‘Now, what do I know about John Carradine?1 What questions can I ask him?’
I was experiencing a temporary memory blackout. To my shame, I couldn’t name a single John Carradine movie, yet I must have seen him dozens of times, mainly as villains, in horror films and leads in numerous B pictures. He was tall, thin and gaunt, and with saturnine features. That much I could recall. And I was on my way to interview him!
It was February 1981, and it had all happened so rapidly. The New Zealand Film Commission had invited me to New Zealand for eight days, all expenses paid, to write about their burgeoning film industry, and visit sets of three films which simultaneously were before cameras around the country. A sudden pilots’ disruption had aborted plans, then unexpectedly a seat on a plane was available and, days behind schedule, I was on the first leg of the trip, in Auckland.
There I was due to visit the set of a horror film called The Scarecrow.2 However, shooting had taken place all throughout the previous night and the production office informed me there was no shooting that day. Producer, director, cast and crew currently were getting much needed sleep. I would meet the producer later in the day, but meantime an interview had been set up for me with the picture’s imported star—John Carradine.
Normally I would have turned this down, aware it had no hope of being published. All that was needed was a few words with the Hollywood star, sandwiched somewhere into an article on the film’s production. Now there was no choice. A charade of doing an interview had to be maintained. An interview for which I was in no way prepared; until that moment I had no idea Carradine was in Auckland!
The Scarecrow apparently was to be a ‘funny, scary and moving picture.’ It had been adapted from a novel by Ronald Hugh Morrieson, published in 1963, and was set in a small town in the early fifties. Carradine was playing Hubert Salter, a magician and murderer, hypnotist and necrophiliac, who insinuates himself into the heart of the town somewhere between the pub and the funeral parlour.
‘Salter’s a very difficult role,’ the producer later told me. ‘We know all the obvious people in New Zealand and auditioned them. I made a list of about six American and English actors who could play the role. I approached them all, but each was either far too expensive or else unavailable. One of them was John Carradine.’
Eventually the film was cast with a local actor who seemed perfect for the part. Then a call came from Carradine’s agent, saying he was available after all—did they want him? The producer checked with the investors.
‘They were anxious to get Carradine purely and simply for the commercial possibilities, which made it very embarrassing for us back here. So we cast Carradine and he’s turned out splendidly.’
I looked out of the window of the taxi taking me to the Auckland suburb where Carradine was staying in a flat. It was a reasonably warm summer’s day.
With a small tape recorder clutched tightly in one hand, I knocked on the door of the flat. After what seemed a lengthy period, I heard some shuffling and the door slowly opened and a tall, frail-looking, very aged man stood in the doorway. It was John Carradine. Although he was 75 at the time, he looked even older.
He was expecting me and ushered me into the main room of a very dark, dingy, and untidy flat. He introduced me to his wife, who could have been anywhere between fifty and seventy. Plump and not looking at all well, she was seated in front of a television set with a blanket covering the lower portion of her body, viewing a Western. All throughout the interview (except for a brief break when she made some coffee), Mrs. Carradine3 watched that Western, so that the noise of the dialogue, horses and gunfire sometimes made it difficult to hear what her husband was saying.
Carradine too sat with a blanket around his legs. Both seemed to be suffering from the cold (although it was warm outside) and presented rather a depressing sight.
He spoke with long pauses and a distinct drawl but seemed to have total recall. Probably he was disliking the thought of being interviewed as much as I was of interviewing him; but circumstances had forced us into this peculiar situation.
Not having a clue what to ask, I began with very conventional questions, to which he politely responded, but without any enthusiasm. They were the questions he must have been asked scores of times. But he was doing the job required of him.
John Carradine (right) as DeLacy, a blind hermit, with Keith Jochim as The Creature in Frankenstein, 1980. Photo by Martha Swope.
New York Public Library, New York
He told me that he had been able to come to New Zealand because of the abrupt folding of Frankenstein, the play he had opened in on Broadway.4
‘I had a year’s contract and thought it would run for a year, but the critics didn’t like it. I thought it was good. It was a very expensive production. Elaborate and magnificent, wasn’t it honey?’ He referred to his wife who merely nodded her head and continued staring at the television set in front of her.
‘It was a magnificent production. We had about six weeks of previews and it just lasted one night. The preview audience loved it. Almost immediately after it I was offered this film.’
