a member of Hollywood royalty (as he was; his old man was John Carradine, a great Shakespearean who also did a lot of crap) to bring to a craft that he knew from insider information to be nonsense but enjoyed anyway.

Our favorite Carradine performance is his Cole Younger in The Long Riders — that odd Walter Hill movie starring famous movie brothers as famous outlaw brothers. David C struts through most of the thing in a wretched duster, ragged hair and a big old hat, with so much obvious glee at playing Western dress-up that it would be unprofessional if it weren’t so agreeable. Not taking things too seriously was his great strength.

We hope that, at his death, he had in mind his lyrics to one of the songs he played with his band back in the 70s: “It’s just a great big cosmic joke/ You laugh until you choke.”