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John Carradine

John Carradine

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John Carradine was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 actor
Actor
An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...

, best known for his roles in horror films and Westerns as well as Shakespearean theater. A member of Cecil B DeMille's stock company and later John Ford
John Ford
John Ford was an American film director. He was famous for both his westerns such as Stagecoach, The Searchers, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and adaptations of such classic 20th-century American novels as The Grapes of Wrath...

's company, he was one of the most prolific character actor
Character actor
A character actor is one who predominantly plays unusual or eccentric characters. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a character actor as "an actor who specializes in character parts", defining character part in turn as "an acting role displaying pronounced or unusual characteristics or...

s in Hollywood history. He was married several times, had several children and was the patriarch of an acting dynasty
Carradine family
The Carradine family are the family of American actor John Carradine, who had five sons, four of whom became actors.The family includes:John Carradine , married four times including: Ardanelle McCool...

. It includes four of his sons and four of his grandchildren.

Early life


John Carradine was born in the Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village, , , , .in New York often simply called "the Village", is a largely residential neighborhood on the west side of Lower Manhattan in New York City. A large majority of the district is home to upper middle class families...

 section of New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, the son of Genevieve Winifred (née
Married and maiden names
A married name is the family name adopted by a person upon marriage. When a person assumes the family name of her spouse, the new name replaces the maiden name....

 Richmond), a surgeon, and William Reed Carradine, a correspondent for the Associated Press
Associated Press
The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...

. William Carradine was the son of evangelical author Beverly Carradine
Beverly Carradine
Beverly Francis Carradine was an American Methodist minister, and a leading evangelist for the holiness movement. He was a productive author, writing primarily on the subject of sanctification.- Life and work :...

. The family lived in Peekskill
Peekskill, New York
Peekskill is a city in Westchester County, New York. It is situated on a bay along the east side of the Hudson River, across from Jones Point.This community was known to be an early American industrial center, primarily for its iron plow and stove products...

 and Kingston, New York
Kingston, New York
Kingston is a city in and the county seat of Ulster County, New York, USA. It is north of New York City and south of Albany. It became New York's first capital in 1777, and was burned by the British Oct. 16, 1777, after the Battles of Saratoga...

. William died from tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

 when John was two years old. John's mother remarried "a Philadelphia paper manufacturer named Peck, who thought the way to bring up someone else's boy was to beat him every day just on general principle." John attended the Christ Church School in Kingston. and the Episcopal Academy in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
Swarthmore is a borough in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, United States. Swarthmore was originally named Westdale in honor of noted painter Benjamin West, who was one of the early residents of the town. The name was changed to Swarthmore after the establishment of Swarthmore College...

, where he developed his diction and his memory while memorizing portions of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer as a punishment.

Carradine's son, David
David Carradine
David Carradine was an American actor and martial artist, best known for his role as a warrior monk, Kwai Chang Caine, in the 1970s television series, Kung Fu, which later had a 1990s sequel series, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues...

, recalled that his father ran away when he was 14 years old. He returned at some point, as he studied sculpture at Philadelphia's Graphic Arts Institute. John lived with his maternal uncle Peter Richmond in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 for a while, working in the film archives of the public library. David said that while still a teenager, his father went to Richmond, Virginia
Richmond, Virginia
Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States. It is an independent city and not part of any county. Richmond is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Greater Richmond area...

, where he served as apprentice to Daniel Chester French
Daniel Chester French
Daniel Chester French was an American sculptor. His best-known work is the sculpture of a seated Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.-Life and career:...

, the sculptor who created the statue of Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 for the Lincoln Monument
Lincoln Monument
The Lincoln Monument is a bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln that commemorates his 1832 service in the Black Hawk War. Located in President's Park in Dixon, Illinois, the bronze statue was sculpted by Leonard Crunelle and was dedicated on September 24, 1930...

