Like the fictional character Kwai Chang Caine he portrayed in the early 1970’s television series, Kung-fu, David Carradine appeared to wander through life in search of meaning. The usual indicators were there: 4 divorces in 5 marriages, periods of alcohol and narcotics addictions plus an interest in Eastern philosophies that seemed to indicate a reluctance to separate from his portrayal of a Shaolin priest. The series episodes depicted the oriental figure imparting wisdom from the mysterious East (and roundhouse kicks) to Western cowboys. After 3 years of the program, Carradine quit because he thought the scripts were starting to be repetitive. (It is the bane of television series to this day, and the perpetual challenge for “flash-in-the-pan” writers.)
The results of an autopsy are supposed to be available on Monday but early indications are accidental asphyxiation or suicide as possible cause of death. My first reaction on hearing the news was that a man in his early 70’s was unlikely to be suicidal unless he recently discovered he was suffering a terminal health problem, though hanging seems a gruesome exit to me.
Carradine said he wanted to be in movies and not until the Kill Bill flicks by Quentin Tarantino was he considered to be established in “quality” work again. He was in fact working on a film in Thailand when he died. So one would surmise that after being 5 years into his latest marriage and reportedly limiting his stimulants to “coffee and cigarettes” he might be on a happier plane.
I don’t understand why he died the way he did, particularly if at his own hand, and I hope the autopsy results will be clear. David Carradine seemed to struggle to seek purpose even until the moment of his death. However, as Master Po said to the young Kwai Chang Caine, “Not to understand a man’s purpose does not make him confused.”
©Copyright 2009 Edward Podritske