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Overview for John Carradine
John Carradine

John Carradine


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Also Known As: Richmond Reed Carradine,John Peter Richmond,John Peter Richmond,Peter Richmond Died: November 27, 1988
Born: February 5, 1906 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: Cast ... actor painter director sketch artist sculptor


e James" (1939).

Called back to duty for John Ford, Carradine brought elegance and vainglory to his role as a displaced Southern gentleman banished to the western frontier in "Stagecoach" (1939) and raised gooseflesh as a one-eyed Tory insurgent in "Drums Along the Mohawk" (1939). Critical kudos for his work as a Dustbowl preacher in Ford⿿s "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940) raised the actor⿿s stock at Fox, who decided to stop loaning the actor out ⿿ but not before Carradine played a consumptive Botany Bay convict for Hal Roach in the swashbuckler "Captain Fury" (1939) and a city lawman who loses his cool in the jungle Hell of "Five Came Back" (1939) for RKO. Offered a better variety of roles at Fox, Carradine reprised his Bob Ford character for Fritz Lang⿿s "The Return of Frank James" (1940), earning a well-deserved comeuppance in the gun fight of Henry Fonda⿿s vengeful Frank James. Carradine was cast in support of Fonda again in Henry King⿿s "Chad Hanna" (1941) and in Lang⿿s Technicolor "Blood and Sand" (1941) he enjoyed an atypically tender role as the naïf-like friend of bullfighter Tyrone Power.

During World War II, Carradine performed for the troops and played a success of Nazi rats in Langâ¿¿s "Man Hunt" (1941), Harold Youngâ¿¿s "I Escaped from the Gestapo" (1941), and Douglas Sirkâ¿¿s "Hitlerâ¿¿s Madman" (1943). Having satisfied his contract with Fox, he went free agent, commanding $2,500 per week for his services. He played mad scientists in "Captive Wild Woman" (1943) and "Revenge of the Zombies" (1943), marking the start of his long association with the horror genre. Carradine stepped into Bela Lugosiâ¿¿s cutaway coat and opera cape to play Bram Stokerâ¿¿s natty revenant in "House of Frankenstein" (1944) and "House of Dracula" (1945), imbuing his performance with a mesmeric quality that would have an impact on his future film assignments. Returning to the stage to play a succession of Shakespeareâ¿¿s tragic heroes and villains, Carradine fell in love with his 21-year-old "Hamlet" costar Sonia Sorel, divorcing his wife to marry her in Las Vegas in August 1944.

Striking a Faustian divorce agreement with his first wife forced Carradine to work exhaustively through the ensuing years, accepting work in regional theatre, on the radio, and in films. He was an evil Egyptian priest in "The Mummyâ¿¿s Ghost" (1944) but had the flashier role of the wife strangler "Bluebeard" (1945) for Edgar Ulmer. Unable to pay back alimony, the actor fled California ahead of a bench warrant, settling in New Yorkâ¿¿s Greenwich Village and performing in both stage plays and on early live television. He made his Broadway debut as The Cardinal in George Rylandsâ¿¿ revival of "The Duchess of Malfi" in 1946, and the following year was Ebenezer Scrooge in the DuMont Television Networkâ¿¿s adaptation of "A Christmas Carol," which marked the professional debut of actress Eva Marie Saint. Carradine would father three more children with his second wife before their 1957 divorce, among them future actors Keith and Robert Carradine.

Despite his demanding work schedule, Carradineâ¿¿s life descended into a rut of penury, aggravated by IRS and alimony debts, from which he never fully escaped. He traveled widely and indiscriminately for work of greatly varying quality, standing tall among the ensemble casts of Nicholas Rayâ¿¿s "Johnny Guitar" (1954), Cecil B. DeMilleâ¿¿s "The Ten Commandments" (1956), and John Fordâ¿¿s "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (1962), but humbling himself for the hackwork of Reginald Le Borgâ¿¿s "The Black Sleep" (1956), Boris Petroffâ¿¿s "The Unearthly" (1957) and Edward L. Cahnâ¿¿s "Invisible Invaders" (1959). The American distributors of Ishiro Hondaâ¿¿s Abominable Snowman romp "Half Human" (1958) cut Carradine into the action in new footage, as Raymond Burr had been insinuated into the U.S. release of Hondaâ¿¿s "Godzilla" (1954). Carradine reprised the character of Dracula on the small screen for a 1956 broadcast of "Matinee Theater" (NBC, 1955-58) directed by Lamont Johnson, and at age 60, played the character again in William Beaudineâ¿¿s progressively inept "Billy the Kid vs. Dracula" (1966).