What had attracted him to the part?
‘A job! It’s a good role. A nasty guy. I’m a degenerate scoundrel.’
Wasn’t coming to New Zealand, working with people he knew nothing about, a bit of a risk?
‘I don’t care who I work for so long as they pay me. That’s the important thing. I work for a living. If I know a man’s dishonest, I don’t work for him.’
What were his favourite film roles? What had given him the greatest satisfaction?
‘Oh, The Grapes of Wrath5 … The unfrocked preacher Casey in The Grapes of Wrath, Captains Courageous6 and—among the dozen greatest pictures ever made—Stagecoach7 … The gambler in Stagecoach.’
‘When you were making those movies, had you any idea of the impact they would make?’
‘I knew they were bigger pictures. In the first place they were John Ford8 pictures, and he never missed. Ford only made one flop. It was called a flop when it was first released, but now it’s not considered so. That was Mary of Scotland,9 which I was in. You knew any picture of Ford’s would be of quality, and I did eight pictures for Ford.’
‘Was he your favourite director?’
‘What other directors?’
‘I liked to work with so many of them. Richard Boleslawski,10 I liked very much; he was a very fine director, but unfortunately he died early. He directed me in The Garden of Allah11 and Les Misérables.12 He also directed Clive of India13—the first time I worked for him—with Ronald Colman.14 He was a great gentleman and a fine director.
‘Then I did a number of pictures with Cecil de Mille: The Sign of the Cross and his last film, The Ten Commandments,15 and several others in between. I did a sculpture—a bust of him … He gave me permission to do a bust of him, which I did in 1931. We were good friends.’
‘Were there any films you made which you think should have been rated greater that they have been?’
‘Oh yes, I think The Grapes of Wrath should have got an Oscar—at least a nomination.
‘Yes, but that has since become a cult film. Are there any others?’
‘Captains Courageous … Winterset—which introduced Burgess Meredith16 to the screen—was a great picture but didn’t seize the popular imagination.’
‘What about the actors you worked with? Who did you enjoy working with most?’
‘I enjoy working with actors. I of course did several pictures with Spencer Tracy,17 who was a hell of an actor. He was a fine actor. I don’t think he was the best actor in the world. No. But he was a damn good actor; he was very convincing. He had a quality—which the critics noticed—called sincerity. He had a tremendous sincerity. That was something professional in Hollywood. He was a hell of a nice guy.’
‘What about actresses? Which did you admire?’
‘Oh, I got along with all of them. I got along very well with Hepburn,18 and we’ve been good friends over the years.’
I asked him about his sons, three of whom had been in films: David, Keith and Robert.19
‘I’m very proud of them. They’re doing very well, and they’re good actors. They all worked on the stage with me, under my direction. That’s how they learned their business.’
Now Carradine seemed to be taking an interest in the interview. I asked if he had tried to discourage them.
‘No. I said, “look, the theatre’s a literary profession, so go to college and take an Arts course and major in English literature, because that’s what you’re going to deal with all your life.” And they did very much as I suggested, except they didn’t stay at college. David did, he went all the way through.
‘Keith got started in college, in a production there of The Lion in Winter20—playing the King—and that did it for him, he got bit. So, he quit. Came back to the West Coast and ran into David, and David was about to try out for a part in the musical Hair,21 and he invited Keith to go along with him for his audition. When they got there the people took one look and said: “We don’t want you, we want your kid brother.” They hired Keith on the spot and took him to New York. He was in Hair for a year; that got him started in a big way. David never was in Hair; he went on to other things.’
‘Are you critical of their performances? Do they come to you for advice?’
‘No, they don’t. In fact, I’ve given them advice just once. I saw David in a production of Romeo and Juliet, and I went backstage afterwards because I knew he was aware I was out front. I had to go back to him. He was 19 at the time, playing Tybalt. I thought he was pretty good.
‘He said: “Well?” “You smile a good deal,” I said. “What’s wrong in that?” he asked. I said: “Nothing, except that Tybalt is not a pleasant man. If you smile it can’t be a pleasant smile, and if you want to know how to achieve that, well smile only with your eyes. Let your eyes smile and it becomes menacing.” So, he tried it and wrote me later and said it worked like a charm. That’s the only time I ever advised them.