 (see notes). He traveled for a time, supporting himself painting portraits. "If the sitter was satisfied, the price was $2.50," he once said. "It cost him nothing if he thought it was a turkey. I made as high as $10 to $15 a day." During this time, he was arrested for vagrancy. While in jail Carradine was beaten, suffering a broken nose that did not set correctly. This contributed to "the look that would become world famous."

David Carradine said, "My dad told me that he saw a production of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice
The Merchant of Venice
The Merchant of Venice is a tragic comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1596 and 1598. Though classified as a comedy in the First Folio and sharing certain aspects with Shakespeare's other romantic comedies, the play is perhaps most remembered for its dramatic...

when he was eleven years old and decided right then what he wanted to do with his life". He made his stage debut in 1925 in New Orleans in a production of Camille
The Lady of the Camellias
The Lady of the Camellias is a novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils, first published in 1848, and subsequently adapted for the stage. The Lady of the Camellias premiered at the Théâtre du Vaudeville in Paris, France on February 2, 1852. The play was an instant success, and Giuseppe Verdi immediately set...

and worked for a time in a New Orleans Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 company. Carradine joined a tent repertory theater under the management of R. D. MaClean, who became his mentor. In 1927, he took a job escorting a shipment of bananas from Dallas, Texas
Dallas, Texas
Dallas is the third-largest city in Texas and the ninth-largest in the United States. The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is the largest metropolitan area in the South and fourth-largest metropolitan area in the United States...

 to Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles , with a population at the 2010 United States Census of 3,792,621, is the most populous city in California, USA and the second most populous in the United States, after New York City. It has an area of , and is located in Southern California...

, where he eventually picked up some theater work under the name of Peter Richmond, in homage to his uncle. He became friends with John Barrymore
John Barrymore
John Sidney Blyth , better known as John Barrymore, was an acclaimed American actor. He first gained fame as a handsome stage actor in light comedy, then high drama and culminating in groundbreaking portrayals in Shakespearean plays Hamlet and Richard III...

, and began working for Cecil B. DeMille
Cecil B. DeMille
Cecil Blount DeMille was an American film director and Academy Award-winning film producer in both silent and sound films. He was renowned for the flamboyance and showmanship of his movies...

 as a set designer. Carradine, however, did not have the job long. "DeMille noticed the lack of Roman columns in my sketches," Carradine said. "I lasted two weeks." Once DeMille heard his baritone voice, however, he hired him to do voice-overs. Carradine said, "...the great Cecil B. De Mille saw an apparition - me - pass him by, reciting the gravedigger's lines from 'Hamlet
Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

,' and he instructed me to report to him the following day." He became a member of DeMille's stock company and his voice was heard in several DeMille pictures, including The Sign of the Cross
The Sign of the Cross (film)
The Sign of the Cross is a pre-Code epic film released by Paramount Pictures, produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille from a screenplay by Waldemar Young and Sidney Buchman, and based on the original 1895 play by Wilson Barrett....

.

Career



Carradine's first film credit was Tol'able David (1930), but he claimed to have done 70 pictures before getting billing. Carradine tested, along with Conrad Veidt
Conrad Veidt
Conrad Veidt was a German actor best remembered for his roles in films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari , The Man Who Laughs , The Thief of Bagdad and Casablanca...

, William Courtenay, Paul Muni
Paul Muni
Paul Muni was an Austrian-Hungarian-born American stage and film actor...

, and Ian Keith
Ian Keith
-Life and career:Born Keith Ross in Boston, Massachusetts, Ian Keith was a veteran character actor of the legitimate theater, and appeared in a variety of colorful roles in silent features of the 1920s. His stage training made him a natural choice for the new "talking pictures"; he played John...

, for the title role in Dracula
Dracula (1931 film)
Dracula is a 1931 vampire-horror film directed by Tod Browning and starring Bela Lugosi as the title character. The film was produced by Universal and is based on the stage play of the same name by Hamilton Deane and John L...

