On June 3, 2009 at the Swissotel Nai Lert Park Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, the actor, musician, and writer David Carradine was found dead hanging from a nylon rope in a hotel room closet, of what looked like an old-fashioned suicide. An ex-wife believed he was murdered. The family attorney blamed his death on kung fu assassins.
David was born in Hollywood, California on December 8, 1936. His birth name was John Arthur Carradine, and he was the eldest son of famous actor John Carradine, a Hollywood bad-boy. His father, 2 brothers, 2 daughters, and 2 nieces were all actors. Though David recalls being treated like a prince of Hollywood, his childhood wasn’t a bed of roses. In his autobiography, Endless Highway, he writes that he tried to hang himself at 5 years of age. As a punishment, his father burned his comic book collection. His father left the family when David was very young and they remained estranged for many years. He was expelled from one school after another. He had several run-ins with the law and was arrested for minor misdemeanors, burglary, and assault. He was an alcoholic, a drug user, and a heavy smoker.
David was educated at San Francisco State College, where he studied music. He also spent 2 years in the army, where his art skills were utilized by drafting images for training materials. After leaving the service, he found work on Broadway. With some acting experience under his belt, he returned to Hollywood and landed a role in the television series Shane in 1966. His big break came a few years later, in 1972, when he won the leading role in the Kung Fu television series, which solidified him as an international star. There was much controversy surrounding his role as Kwai Chang Caine. There is some evidence that the show was supposed to be a breakthrough project for actor and martial arts expert Bruce Lee. However, Warner Brothers cast Carradine in the leading role. Because of David’s physical characteristics, many assumed he was of partial Asian descent; however, he wasn’t. His ancestry was English. The Kung Fu series ran until 1975, and during that time period, he began his martial arts study and training, which he embraced for the remainder of his life.
David was married 5 times, first in 1960 to Donna Lee Becht, followed by marriages to Linda Gilbert, Gail Jensen, Marina Anderson, and his last marriage to Annie Carradine in 2004, which lasted until his death. He fathered 3 children.
After a significant absence from movies and television, David returned to film in in a big way in 2003, playing the title role in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Vol. 1, and then again in 2004 in Kill Bill: Vol. 2, to much critical acclaim. His career included over 100 feature films, television movies, and theatrical productions. He was also a musical talent and recorded across many genres. So what really killed Bill?
The police reported that Carradine’s death was most likely a sex accident. He was found in the hotel room with a cord wrapped around his neck and genitals, leading Thai police to believe he had taken part in dangerous sex practices that caused an accidental death, or autoerotic asphyxiation. He was in Thailand filming the movie Stretch at the time of his death.
One of David’s ex-wives, Marina Anderson, who was married to him from 1998 to 2001, alluded to the fact that her ex-husband had a kinky sex life and a fondness for bondage and asphyxiation to the point of orgasm. She noted that this ultimately destroyed their marriage. Anderson also felt that his death was indicative of murder, because his sexual preferences were never autonomous. However, the authorities stated that there was no indication that anyone had been in the room with David at the time of his death. Barring an unlikely confession from a Bangkok hooker, the ultimate truth will remain buried along with Grasshopper.
- Carradine family. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carradine_family.
- David Carradine. IMDb.com. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001016/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm.
- Donaldson James S. David Carradine book reveals incest, murder suspicions. ABC News Web site. July 21, 2010. http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/david-carradine-memoir-reveals-incest-kinky-sex-murder/story?id=11208529.
- Goldman R. Police: Carradine’s death likely sex accident. ABC News Web site. June 5, 2009. http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/story?id=7763422&page=1.
- Orloff B. David Carradine died of accidental asphyxiation. People Web site. July 2, 2009. http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20289267,00.html.
- Perez T. Lost and found: David Carradine’s endless highway. Tin House Web site. January 5, 2010. http://www.tinhouse.com/blog/4617/lost-found-david-carradines-endless-highway.html.