‘Of course, they worked under my direction. I’d directed Keith and Robert in Tobacco Road22 with me, and I directed David in Hamlet.23 I was playing Hamlet and was directing the production and he played Laertes. I’d seen him play it with somebody else and he wasn’t very good. I said: “Come and play it with me and I’ll show you how to play Laertes.” I did and he did, and it worked out. He was the best Laertes I ever had. Then David had his series, Kung Fu,24 and we all worked in that. We haven’t worked together as much as we’d like to.
‘Three of the boys were together in The Long Riders.25 They had two scripts for that, one of which included the boys’ stepfather, but they didn’t do that script, and they had wanted me for it. Too bad because the boys were expecting me to be along with them in that. But it didn’t work out that way.’
‘You obviously have a great love of Shakespeare.’
‘Oh yes, that’s why I became an actor.’
‘Are there any roles you wish you had played?’
‘I’ve not played Lear, and I wanted to play Lear. I’d still like to—if I can get away with it. Some people have said it’s an impossible role, that it’s impossible to play Lear. I don’t agree because I’ve seen it well played. I’ve seen Morris Carnovsky26 do it very well.’
‘Have you seen any of the English actors do it? Gielgud27 for instance?’
‘The only time I saw Gielgud was when he did his Shakespeare recital.28 I didn’t think much of it. I’ve done the same things myself and I thought I did a better job with it.29 “The Seven Ages of Man”,30 which he did, he did nothing with it at all. He gave it no expression, it requires a certain amount of anemometry [sic], which he didn’t do. He makes nothing of it at all. It’s a tour de force for an actor, that one speech, and he did nothing with it.’
‘How did your recital differ?’
‘Well, I made something of it. He just read the words. That’s the only thing I’ve seen him do. I haven’t seen him play Hamlet. I saw Olivier’s31 film Hamlet. I saw Burton do it on Broadway without any scenery32—and half a costume and that sort of thing, and I didn’t think much of that. They put out the news in their publicity that this was done as a sort of semi-dress rehearsal. That was no excuse for it: having not much scenery and not much in the way of costumes. If you’re going to do Hamlet, then do Hamlet!’
‘What did you think of Olivier’s film of Hamlet?’33
‘I didn’t think very much of it. I knew him then and he was very young. I couldn’t fault him for what he did, I could only fault the direction. For instance, with the line “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King,” he did a strange thing. On the line before that he took a run up the corridor, pirouetted, elevated himself on his toes and said “The play's the thing …” I couldn’t understand why he’d do that.’
‘But he was his own director on that!’
‘I guess he was. I guess he was. But I haven’t seen him do it on the stage.’
‘What about Maurice Evans?34 How do you rate his performances in Shakespeare?’
‘I didn’t like him at all. He sang it—he sang it all. Chanted it, and that sort of Shakespeare went out fifty years ago.’
‘Orson Welles was extraordinary. He didn’t stay with it very long. I didn’t see his Lear, which he played briefly on Broadway. But I saw his Macbeth. I saw it on the stage and then saw the picture. It was unbelievably bad. He had some idea it rained all the time in Scotland. Whenever you saw Macbeth, he was standing in a puddle of water, being drenched with water pouring down.35
‘Then they tried to use something resembling a Scottish burr. It wasn’t very good and finally re-dubbed the whole soundtrack and got rid of the burr, but it didn’t help the picture. It was a terrible flop. I saw it in Boston, at the opening performance. There were local drama students there and within twenty minutes they whistled it off the screen. That was that.’
I asked Carradine what other Shakespearean performances had impressed him, and he thought deeply before replying.
‘Well, I was impressed with Paul Robeson’s Othello36 in a way. I was impressed by the fact he didn’t do anything. He was a lumbering man; he didn’t move well, so they put him in a chair centre stage and said: “Sit there,” which left all the action to Iago. Jose Ferrer,37 who played Iago, just danced around Othello all evening, and I didn’t think much of him. Robeson had a magnificent voice, but it was a very limited voice. He had about eight notes. As a singer he had eight rich bass notes, but that’s not enough.’
‘What about the Julius Caesar film, with Gielgud, Brando and Mason?’38
‘Well, I thought Brando was full of splendid surprises. He didn’t mumble, his English was impeccable, and I thought Gielgud was very bad in the instigation scene but wonderful in the quarrel scene. I don’t know why there was such a difference in his performance in those scenes.