, but all contenders lost out to Bela Lugosi
Béla Lugosi
Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó , commonly known as Bela Lugosi, was a Hungarian actor of stage and screen. He was best known for having played Count Dracula in the Broadway play and subsequent film version, as well as having starred in several of Ed Wood's low budget films in the last years of his...

. Carradine would later play the Count in the Universal Studios
Universal Studios
Universal Pictures , a subsidiary of NBCUniversal, is one of the six major movie studios....

 Dracula sequels House of Frankenstein
House of Frankenstein
House of Frankenstein may refer to:*House of Frankenstein , a 1944 horror film produced by Universal Studios*House of Frankenstein 1997, a 1997 television mini-series featuring characters from the Universal Studios horror films...

and House of Dracula
House of Dracula
House of Dracula was an American horror film released by Universal Pictures Company in 1945. It was a direct sequel to House of Frankenstein and continued the theme of combining Universal's three most popular monsters: Frankenstein's monster, Count Dracula and The Wolf Man...

. Lugosi and Carradine both also tested for the monster role in Frankenstein (1931)
Frankenstein (1931 film)
Frankenstein is a 1931 Pre-Code Horror Monster film from Universal Pictures directed by James Whale and adapted from the play by Peggy Webling which in turn is based on the novel of the same name by Mary Shelley. The film stars Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, John Boles and Boris Karloff, and features...

. By 1933, he was being credited as John Peter Richmond, perhaps in honor of his friend, John Barrymore. He adopted the stage name "John Carradine" in 1935, and legally took the name as his own two years later.

By 1936, Carradine had become a member of John Ford
John Ford
John Ford was an American film director. He was famous for both his westerns such as Stagecoach, The Searchers, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and adaptations of such classic 20th-century American novels as The Grapes of Wrath...

’s stock company and appeared in The Prisoner of Shark Island
The Prisoner of Shark Island
The Prisoner of Shark Island is a 1936 film loosely based on the life of Samuel Mudd, produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, directed by John Ford, and starring Warner Baxter and Gloria Stuart.-Plot:...

. In total, he made 11 pictures with Ford, including his first important role, as Preacher Casy in The Grapes of Wrath
The Grapes of Wrath (film)
The Grapes of Wrath is a 1940 drama film directed by John Ford. It was based on John Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name. The screenplay was written by Nunnally Johnson and the executive producer was Darryl F...

(1940), which starred Henry Fonda
Henry Fonda
Henry Jaynes Fonda was an American film and stage actor.Fonda made his mark early as a Broadway actor. He also appeared in 1938 in plays performed in White Plains, New York, with Joan Tompkins...

. Other Ford films in which Carradine appeared includeThe Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a 1962 American Western film directed by John Ford and starring James Stewart and John Wayne. The black-and-white film was released by Paramount Pictures. The screenplay by James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck was adapted from a short story written by Dorothy M...

(1962) and Stagecoach (1939), both with John Wayne
John Wayne
Marion Mitchell Morrison , better known by his stage name John Wayne, was an American film actor, director and producer. He epitomized rugged masculinity and became an enduring American icon. He is famous for his distinctive calm voice, walk, and height...

.
He also portrayed the Biblical
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 hero Aaron
Aaron
In the Hebrew Bible and the Qur'an, Aaron : Ααρών ), who is often called "'Aaron the Priest"' and once Aaron the Levite , was the older brother of Moses, and a prophet of God. He represented the priestly functions of his tribe, becoming the first High Priest of the Israelites...

 in DeMille's The Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments (1956 film)
The Ten Commandments is a 1956 American epic film that dramatized the biblical story of the Exodus, in which the Hebrew-born Moses, an adopted Egyptian prince, becomes the deliverer of the Hebrew slaves. The film, released by Paramount Pictures in VistaVision on October 5, 1956, was directed by...

(1956).

