David Carradine was born in Hollywood, California, the eldest son of legendary character actor John Carradine, and his wife, Ardanelle Abigail (McCool). He presided over an acting family that included brothers Keith Carradine and Robert Carradine, as well as his daughters Calista Carradine and Kansas Carradine, and nieces Ever Carradine and Martha Plimpton.
Carradine was born in Hollywood and educated at San Francisco State College, where he studied music theory and composition. It was while writing music for the Drama Department’s annual revues that he discovered his own passion for the stage, joining a Shakespearean repertory company and learning his craft on his feet. After a two-year stint in the army, he found work in New York as a commercial artist and later found fame on Broadway in The Deputy and The Royal Hunt of the Sun opposite Christopher Plummer. With that experience he returned to Hollywood, landing the lead in the short-lived TV series Shane (1966) before being tapped to star opposite Barbara Hershey in Martin Scorsese’s first Hollywood film, Boxcar Bertha (1972). The iconic Kung Fu (1972) followed, catapulting Carradine to superstardom for the next three years, until he left the series to pursue his film career.
That career included more than 100 feature films, a couple of dozen television movies, a whole range of theater on and off Broadway and another hit series, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (1992).
Carradine received the Best Actor Award from the National Board of Film Review as well as a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of Woody Guthrie in Hal Ashby’s Bound for Glory (1976), and he won critical acclaim for his work as Cole Younger in The Long Riders(1980). Kung Fu also received seven Emmy nominations in its first season, including one for Carradine as Best Actor. In addition, he won the People’s Prize at the Cannes Film Festival’s Director’s Fortnight for his work on Americana (1981), and a second Golden Globe nomination for his supporting role in North and South (1985). Among his other notable film credits were Gray Lady Down (1978), Mean Streets (1973), Bird on a Wire (1990), The Long Goodbye (1973), The Serpent’s Egg (1977), and Circle of Iron (1978). He returned to the screen in what could be his greatest performance, playing the title role in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) and Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004), for which he received his fourth Golden Globe nomination. He also continued his devotion to music, and recorded some 60 tracks in various musical genres and sang in several movies. He made his home in Los Angeles with his fifth wife Annie, her four children and their two dogs.
He died in Bangkok, Thailand on June 3, 2009 while filming a movie entitled Stretch. He was 72. He is survived by his wife Annie, stepchildren Amanda, Madeleine, Max and Olivia, his eldest daughter, Calista, son, Free, and daughter, Kansas, as well as grandchildren Mariah, Sienna, Phoenix, and Bodhi, and great-granddaughter, Ryana.