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Who Killed Bill?

David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine


Paul S. Lewis

As a young kid, I was very eager to catch every episode of the 1970's "Kung Fu" television series!

It was actor David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine, the ass-kicking half Chinese Shaolin priest with his soft-toned voice, that gave me my initial view of martial arts long before I actually saw any Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan films, a few years before I finally caught Tom Laughlin in "Billy Jack" at the movies.

"Kung Fu" was my first time watching a well-acted, produced and directed martial arts related T.V. show created by an English-speaking American film studio. The long running series also managed to seamlessly combine two of my personal favorite themes; westerns and martial arts. Although, I'm not sure if it was Carradine directly in the role or the overall impression the series gave me, but it was my first extended exposure to a certain amount of traditional Asian culture and philosophy that I'd experienced up to then.

Arguably, "Kung Fu" may be considered unique and ground-breaking television for its time!

Even though the role has now been rumored to have originally been conceived for the late martial arts icon Bruce Lee, personally I thought Carradine did a superb job for a guy that had no prior martial arts training. Beginning from his days on the set of that series, Carradine soon engrossed himself in to learning Chinese martial arts, eventually becoming a fairly adept practitioner.

After the popular series ended, Carradine seemed to struggle through a long succession of type-casting and lower budget film roles, never quite reaching the mass appeal of his now legendary T.V. role.

Many years later, I was delighted to see Carradine revitalize his career as the notorious title role in both of Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" films! He was absolutely perfect for the role and I enjoyed watching him in them, I soon added the two DVD's to my collection and will always tend to briefly stop my channel surfing whenever I catch a glimpse of Volume's-1 or 2 on the tube.

In Vol. 1, a mostly unseen Bill (Played by David Carradine) was little more than a menacing voice on the phone, the final target of the Bride's (Uma Thurman) righteous campaign of vengeance against the assassins who laid waste to her wedding and left her pregnant body for dead. It wasn't until Vol. 2 that director Tarantino gave us a good first look at the guy, and what we found was a little surprising: He's mellow, affable, talkative, and an aficionado of Superman mythology, while still remaining a clear menace. After all, he did snatch the Bride's baby after blowing her brains out and leaving her for dead. As he tells Uma Thurman just before she makes the title come true, "I'm a killer, and a murdering bastard, and there are consequences to breaking the heart of a murdering bastard."

Many action film fans of the genre have stated, "I loved David Carradine in that role!" and both of the films now have a fanatic fanbase, often being referred to as modern-day classics.

David Carradine a review by Quentin Tarantino

End Preface


Official News Report: David Carradine Found Dead in Bangkok, the Cause is Still Under Investigation...

Actor David Carradine, star of the 1970s TV series “Kung Fu” who also had a wide-ranging career in the movies, has been found dead in the Thai capital, Bangkok. A news report said he was found hanged in his hotel room and was intially believed to have committed suicide.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, Michael Turner, confirmed the death of the 72-year-old actor. He said the embassy was informed by Thai authorities that Carradine died either late Wednesday or early Thursday, but he could not provide further details out of consideration for his family.

The Web site of the Thai newspaper "The Nation" cited unidentified police sources as saying Carradine was found Thursday, hanged in his luxury hotel room.

It said Carradine was in Bangkok to shoot a movie and had been staying at the hotel since Tuesday.

The newspaper said Carradine could not be contacted after he failed to appear for a meal with the rest of the film crew on Wednesday, and that his body was found by a hotel maid at 10 a.m. Thursday morning.

A preliminary police investigation found that he had hanged himself with a cord taken from the room’s curtains. It cited police as saying he had been dead at least 12 hours and there was no sign that he had been assaulted.

A police officer at Bangkok’s Lumpini precinct station would not confirm the identity of the dead man to The Associated Press, but said the luxury Swissotel Nai Lert Park hotel had reported that a male guest killed himself there.

After a maid found David Carradine's body in a closet in his Bangkok hotel room, police called it a suspected suicide. But the actor's manager refuses to believe it.

"I can tell you 100 percent that he would have never committed suicide," Tiffany Smith, who along with Chuck Binder managed the "Kill Bill" star has stated, "He was too full of life."

Carradine, 72, was in Thailand filming the movie to be titled "Stretch" when his nude body was discovered Thursday morning. The body was in a sitting position, with a yellow rope wrapped around the neck and attached to a closet bar, said Col. Somprasong Yentuam, chief of the Lumpini area police station. "We believe that Mr. David committed suicide, but it is suspicious," said Yentuam.