Carradine did considerable stage work, much of which provided his only opportunity to work in a classic drama context. He toured with his own Shakespearean company in the 1940s, playing Hamlet
Prince Hamlet
Prince Hamlet is a fictional character, the protagonist in Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet. He is the Prince of Denmark, nephew to the usurping Claudius and son of the previous King of Denmark, Old Hamlet. Throughout the play he struggles with whether, and how, to avenge the murder of his father, and...

 and Macbeth
Macbeth (character)
Macbeth is the title character in William Shakespeare's Macbeth . The character is based on the historical king Macbeth of Scotland, and is derived largely from the account in Holinshed's Chronicles , a history of Britain. Macbeth is a Scottish noble and a valiant military man. He is portrayed...

. His Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 roles included Ferdinand in a 1946 production of John Webster
John Webster
John Webster was an English Jacobean dramatist best known for his tragedies The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi, which are often regarded as masterpieces of the early 17th-century English stage. He was a contemporary of William Shakespeare.- Biography :Webster's life is obscure, and the dates...

's The Duchess of Malfi
The Duchess of Malfi
The Duchess of Malfi is a macabre, tragic play written by the English dramatist John Webster in 1612–13. It was first performed privately at the Blackfriars Theatre, then before a more general audience at The Globe, in 1613-14...

, the Ragpicker in a 13-month run of Jean Giraudoux
Jean Giraudoux
Hippolyte Jean Giraudoux was a French novelist, essayist, diplomat and playwright. He is considered among the most important French dramatists of the period between World War I and World War II. His work is noted for its stylistic elegance and poetic fantasy...

's The Madwoman of Chaillot
The Madwoman of Chaillot
The Madwoman of Chaillot is a play, a poetic satire, by French dramatist Jean Giraudoux, written in 1943 and first performed in 1945, after his death. The play has two acts and follows the convention of the classical unities...

, Lycus in a 15-month run of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart....

, and DeLacey in the expensive one-night flop Frankenstein in 1981. He also toured in road companies of such shows as Tobacco Road
Tobacco Road
Tobacco Road refers to the tobacco-producing area of North Carolina and is often used when referring to sports played among rival North Carolina universities...

and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a play by Tennessee Williams. One of Williams's best-known works and his personal favorite, the play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1955...

,
in which he was properly emaciated as the cancer
Cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

-ridden Big Daddy, a part, he said, which Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams
Thomas Lanier "Tennessee" Williams III was an American writer who worked principally as a playwright in the American theater. He also wrote short stories, novels, poetry, essays, screenplays and a volume of memoirs...

 wrote for him.

Carradine claimed to have appeared in more than 450 movies, but only 225 movies can be documented (his count is closer to fact if theatrical movies, made-for-TV movies and TV shows are included). He often played eccentric, insane or diabolical characters, especially in the horror
Horror film
Horror films seek to elicit a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing on the audience's most primal fears. They often feature scenes that startle the viewer through the means of macabre and the supernatural, thus frequently overlapping with the fantasy and science fiction genres...

 genre with which he had become identified as a "star" by the mid-1940s. He occasionally played a heroic role, as in The Grapes of Wrath, in which he played Casy, the ill-fated "preacher", and he occasionally played a sympathetic role, as in Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake
Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake
Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake is a 1942 adventure film directed by John Cromwell, starring Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney. The film was adapted from Edison Marshall's 1941 historical novel Benjamin Blake.-Plot:...

, in which he played Blake's shipmate, who escapes with him to a tropical island full of riches.

He appeared in dozens of low-budget horror films from the 1940s onwards, in order to finance a touring classical theatre company. He sang the theme song to one film in which he appeared briefly, Red Zone Cuba
Red Zone Cuba
Red Zone Cuba, also known as Night Train to Mundo Fine, is a 1966 American drama film directed by Coleman Francis, who also wrote, produced, and played the starring role...

