in Blood and Sand (1941)
|Born||Richmond Reed Carradine
February 5, 1906
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||November 27, 1988 (aged 82)
|Other name(s)||Peter Richmond|
|Spouse(s)||Ardanelle McCool Cosner (1935-1944) (divorced) 1 child
Sonia Sorel (1944-1956) (divorced) 3 children
Doris Rich (1957-1971) (her death)
Emily Cisneros (1975-1988) (his death)
Carradine was born Richmond Reed Carradine in New York City, the son of Genevieve Winifred (née Richmond), a surgeon, and William Reed Carradine, a correspondent for the Associated Press. He attended the Episcopal Academy in Merion, Pennsylvania and originally planned a career as a painter and sculptor. He began his career in show business as a Shakespearean dramatic actor and made his cinematic debut in 1930 under the name Peter Richmond. He adopted the stage name "John Carradine" in 1935, and legally took the name as his own two years later.
Beginning with The Prisoner of Shark Island (1934), Carradine appeared in ten John Ford productions, including The Grapes of Wrath (1940), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) and Stagecoach (1939). He also portrayed the Biblical hero Aaron in The Ten Commandments (1956). He 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 and Macbeth. His Broadway roles included Ferdinand in a 1946 production of John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi, the Ragpicker in a 13-month run of Jean Giraudoux's The Madwoman of Chaillot, Lycus in a 15-month run of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and DeLacey in the expensive one-night flop Frankenstein in 1981. He also toured in road companies of such shows as Tobacco Road and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in which he was properly emaciated as the cancer-ridden Big Daddy.
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, mad or diabolical characters, especially in the horror genre with which he had become identified as a "star" by the mid-1940s. He occasionally, however, did play a "good guy" role, as in The Grapes of Wrath, in which he played Casy, the ill-fated "preacher". He appeared in seemingly dozens of low-budget horror films from the 1940s onwards, in order to finance a touring classical theatre company. He even sang the theme song to one film he appeared in briefly, Red Zone Cuba. He also made more than one hundred television appearances, including CBS's My Friend Flicka, NBC's Overland Trail in the 1960 episode "The Reckoning" and on ABC's Harrigan and Son and The Legend of Jesse James. He made recurring appearances as the mortician, Mr. Gateman, on CBS's The Munsters. In 1985, Carradine won a Daytime Emmy award for his performance as an eccentric old man who lives by the railroad tracks in the Young People's Special, Umbrella Jack.
In 1982, he did the voice of the Great Owl in the animated feature The Secret of NIMH. One of Carradine's final film appearances was Peggy Sue Got Married 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, something he always denied.
Four of Carradine's five sons became actors: David Carradine, Robert Carradine, Keith Carradine, and Bruce Carradine. David's show, Kung Fu, 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". Keith Carradine portrayed a younger version of his half-brother David's character throughout the series.
Carradine was married four times. His wives were Ardanelle McCool, mother of Bruce and David. Bruce, Ardanelle's son from a previous marriage, was adopted by John. John was married to Ardanelle from 1935 to 1944; Sonia Sorel, mother of Keith, Robert and Chris from 1944 to 1956; Doris Rich from 1957 to 1971, ending in her death; and Emily Cisneros from 1975 to 1988, who survived him.
Carradine suffered from painful and crippling arthritis during his later years, but continued working nonetheless.
For his contribution to the motion picture industry, John Carradine has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6240 Hollywood Blvd.