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 movies featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The Cinema Snob, usually playing 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.
- Bright Lights (extra) (film debut)
- Bride of Frankenstein (uncredited cameo)
- Mary of Scotland
- Captains Courageous
- The Last Gangster
- Alexander's Ragtime Band
- Drums Along the Mohawk
- Five Came Back
- The Grapes of Wrath
- Hitler's Madman
- House of Frankenstein
- The Court Jester
- Around the World in 80 Days
- The Ten Commandments
- The Unearthly
- The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
- Horror of the Red Planet/The Wizard of Mars
- Billy The Kid Versus Dracula - He played Dracula
- Red Zone Cuba (in which he also sang the theme song, "Night Train to Mundo Fine")
- The Astro-Zombies
- Hell's Bloody Devils
- Honey Britches aka Demented Death Farm Massacre
- The Gatling Gun
- Boxcar Bertha
- Blood Of Ghastly Horror
- Silent Night Bloody Night
- The Shootist
- The Sentinel
- Shock Waves
- Satan's Cheerleaders
- Missile X: The Neutron Bomb Incident
- The Boogeyman
- Frankenstein Island
- The Howling
- Satan's Mistress
- Goliath Awaits
- The Secret of NIMH - One of his last decent roles was voicing The Great Owl in a memorable cameo
- House of the Long Shadows (Notable for being the only film to feature a Dream Team of legends of classic horror cinema with Carradine, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee)
- The Ice Pirates
- Monster in the Closet
- Jack-O—Scenes filmed in 1985; film not released till '95.
- The Night Strangler
Tropes associated with his body of work include:
- Doing It for the Art: He had a Shakespeare company that was both acclaimed and remarkably unprofitable.
- Evil Sounds Deep: Even when he's relatively "good", such as the Great Owl.
- 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: 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!