. He also made more than 100 television appearances, including CBS's My Friend Flicka
My Friend Flicka (TV series)
My Friend Flicka is a 39-episode western television series set at the fictitious Goose Bar Ranch in Wyoming at the turn of the 20th century. The program was filmed in color but initially aired in black and white on CBS at 7:30 p.m. Fridays from February 10, 1956, to February 1, 1957. It was a...

and Place the Face
Place the Face
Place the Face is an American game show that aired on CBS and NBC from 1953 to 1955. The series was hosted by Jack Smith, Jack Bailey, and then Bill Cullen. Jack Narz was the announcer.-Synopsis:...

, NBC
NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

's Overland Trail
Overland Trail (TV series)
Overland Trail is a short-lived American Western series which aired on NBC from February 7 to June 6, 1960. The series starred William Bendix and Doug McClure,-Synopsis:...

in the 1960 episode "The Reckoning," and on ABC
American Broadcasting Company
The American Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network. Created in 1943 from the former NBC Blue radio network, ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Company and is part of Disney-ABC Television Group. Its first broadcast on television was in 1948...

's Harrigan and Son
Harrigan and Son
Harrigan and Son is an ABC sitcom about a father-and-son team of lawyers, played by Pat O'Brien and Roger Perry as Jim Harrigan, Sr., and Jim, Jr. In supporting roles, as secretaries, are Georgine Darcy as Gypsy and Helen Kleeb as Miss Claridge. The series aired 34 episodes at 8 p.m. Eastern Time...

and The Legend of Jesse James
The Legend of Jesse James (TV series)
The Legend of Jesse James is a 34-episode western television series starring Christopher Jones in the tile role of notorious outlaw Jesse James which aired on ABC from September 13, 1965, to May 9, 1966...

. He made recurring appearances as the mortician, Mr. Gateman, on CBS
CBS
CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

' The Munsters
The Munsters
The Munsters is a 1960s American family television sitcom depicting the home life of a family of monsters. It starred Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster and Yvonne De Carlo as his wife, Lily Munster. The series was a satire of both traditional monster movies and popular family entertainment of the era,...

. In 1985, Carradine won a Daytime Emmy award
Daytime Emmy Award
The Daytime Emmy Awards are awards presented by the New York-based National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles-based Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in recognition of excellence in American daytime television programming...

 for his performance as an eccentric old man who lives by the railroad tracks in the Young People's Special, Umbrella Jack.

In 1982
1982 in film
-Events:* March 26 = I Ought to Be in Pictures, starring Walter Matthau, Ann-Margret and Dinah Manoff is released. Manoff would not appear in another movie until 1987's Backfire.* June = PG-rated film E.T...

, he supplied the voice of the Great Owl in the animated feature The Secret of NIMH
The Secret of NIMH
The Secret of NIMH is a 1982 animated film directed by Don Bluth in his directorial debut. It is an adaptation of Robert C. O'Brien's 1971 children's novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. The film was produced by Aurora Pictures and released by United Artists. While released to critical acclaim,...

. One of Carradine's final film appearances was Peggy Sue Got Married
Peggy Sue Got Married
Peggy Sue Got Married is a 1986 American comedy-drama film directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Kathleen Turner as a woman on the verge of a divorce, who finds herself transported back to the days of her senior year in high school...

in 1986. Carradine's last released film credit was Bikini Drive-In, released years after his death.

Carradine's deep, resonant voice earned him the nickname "The Voice". He was also known as the "Bard of the Boulevard," due to his idiosyncratic habit of strolling Hollywood streets while reciting Shakespearean soliloquies
Soliloquy
A soliloquy is a device often used in drama whereby a character relates his or her thoughts and feelings to him/herself and to the audience without addressing any of the other characters, and is delivered often when they are alone or think they are alone. Soliloquy is distinct from monologue and...

, something he always denied.

Personal life


Carradine was married four times. He married his first wife, Ardanelle McCool Cosner, in 1935. She was mother of Bruce and David
David Carradine
David Carradine was an American actor and martial artist, best known for his role as a warrior monk, Kwai Chang Caine, in the 1970s television series, Kung Fu, which later had a 1990s sequel series, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues...