‘I’ve played Cassius several times and I was anxious to see what he would do with it. In fact, I wanted to play it, I tried to get the part myself in the picture, but they chose Gielgud. But I was pleasantly surprised with Brando because he was known as a mumbler and his English was perfectly clear and crisp, British and natural. I thought he did a very good job.’
‘What do you think of English actors as a whole?’
‘By and large they’re the best actors there are. They have the best training you see. They don’t get a chance in the West End of London till they’ve had three years of repertory. By that time, they’ve played everything—Shaw and Shakespeare and Chekhov—everything. They may not be great artistes, but they know their business. English actors are the best actors we have in the English language.’
‘Have you ever seen Paul Scofield?’39
‘Yes, I have. I saw him do A Man For All Seasons.40 He disappointed me. He did nothing with it at all, but he may have had an off night. It’s the only time I’ve seen him. But, having seen it, I decided I wanted to play it and, when he quit it, bearded the producer [Robert Whitehead] in his den and tried to get the part, but he wanted an Englishman and brought over Emlyn Williams41 to do it for three months. Then, when I heard Williams was quitting, I bearded Whitehead again, and this time he chose the understudy, who was an Australian actor. I got a chance at it later and I’ve done it several times since. It’s my favourite part in the theatre now.
‘I had a very amusing experience with it. I was doing it in South Dakota in the States, and it was an outdoor theatre—the stage was covered, but the audience was not—and during the intermission we had a cloud burst. Of course, the audience got soaked and sheets of water poured down on the stage and the apron was just flooded and before we started the second act, the stage hands came out with big wide brushes, and swept all this water off the stage into the orchestra pit, and I just couldn’t wait for the second act to start, because I knew what would happen.
‘The second act starts with the Common Man coming out and saying: “A lot of water has gone under the bridge …”.’ Here Carradine burst out into hearty laughter. ‘I just couldn’t wait, and of course the audience roared—it was so apropos.’
‘All these great roles you’ve played on stage—how do you feel when you’re playing murderers and suchlike in films?’
‘They’re jobs. I love to act. I remember one time I was doing a TV show written by Raymond Massey, The Hanging Judge. He’d had it done on the stage in London … ’42
‘With Godfrey Tearle.’43
‘Yes, Godfrey Tearle, and he was the wrong man, he was a too warm-hearted personality to play this cold-minded judge. So, when de decided to do it in the States, Massey decided to play it himself on TV and he hired Cedric Hardwicke44 and me to play the opposing counsels. I was Counsel for the Defence and Cedric was Queen’s Counsel.45
‘We had a scene together playing a game of pool in our club, and we consulted each other about it, and I said: “Why don’t we actually play a game of pool and sandwich the lines in between shots—really play the game of pool.” So, we did. John Frankenheimer,46 who directed, thought that was a wonderful idea, and he loved it.
‘When we got through it, we were sitting on the sidelines of this big rehearsal hall in this big Hollywood studio. It was in the summer season, and we had this huge rehearsal hall and this was the dress rehearsal, and Cedric and I were sitting on the sideline watching the rest of the rehearsal and Cedric turned to me and said: “You know, John, we have something in common.” Well, I’d known Cedric for 25 years at least by that time and we’d been pretty good friends for years. “What is that, Cedric?” I asked. “We both love to act, and we’re damn good at it!” he said.
‘Cedric was a fine actor. He had a wonderful quality that I noticed even before I ever met him. A wonderful quality of stillness in his face. Not a muscle ever moved, yet he conveyed wonderful things. First time I’d seen him was in Les Misérables—as a matter of fact that’s where I met him. I was playing the young student who starts the French Revolution, and he was playing the Bishop from whom the candlesticks are stolen, and his acting had a quality of extraordinary serenity. He had that in his face, and it always impressed me. Tremendous serenity in his face.
‘He was a fairly serene man considering he had a great deal of trouble in his life. His wife was a dipsomaniac—they didn’t live together—he had her in an asylum in Canada. She would escape every once in a while: get a bowl of liquor and make a mess of things. And he had this to contend with for years and all his friends knew it. He was very fond of her, because she was a lovely lady when she was in her right mind. But he had to suffer this for years, he never divorced her. So, his life was not a serene life. He had an extraordinary modest serenity in his personality considering the trials and tribulations he had to suffer.’
