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David Carradine 1936--2009

Maybe you knew David Carradine from his role as the title character, the stonefaced assassin in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill. Or maybe you knew him as Woody Guthrie, the plainspoken folk singer and folk hero in Hal Ashby's Bound for Glory, for which he earned a deserved Golden Globe nomination (not an Oscar nom, as I incorrectly said before). Many knew him as Kwai Chan Caine in the cult TV show Kung Fu, a pupil of Shaolin monks hunted by the Chinese royal family, imparting the wisdom, "The wise man walks always with his head bowed, humble like the dust." In that legendary role Carradine was the bridge between Eastern mysticism and American action, an early proponent of East-Meets-Western.

The hardest-working actor in show business was found dead in his hotel room today in Bangkok where he was making a movie. The ageless Carradine, son of character actor John and half-brother of actors Keith and Bobby, was, incredibly, 72. From Caine to Cole Younger (in The Long Riders), he played many legendary figures. The quintessential Carradine? Felt him as Woody Guthrie.

Update: According to BBC News, Carradine's body was discovered by a hotel maid in a wardrobe with a rope around his neck.