. John adopted Bruce, Ardanelle's son from a previous marriage. John had planned a large family but, according to the autobiography of his son David, after Ardanelle had had a series of miscarriages, Carradine discovered that she had had repeated "coat hanger" abortion
Abortion
Abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo prior to viability. An abortion can occur spontaneously, in which case it is usually called a miscarriage, or it can be purposely induced...

s, without his knowledge, which rendered her unable to carry a baby to full term. After only three years of marriage, Ardenelle Carradine filed for divorce, but the couple remained married for another five years.

They divorced in 1944, when David was seven years old. Carradine left California to avoid court action in the alimony
Alimony
Alimony is a U.S. term denoting a legal obligation to provide financial support to one's spouse from the other spouse after marital separation or from the ex-spouse upon divorce...

 settlement. After the couple engaged in a series of court battles involving child custody and alimony, which at one point landed Carradine in jail, David joined his father in New York City. By this time his father had remarried. For the next few years David was shuffled between boarding schools, foster homes and reform school.

Carradine married Sonia Sorel, who had appeared with him in Bluebeard
Bluebeard (1944 film)
Bluebeard is a 1944 film directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, starring John Carradine in the title role. After the film's release, it became a favorite of horror movie fans and still later, a cult classic. It would also be registered as a film in thepublic domain...

(1944) immediately following his divorce from Ardanelle in 1945. Sonia, who had adopted the stage name of Sorel, was the daughter of San Francisco brewer, Henry Henius, granddaughter of biochemist Max Henius
Max Henius
Max Henius was a Danish-American Biochemist who specialized in the fermentation processes. Max Henius co-founded the American Academy of Brewing in Chicago.-Background:...

, and a great-niece of the historian Johan Ludvig Heiberg
Johan Ludvig Heiberg (historian)
Johan Ludvig Heiberg was a Danish philologist and historian. He is best known for his discovery of previously unknown texts in the Archimedes Palimpsest, and for his edition of Euclid's Elements that T. L. Heath translated into English...

. Together she and Carradine had three sons, Christopher, Keith
Keith Carradine
Keith Ian Carradine is an American actor who has had success on stage, film and television. In addition, he is a Golden Globe and Oscar winning songwriter. As a member of the Carradine family, he is part of an acting "dynasty" that began with his father, John Carradine.-Early life:Keith...

 and Robert
Robert Carradine
Robert Reed Carradine is an American actor. The youngest of the Carradine family of actors, he made his first appearances on television western series such as Bonanza and his older brother David's Kung Fu. Carradine's first film role was in the 1972 film The Cowboys opposite Roscoe Lee Browne and...

. Their divorce in 1957 was followed by an acrimonious custody battle, which resulted in their sons being placed in a home for abused children
Child abuse
Child abuse is the physical, sexual, emotional mistreatment, or neglect of a child. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Children And Families define child maltreatment as any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or...

 as wards of the court. Keith Carradine said of the experience, "It was like being in jail. There were bars on the windows, and we were only allowed to see our parents through glass doors. It was very sad. We would stand there on either side of the glass door crying".

Eventually, Carradine won custody of the children. For the next eight years, Sonia was not permitted to see the children. Robert Carradine said that he was raised primarily by his stepmother, his father's third wife, Doris (Rich) Grimshaw
Grimshaw, Alberta
Grimshaw is a town in northern Alberta located west of the Town of Peace River at the junction of Highway 35, Highway 2, and bypass Highway 2A, and the Mackenzie Northern Railway...

, and believed her to be his mother until he was introduced to Sonia Sorel at a Christmas party when he was 14 years old. He told a journalist, "I said, 'How do you do.' Keith took me aside and said 'That's our real mother.' I didn't know what he was talking about. But he finally convinced me."