‘Well, he was a great Shavian actor. What’s your opinion of Shaw?’47
‘I’ve only played one Shaw play, and that was one of his very early plays they revive in London every couple of years or so. That’s a play called You Never Can Tell.48 I played the waiter—a lovely role. Some top English actor plays it every five years or so. They get the top actor of the time, and they love to do it. I did it in stock somewhere. I was travelling doing stock all over the country, you know, doing different plays.’
Surprisingly, Carradine never played in Chekhov, Ibsen, or O’Neill. During the War, he told me, he had his own Shakespeare company, touring the West Coast of America.
‘I did three plays: Hamlet, Othello and The Merchant of Venice. It was a big heavy production, a beautiful production, which I designed. When I played San Francisco, they not only complimented me on my acting but for my production, designing the set and my direction. It was a going proposition, very successful.
‘After eight weeks of touring the West Coast, I was about to embark on a cross-country tour and couldn’t get out of Los Angeles. I couldn’t get a truck, couldn’t get a baggage car, couldn’t get anything. This was ’43. So I had to give it up. I played Shylock, Othello and Hamlet. Sometime I played Iago.’
I brought the conversation round to more contemporary playwrights, like Tennessee Williams.49
‘The only Tennessee Williams play I ever did was Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, which I liked. I played Big Daddy. Do you know, the funny thing was it was offered to me some years before when they were first doing it. They were rehearsing out of town—New Orleans—and they called me up and wanted me to do it in New York, but I couldn’t get away, I was engaged in another production. I was doing Volpone on Broadway with Jose Ferrer—I was playing Voltore and Jose Ferrer was playing Volpone—so I couldn’t do it. I found out they got Burl Ives. [Carradine’s memory was at fault here. He played in Volpone in 1948 and Cat On a Hot Tin Roof did not premiere until 1955!]
‘Tennessee’s original idea for the part was a tall gaunt man, instead of a beefy man like Burl. Tennessee revived it under his own aegis in Paris a couple of years later and he got a tall gaunt man to play Big Daddy. He was talked out it apparently by the production people in New York. He had wanted me for it, but I was not available. It was too bad, because it’s a great part. But I did it later, just for one week.’
The interview had come to an end. I had enjoyed it more than I thought possible, and so I think he had. I was getting up to leave, when he suddenly said: ‘Put your recorder on again—here’s an anecdote you might like to record.
‘I had an idea about Romeo and Juliet. I was playing Mercutio and the tradition was that Mercutio was killed offstage and Benvolio comes on and informs Romeo: “Mercutio is dead, that gallant spirit, etc. etc.”
‘I had a better idea for it. Instead of having Benvolio come on and announce the death of Mercutio, I had him come in carrying the dead Mercutio in his arms, with his sword still in his dead hand, and I had Romeo run to him and help him, and they laid Mercutio on a bench upstage and at that point Tybalt comes in and challenges Romeo, and Romeo turns, prises open Mercutio’s dead hand and with Mercutio’s sword he turns on Tybalt and kills him. It’s a hell of a piece of business.
‘I found out—oh, years later—that Henry Irving did it in 1880. The same piece of business. Nothing new under the sun! I thought I’d invented a wonderful piece of business—and Irving did it in 1880! Same piece of business!
‘When it was done on Broadway the producer hired Jack Hawkins50 to play Mercutio. I was trying to get the part, but he decided he wanted Hawkins, which was all right with me because Hawkins was a fine actor—a hell of an actor, one of my favourite actors in the world was Jack Hawkins. I thought: “Well, I didn’t get the part, but I’ll tell them the business I invented.” At that time I didn’t know that Irving had done it—and I told the producer, but they didn’t use it.’
Whilst still in New Zealand I was told a nice little ‘in’ story of John Carradine on The Scarecrow set.
‘Carradine, playing the murderer, comes into the town disguised as a visiting magician. They drove him onto the set in a Mercedes to give him the right treatment; it was an all-night shoot, about 1 a.m.
‘He got out of his Mercedes, walked slowly over to the front of a movie theatre and there was this big poster saying: “Dracula—starring John Carradine”.51 He looked at it, didn’t flicker a muscle, just looked at it, obviously thought something, and then walked on. He was getting into position. Didn’t say a word. But it obviously made quite an impression, seeing that poster.’
