David Carradine has been around the film and TV world for a long time. Since his days as Kwai Chang Caine in the 1970’s TV show Kung Fu, David Carradine remained with his fans in various roles and functions, from advertising spokesman to playing villains in the Quentin Tarantino movies, Kill Bill I & II, to the TV show Charmed. He even showed up in the Jones Brothers video, Burnin’ Up. It seems that he has always been around-somewhere-reprising his role as martial arts master, wise elder, or rough-and-tumble cowboy.
But Carradine did not start out in film. His first love was music, and in fact, it was a love that continued throughout his life. He was also an artist, and some of his work can be found at the official David Carradine site at www.david-carradine.com. But when Carradine stumbled onto a film class one day during his time at San Francisco State University, the die was cast–not surprising since he came from an acting family with father, John Carradine already renowned. His talent for acting was evident from the beginning, and that talent kept him working steadily throughout his life. He went on to play roles in a number of popular shows in the mid-1960s, including Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theater, Wagon Train, The Virginian, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. His first big film role was as Woodie Guthrie in ‘Bound for Glory,’ and he continued to rack up credits for many years until his hit TV show of the 1970s, Kung Fu, made him famous. Even after the show was done, his presence continued on. Years later, he reprised the role in Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, and his name and talent were known to yet another generation of fans. Then came the Quentin Tarantino movies, Kill Bill I & II, in 2003 and 2004. And Carradine ingrained himself yet again in the minds and hearts of a new generation of fans. This kind of longevity is quite remarkable in Hollywood. It can only be attributed to Carradine’s knowing what the essence of a role required and providing it so well.
So when reports of David Carradine’s death came in from Bangkok, Thailand at age 72, it was a great shock to his fans. And the early reports of possible suicide were particularly troubling. It was another one of those modern cases that ‘did not make sense.’ Here was a talented actor-a success at his craft, not only in the past, but currently. He was working on a new film at the time of his death. He should have been contented, engaged in his work, fulfilled as a human being. Fans could not sort the ‘whys’ of this event, nor what it meant.
He left a great deal behind, however–a body of work that will be studied and remembered for a long time. From a young man with a love of music and a penchant for art, he became part of the film world’s icons. There may be other kung fu masters, but there will be no other Kwai Chang Caine. There will be no other ‘Bill’ in our hearts. He played the roles so well-so completely-that any substitution or replacement is unthinkable. .
That was the true genius of David Carradine He put a great deal of himself into the roles he played-until we could not imagine them being done any other way