When John Carradine married Doris (Erving Rich) Grimshaw in 1957, she already had a son from a previous marriage, Dale, and a son from a later relationship, Michael, both of whom, along with Sonia Sorel's son, Michael Bowen
Michael Bowen (actor)
Michael Bowen is an American actor. Films he has appeared in include Jackie Brown, Magnolia, and Less Than Zero. Bowen also had a recurring role as Danny Pickett on the ABC television series, Lost....

, are sometimes counted among John Carradine's eight sons.. She was a one-time studio typist who typed the script to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (film)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a 1948 American film written and directed by John Huston, a feature film adaptation of B. Traven's 1927 novel of the same name, in which two Americans Fred C. Dobbs and Bob Curtin during the 1920s in Mexico join with an old-timer, Howard , to prospect for gold...

and who went on to play a few roles in film and television. Doris died in 1971 in a fire in her apartment in Oxnard, California
Oxnard, California
Oxnard is the 113th largest city in the United States, 19th largest city in California and largest city in Ventura County, California, by way of population. It is located at the western edge of the fertile Oxnard Plain, and is an important agricultural center, with its distinction as the...

. The fire was caused by a burning cigarette. She had been rescued from a similar fire just two weeks earlier. At the time of her death, she and Carradine were separated. Carradine was married a fourth time, from 1975 to 1988, to Emily Cisneros, who survived him.

Carradine suffered from painful and crippling arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, systemic inflammatory disorder that may affect many tissues and organs, but principally attacks synovial joints. The process produces an inflammatory response of the synovium secondary to hyperplasia of synovial cells, excess synovial fluid, and the development...

 during his later years, but continued working.

Death


On November 27, 1988, John Carradine died from multiple organ failure at Fatebenefratelli Hospital in Milan, Italy at age 82. Hours before he was stricken, he had climbed the 328 steep steps of Milan's Gothic
Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....

 cathedral, the Duomo. According to David Carradine, he had just finished a film in South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 and was about to begin a European tour. David was with him, reading Shakespeare to him, when he succumbed to his condition. By the time David and Keith Carradine had arrived at their father's bedside, he was unable to speak. "I was told that his last words were 'Milan: What a beautiful place to die.'" David recalled, "but he never spoke to me or opened his eyes. When he died, I was holding him in my arms. I reached out and closed his eyes. It's not as easy as it is in the movies."

There was a memorial for John Carradine in Hollywood, at St. Thomas Episcopal Church; a church he had founded. Jane Fonda
Jane Fonda
Jane Fonda is an American actress, writer, political activist, former fashion model, and fitness guru. She rose to fame in the 1960s with films such as Barbarella and Cat Ballou. She has won two Academy Awards and received several other movie awards and nominations during more than 50 years as an...

 was among those in attendance. The service included a full requiem
Requiem
A Requiem or Requiem Mass, also known as Mass for the dead or Mass of the dead , is a Mass celebrated for the repose of the soul or souls of one or more deceased persons, using a particular form of the Roman Missal...

 and Holy communion
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

. An Irish wake followed and eventually he was buried at sea.

Legacy and honors

  • For his contribution to the motion picture industry, John Carradine has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
    Hollywood Walk of Fame
    The Hollywood Walk of Fame consists of more than 2,400 five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars embedded in the sidewalks along fifteen blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street in Hollywood, California...

     at 6240 Hollywood Blvd.
  • In 2003, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
    National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
    The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is a museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with more than 28,000 Western and American Indian art works and artifacts. The facility also has the world's most extensive collection of American rodeo, photographs, barbed wire, saddlery, and early rodeo trophies...

     in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
    Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
    Oklahoma City is the capital and the largest city in the state of Oklahoma. The county seat of Oklahoma County, the city ranks 31st among United States cities in population. The city's population, from the 2010 census, was 579,999, with a metro-area population of 1,252,987 . In 2010, the Oklahoma...

    .