I have never seen The Scarecrow, but understand it is a very bad movie.
I often wonder what Carradine was like, in his heyday, playing Shakespeare. Ephraim Katz’s admirable The International Film Encyclopaedia says that in Hollywood Carradine had a reputation as an eccentric and a ham, and was known as the ‘Bard of the Boulevard’ for his habit of reciting Shakespeare in his booming voice while walking the streets.
Lloyd Fuller Dresser, in The Illustrated Who’s Who of the Cinema is kinder and says: ’The man’s credits are a roll of honour of the American cinema.’
Leslie Halliwell’s description of Carradine is of an actor ‘who scored a fine run of character roles in the thirties and forties but later sank to mad doctors in cheap horror movies, touring meanwhile with one-man Shakespeare readings’.
Endnotes compiled by Elisabeth Kumm
1. John Carradine (1906–1988), American film and stage actor.
2. The Scarecrow, directed by Sam Pillsbury, was released in 1982. It was known as Klynham Summer in America.
3. Carradine’s fourth and final wife, Emily Cisneros, whom he had married in 1975.
4. Frankenstein was a play by Victor Gialanella, with incidental music by Richard Peaslee. It was directed by Tom Moore. The principal roles were played by David Dukes (Victor Frankenstein), John Glover (Henry Clerval), Keith Jochim (The Creature) and Dianne Wiest (Elizabeth Lavenza). John Carradine played DeLacey, a blind hermit. The play commenced previews at the Palace Theatre, New York, 9 December 1980, eventually opening on 4 January 1981, but it closed the same night.
5. The Grapes of Wrath was a 1940 American film based on John Steinbeck’s 1939 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name. The film was directed by John Ford. The principal roles were played by Henry Fonda (Tom Joad), Jane Darwell (‘Ma’ Joad) and John Carradine (Jim Casey).
6. Captains Courageous was a 1937 American adventure film based on Rudyard Kipling’s 1897 novel of the same name. It was directed by Victor Fleming. Its virtually all-male cast included Freddie Bartholomew, Spencer Tracy, Lionel Barrymore, Mervyn Douglas, Mickey Rooney and John Carradine.
7. Stagecoach was a 1939 American western film directed by John Ford. Based on a short story by Ernest Haycox, it followed nine strangers riding through dangerous Apache territory in the 1880s. The principal stars were Claire Trevor and John Wayne.
8. John Ford (1894–1973) was an award-winning American film director best known for his westerns, notably Stagecoach (1939), The Searchers (1956) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).
9. Mary of Scotland was a 1936 American costume drama based on a 1933 play by Maxwell Anderson. It starred Katharine Hepburn as Mary, Queen of Scotland, and Fredric March as Bothwell.
10. Richard Boleslawski (1889-1937) was a Polish theatre and film director. Resident in America from 1922, he founded the American Laboratory Theatre in New York in 1923. He made several important films for major studios before his premature death aged only 48.
11. The Garden of Allah was a 1936 American adventure film based on the 1904 novel of the same name by Robert S. Hitchens. The stars of the film were Marlene Dietrich and Charles Boyer.
12. Les Misérables was a 1935 American drama film based on the 1862 novel of the same name by Victor Hugo. The film starred Fredric March as Jean Valjean and Charles Laughton as Inspector Javert. John Carradine played the small role of Enjolras, a revolutionary.
13. Clive of India was a 1935 American biopic starring Ronald Colman as Robert Clive, the nineteenth century colonist and founder of the British East-India Company.
14. Ronald Colman (1891–1958), English film actor and leading man in Hollywood from 1920s-1940s.
15. Cecil B. DeMille (1881–1959), American film director. His 1927 silent film The King of Kings, based on the life of Jesus established his reputation as a maker of epic films. His first sound film was The Sign of the Cross (1932), based on the 1895 play by Wilson Barrett, and starring Fredric March as Marcus Superbus, with Elissa Landi as Mercia. The Ten Commandments (1956) was a Biblical epic based on the life of Moses. Shot in VistaVision with colour by Technicolor, it starred Charlton Heston in the principal role. According to the Guinness Book of Records it is the eighth most successful film of all time.