Although Carradine had spoken openly of his past battles with drugs and alcohol and thoughts of suicide, his manager says the actor had been in good spirits, eager to work on the current film and had three more lined up when he returned to the United States.

Additional Thai-Police Reports Say Carradine's Death May Be Accidental...

Police Lt. Gen. Worapong Chewprecha told reporters that Carradine was found with a rope tied around his genitals and another rope around his neck.

"The two ropes were tied together," he said. "It is unclear whether he committed suicide or not or he died of suffocation or heart failure."

Thai police completed an autopsy on Carradine on Friday. But Police Col. Somprasong Yenthuam, superintendent of the Lumpini police station, which is handling the case, said results would not be ready for at least three weeks because the cause of death was unclear. He called the time lag "normal."

Dr. Nanthana Sirisap, director of Chulalongkorn Hospital's Autopsy Center, told reporters that the autopsy was conducted because of the "unusual circumstances surrounding Carradine's death," but did not elaborate.

Police Lt. Teerapop Luanseng had said Thursday that Carradine's body was found "naked, hanging in a closet," and that police at the time suspected suicide.

But one of Carradine's managers dismissed the theory.

Numerous opinions expressed sadness at his death and others theorized that Carradine died attempting a sex act known as auto-erotic asphyxiation, the intentional cutting off oxygen to the brain for sexual arousal.

The practice is said to result in a form of giddiness and euphoria, similar to alcohol or drug intoxication, that is said to enhance the sexual experience.

Carradine was in good spirits when he left the U.S. for Thailand on May 29th to work on the film "Stretch," Smith said.

"David was excited to do it and excited to be a part of it," she said by phone from Beverly Hills.

Filming began Tuesday, she said, adding that the crew was devastated by Carradine's death and did not wish to speak publicly about it for the time being.

Monica Donati, a spokesman for the French film company MK2, which was making "Stretch," said in statement from Paris that the film crew in Bangkok was "clearly shocked" by Carradine's death but would finish shooting. Carradine only had three more days of filming left in Bangkok, she said.

Aurelio Giraudo, the hotel's general manager, said Carradine checked into the hotel on May 31st and he last saw him June 3rd. He said Carradine chatted with staff and even played piano a few nights in the lobby as well as flute which the "guests really enjoyed."

"I was a fan. I had a very nice talk with him when he checked in," Giraudo told The Associated Press. "He was very much a person full of life. I mentioned to him that I had seen (the movie) "Crank" with my family and that was the last smile he gave me."

Giraudo said a chambermaid discovered Carradine's body, adding that she knocked and entered after there was no response. Police arrived shortly thereafter.

Somprasong said there was no evidence there was anyone else in the room at the time of Carradine's death.

"All we can say is, we know David would never have committed suicide," said Tiffany Smith of Binder & Associates, his management company. "We're just waiting for them to finish the investigation and find out what really happened. He really appreciated everything life has to give ... and that's not something David would ever do to himself."

"We are not saying it's an accidental death because we don't know," says Smith. "Right now we are just letting everyone know that it's under investigation and we'll see ... I just know he didn't do this to himself."

The Legend is Gone, but not Forgotten...

The actor's family was stunned by the news. In a statement, Carradine's niece, actress Martha Plimpton, expressed the family's sense of loss. "My Uncle David was a brilliantly talented, fiercely intelligent and generous man," Plimpton said.

"He was the nexus of our family in so many ways, and drew us together over the years and kept us connected. I adored him as a child, and as an adult I admired and respected him. We will all miss him terribly," she confessed.

Carradine was a leading member of a venerable Hollywood acting family that included his father, character actor John Carradine, and brother Keith. In all, he appeared in over 100 feature films with such respected directors as Martin Scorsese, Ingmar Bergman and Hal Ashby.

But he was best known for his television role as Kwai Chang Caine, a Shaolin priest traveling the 1800s American frontier West in the TV series “Kung Fu,” which aired in 1972-75, reprising the role in a mid-1980s TV movie and played Caine’s grandson in the 1990s syndicated series “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues.” However, he truly returned to the top in recent years as the title character in Quentin Tarantino’s two-part saga “Kill Bill.”

The beloved actor will certainly be sadly missed by his family, friends and his numerous fans all around the globe.

David Carradine as 'Bill the Assassin'

David Carradine
1936 to 2009

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