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Creator / John Carradine

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"I've made some of the greatest films ever made—and a lot of crap, too."
John Carradine, summing up his own body of work rather nicely

John Carradine (born Richmond Reed Carradine; February 5, 1906 – November 27, 1988) was a very prolific and frequently hammy actor who is probably best remembered for appearing in many, many B- to Z-grade horror films of the type later featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The Cinema Snob, usually in the role of a Mad Scientist or Dracula.

For the record, that quote above is accurate: he did have some actual good roles. Carradine was a favorite of John Ford and appeared in several all-time classic Ford films, including The Grapes of Wrath, Stagecoach, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and Drums Along the Mohawk. Other major films that Carradine appeared in include Man Hunt, Captains Courageous, and The Ten Commandments. He had a decent stage acting career, being a protégé of John Barrymore and playing roles such as the lead in Hamlet, and he's also remembered as the father of David Carradine, Robert Carradine, and Keith Carradine.

Still, best known for all those B-movies. Easily one of the most prolific actors who ever lived (if not THE most). His entire filmography (as listed by IMDB) comes to 340 titles, dwarfing even the 275 titles of fellow Dracula actor Christopher Lee (incidentally, Lee and Carradine actually share one credit: House of the Long Shadows, a 1983 Cannon horror comedy in which they appeared alongside Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and Desi Arnaz, Jr).

Often cited as a poster child for Money, Dear Boy, Carradine's willingness to take any role actually stems from an abortive passion project. In the '30s and '40s he managed a Shakespearean repertory company, John Carradine and His Shakespeare Players, which performed in San Francisco. Carradine's performances were highly acclaimed, but money was always tight, forcing Carradine to fund these productions out of pocket. When the Shakespeare Players collapsed (which also caused his first marriage to dissolve), Carradine found himself in dire financial straits, forcing him to continue appearing in roles beneath his talent. Despite this, he didn't seem to mind and simply committed himself to giving the best performance he could with the material.

Partial filmography:

    Film Roles 

    Television Roles 

Tropes associated with his body of work include:

  • Classically-Trained Extra: He was revered as one of the finest stage actors of his generation and took as many acting gigs as possible to keep his productions funded, meaning he was often in roles well below his talent range.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Even when he's relatively "good", such as the Great Owl.
  • Evil Is Hammy: He played a lot of villains and always brought his usual level of ham when doing so.
  • Large Ham: He was not an actor known for his subtlety or doing things halfway. While the quality of the films was often debatable, no one ever doubted that Carradine was giving his roles everything he had.
  • Meta Casting: He made a guest appearance in Land of the Giants as a washed-up horror actor who kidnaps the heroes to pitch a comeback film where he'd play a Mad Scientist who shrinks people, with no need for special effects.
  • Money, Dear Boy: invoked Oh dear God. Look at that filmography. Just look at it. It didn't even have to be that much money. In Joe Dante's DVD Commentary for The Howling, he tells the story of how, at one point during the shoot, Carradine was carrying around snacks that he bought himself, and wrapped in heavy blankets because there was no heat in his trailer. The man was so accustomed to working in no-budget films that it never even occurred to him that the film's budget should have been able to cover his food and heating costs!