Acting legacy


Four of Carradine's five sons
Carradine family
The Carradine family are the family of American actor John Carradine, who had five sons, four of whom became actors.The family includes:John Carradine , married four times including: Ardanelle McCool...

 became actors: David
David Carradine
David Carradine was an American actor and martial artist, best known for his role as a warrior monk, Kwai Chang Caine, in the 1970s television series, Kung Fu, which later had a 1990s sequel series, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues...

, Robert
Robert Carradine
Robert Reed Carradine is an American actor. The youngest of the Carradine family of actors, he made his first appearances on television western series such as Bonanza and his older brother David's Kung Fu. Carradine's first film role was in the 1972 film The Cowboys opposite Roscoe Lee Browne and...

, Keith
Keith Carradine
Keith Ian Carradine is an American actor who has had success on stage, film and television. In addition, he is a Golden Globe and Oscar winning songwriter. As a member of the Carradine family, he is part of an acting "dynasty" that began with his father, John Carradine.-Early life:Keith...

, and Bruce. David had a prolific career, amassing 227 movie and television credits by the time of his death in 2009. He also had a brief Broadway career and produced and directed a number of independent projects. His success often led to work for other members of his family, including his father. The two appeared together in a few films, including The Good Guys and the Bad Guys (1969) and Boxcar Bertha
Boxcar Bertha
Boxcar Bertha , director Martin Scorsese's second film, is a loose adaptation of Sister of the Road, the fictionalized autobiography of radical and transient Bertha Thompson as written by Ben Reitman...

(1972), which was produced by Roger Corman
Roger Corman
Roger William Corman is an American film producer, director and actor. He has mostly worked on low-budget B movies. Some of Corman's work has an established critical reputation, such as his cycle of films adapted from the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, and in 2009 he won an Honorary Academy Award for...

 and directed by Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese
Martin Charles Scorsese is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, actor, and film historian. In 1990 he founded The Film Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to film preservation, and in 2007 he founded the World Cinema Foundation...

.

David's television series, Kung Fu
Kung Fu (TV series)
Kung Fu is an American television series that starred David Carradine. It was created by Ed Spielman, directed and produced by Jerry Thorpe, and developed by Herman Miller, who was also a writer for, and co-producer of, the series...

, featured his father John and half-brother Robert in the episode "Dark Angel". John would appear as the same character, the Reverend Serenity Johnson, in two more episodes: "The Nature of Evil" and "Ambush". David's brothers Bruce and Keith also appeared in the series, with Keith playing David's character as a teenager for a brief period. David, Keith, and Robert appeared together in a humorous cameo on The Fall Guy
The Fall Guy
The Fall Guy is an American action/adventure television program produced for ABC and originally broadcast from November 4, 1981 to May 2, 1986. It starred Lee Majors, Douglas Barr, and Heather Thomas. Majors and Barr are the only two actors to appear in all 112 episodes of the series...

, on an episode called "October the 31st
October the 31st (The Fall Guy episode)
October the 31st is an episode of the American television series The Fall Guy, which starred Lee Majors. This episode first appeared on October 31, 1984. There were two guest stars in this episode, veteran horror movie actor, John Carradine and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark...

" in which their father co-starred.

David's daughter, Calista, Robert's daughter Ever
Ever Carradine
Ever Dawn Carradine is an American actress. She is best known for her roles as Tiffany Porter on Once and Again and as Kelly Ludlow on Commander in Chief.-Early life:...

, and Keith's son Cade and daughter Martha Plimpton
Martha Plimpton
Martha Campbell Plimpton is an American actress and singer and former model. Plimpton is a screen, stage and television actress. She first appeared as Jonsy in the feature film River Rats before rising to prominence in the Richard Donner film The Goonies portraying the character Stef...

 are all actors. David's daughter, Kansas, rides horses in rodeos.

John's son Christopher is an architect and vice-president of Walt Disney Imagineering
Walt Disney Imagineering
Walt Disney Imagineering is the design and development arm of the Walt Disney Company, responsible for the creation and construction of Disney theme parks worldwide...

.

External links