16. Burgess Meredith (1907–1997) was an American film and stage actor. He established himself as a leading man in Hollywood after playing Mio Romagna in Winterset (1936), a film based on the 1935 play by Maxwell Anderson, loosely based on the Sacco and Vanzetti trial. It was directed by Alfred Santell.
17. Spencer Tracy (1900–1967), American film actor and major star of Hollywood’s Golden Age. During the 1940s and 1950s he co-starred in nine films with Katharine Hepburn.
18. Katharine Hepburn (1907–2003), American film and stage actress.
19. David Carradine (1936–2009), Keith Carradine (b.1949) and Robert Carradine (b.1954)
20. The Lion in Winter was a 1966 play by James Goldman, based on events surrounding Henry II of England and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine. The play premiered at New York’s Ambassadors Theatre, with Robert Preston and Rosemary Harris in the central roles.
21. Hair was a 1967 rock musical by Gerome Ragni and James Rado, with music by Galt MacDermot. Featuring nudity and drug taking, it championed the hippy movement and free love. Several of its songs became anthems for the anti-Vietnam War peace movement, namely ‘Age of Aquarius’. Having its premiere off-Broadway in 1967, it moved to the Biltmore Theatre in April 1968 where it played 1,750 performances. It spawned numerous touring productions and was hugely successful in the UK and Australia.
22. Tobacco Road was a 1933 play by American playwright Jack Kirkland. In 1970 John Carradine mounted a touring production in Florida with son Keith, who was later replaced by son Robert.
23. John Carradine directed a production of Hamlet at the Gateway Playhouse on Long Island in 1963, with himself as Hamlet and son David as Laertes.
24. Kung Fu was an American martial arts television drama starring David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine. The series ran for 63 episodes between 1972 and 1975.
25. Long Riders was a 1980 American western film directed by Walter Hill. It starred four sets of real-life brothers as the central protagonists: the Carradines (David, Keith and Robert), the Keaches (James and Stacy), the Quaids (Dennis and Randy), and the Guests (Christopher and Nicholas).
26. Morris Carnovsky (1879–1992), American stage and film actor. He played the title roles in Othello and The Merchant of Venice at the American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, Connecticut during the 1950s.
27. John Gielgud (1904–2000), English stage and film actor.
28. Gielgud’s one-man Shakespeare recital was called Ages of Man. Devised by Oxford scholar George Rylands in 1939, Gielgud first performed it at the Edinburgh Festival in 1957. It was a huge success and he subsequently took it on tour around the world over the next decade.
29. In 1952 he gave a one-man recital at the Village Vanguard, a nightclub in Greenwich Village. The recital include Shakespeare as well as passages from Shaw, Rupert Brooke, and the Bible.
30. ‘The Seven Ages of Man’ is the colloquial name given to Jaques’ speech from As You Like It, beginning ‘All the World's a stage’ (Act II, Scene VII, Line 139. The speech compares the world to a stage and life to a play and catalogues the seven stages of a man’s life.)
31. Laurence Olivier (1907–1989), English stage and film actor. He directed three major film productions of Shakespeare: Henry V (1944), Hamlet (1948) and Richard III (1955) with himself in the title roles.
32. Richard Burton (1925–1984), Welsh actor. He played Hamlet on Broadway in 1964. Directed by John Gielgud, the production opened at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on 9 April and ran until 8 August. Achieving 137 performances, it became the longest running Hamlet on Broadway. The production’s success has been attributed in some part to Burton’s romance with Hollywood actress Elizabeth Taylor, whom he married just before the play opened in New York.
33. See Note 31.
34. Maurice Evans (1901–1989), English stage actor active in America from 1936. He first played Hamlet on Broadway in 1938, when the play was performed in an uncut version for the first time. In 1945 he produced his ‘GI’ Hamlet, a modified version of the play that he had performed before troops during WWII.
35. Orson Welles (1915–1985), American stage and film actor, director and producer. Considered something of a Wunderkind, he shot to fame with his first film, Citizen Kane, in 1941. Prior to this, in 1936, he achieved notoriety when he directed a production of Macbeth for the Federal Theatre Project’s Negro Theatre Unit. Featuring an all-black cast, and moving the action from Scotland to the Caribbean, it became known as the Voodoo Macbeth. Welles did not play Macbeth on Broadway, but he did star in his own 1948 film of the play. It was shot in just 23 days at Republic Studios in Los Angeles using sets left over from low-budget westerns. