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David Carradine's Best Work?

Adam Bernstein

Early reports are that actor David Carradine was found dead today in Bangkok at age 72 and that suicide is the suspected cause of death. Barely a minute goes by without someone in the newsroom coming up and reciting something he did in the "Kill Bill" movies. Carradine may have done fine work in those Tarantino films, but to appreciate his work, you have to know why he was chosen for "Kill Bill" -- as an homage to his early work on the TV series "Kung Fu," grasshopper.

Here is his well-known Superman speech from "Kill BIll."

In the newsroom, there's always a slight if unspoken prejudice against anything achieved decades ago. My interest in movies stretches back to the earliest days of film. And when I think Carradine, I think of David's father, John, that gravelly voiced ultraham best known for his work in Shakespeare onstage and as a villain in Hollywood films ("Stagecoach," "The Prisoner of Shark Island").

Is David Carradine's legacy simply his most recent work? I hope not. Then again "Kill Bill" and other films with cartoon-like characters and violence are not my cup of tea. However, I loved him as a hunted political agitator in Martin Scorsese's "Boxcar Bertha" (1972), which co-starred his longtime girlfriend Barbara Hershey, and as folk singer Woody Guthrie in "Bound for Glory" (1976). Fans of Ingmar Bergman may recall Carradine as the morose hero of Bergman's worst film, "The Serpent's Egg" (1977).

But any way you look at it, he had a compelling career far greater than "Kill Bill."

By Adam Bernstein |  June 4, 2009; 11:10 AM ET  | Category:  Actors, actresses , Adam Bernstein
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He struck me as joyless and existential in many of his roles, maybe that was a reflection of his real personality?
Sorry to see any life end the way his did.

Posted by: jjj33 | June 4, 2009 1:11 PM

I really enjoyed the Kung Fu series. They don't make quality TV shows like that anymore.

But I think one of my most favorite films is Long Riders in which a few of the hollywood brothers played in -- including Keith and David Carradine.

Another great old western film. Last good western film I saw in the theaters was the remake of 3:10 to Yuma.

Posted by: Girl1 | June 4, 2009 1:33 PM

A martial artist who was inspired as a 10 yr old kid watching "KUNG FU"
for ME it was not the combat that inspired me.
it was a new and different way of observing the world around me.
which of course leads to insight and much greater self awareness of yourself and other beings.
just one week ago here in Germany the movie "CIRCLE OF IRON" was shown on free TV
here it is called "secrets of the blind master"
the moral of the film was "in the end you only face yourself all else is an illusion".
MR. David Carradine's works as an artist were at once sarcastic(death race 2000)
to deeply insightful kung fu, circle of iron, his portrayal of woody Guthrie.
David had a great range as an artist.
painter pianist sculptor musician song writer poet actor athlete.
his official web site is over flowing with condolences
he was a true INSPIRATION a part of America is gone forever
he was from the beat generation it cannot be replaced however it will be remembered

GRASS HOPPER snatch the pebble from my hand, when you can do this it will be time fro you to leave.

goodbye grass hopper i will miss you deeply
dang i just teared up
a martial artist in Munich Germany

Posted by: JudgeAlan | June 4, 2009 3:58 PM

I believe DC was nominated for a Best Actor Acadeny Award for BOUND FOR GLORY. That and the KILL BILL movies (particularly volume 2) are what he should be remembered for. Sad about the manner of his death. I wonder if he was ill.

Posted by: pirate1 | June 4, 2009 4:04 PM

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