Increasingly hobbled by arthritis, which left his fingers and toes curled like driftwood, Carradine was often trucked into low budget horror films for shock value that evoked his past work experience as a sub-specialist in the horror genre. He played his most unambitious mad scientist yet in "Hillbillies in a Haunted House" (1967), a down-market Devil in the Mexican "Autopsy of a Ghost" (1968), an electronic necromancer in "The Astro-Zombies" (1968), and Draculaâ¿¿s butler in Al Adamsonâ¿¿s grade-Z shocker "Blood of Draculaâ¿¿s Castle" (1969). He had a minor role in Burt Kennedyâ¿¿s "The Good Guys and the Bad Guys" (1969), which featured son David as a villainous young gun, and played unorthodox surgeons in "Myra Breckinridge" (1970) and "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)" (1972). He co-starred with son David again in Martin Scorseseâ¿¿s "Boxcar Bertha" (1972) but his scenes were removed from "Hex" (1973), which provided Keith Carradine with an early starring role.

Carradineâ¿¿s tempestuous third marriage to actress Doris Rich ended with her death in a fire in 1971. A fourth marriage was short-lived and the actor lost all of his possessions and mementos in a 1978 apartment fire. Used as little more than a special effect as a blind priest in Michael Winnerâ¿¿s "The Sentinel" (1977), Carradine brought true pathos to the mostly comic relief role of an elderly werewolf in Joe Danteâ¿¿s "The Howling" (1981) and enjoyed a spirited cameo as a Shriner with seemingly metaphysical abilities in Francis Ford Coppolaâ¿¿s "Peggy Sue Got Married" (1986). His 1985 Daytime Emmy Award for the youth-oriented telefilm "Umbrella Jack" (1984) would be Hollywoodâ¿¿s only official recognition for a job well done. Suffering from leukemia and rendered effectively homeless, John Carradine died in Italy, in the pauperâ¿¿s ward of Milanâ¿¿s Fatebenefratelli Hospital, on Nov. 27, 1988.

By Richard Harland Smithsérables" (1935), starring Charles Laughton and Fredric March. He popped up in an unbilled bit as a hunter in James Whale⿿s "Bride of Frankenstein" (1935) and provided the voice of Leopold of Austria in DeMille⿿s "The Crusades" (1935). Appearing in 10 films that year, Carradine also married for the first time, wedding single mother Ardanelle McCool Cosner and adopting her two year-old son Bruce. As if repaying the actor for once having had him arrested, John Ford gave Carradine a plum role as a merciless Tortugan prison screw making life difficult for convict Warner Baxter in "The Prisoner of Shark Island" (1936). Attending a Hollywood showing of the film with his new bride, Carradine was booed by the ticket buyers who identified him with his unpalatable character. A new contract with Fox kept him busy but a punishing schedule wreaked havoc on his home life.

After playing heavies in "White Fang" (1936) and the Technicolor "Ramona" (1936), Carradine went on loan to RKO to play Katharine Hepburnâ¿¿s balladeer aid-de-camp in John Fordâ¿¿s "Mary of Scotland" (1936) and a Tory dastard in "Daniel Boone" (1936), for which he was third-billed behind leads George Oâ¿¿Brien and Heather Angel. In December 1936, Carradine fathered a son, John Arthur Carradine, who would follow his father into the actorâ¿¿s trade, billing himself as David Carradine. On loan to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Carradine played sailor Spencer Tracyâ¿¿s shipboard antagonist Long Jack in Victor Flemingâ¿¿s "Captains Courageous" (1937), which also offered him a paying vacation on Catalina Island. MGM kept the jobbing thespian around long enough to play Abraham Lincoln in "Of Human Hearts" (1938), for which Films in Review averred he stole the film from co-stars James Stewart, Walter Huston and Charles Coburn. Returning to Fox, Carradine was the cowardly Bob Ford, assassin of Tyrone Powerâ¿¿s "Jess

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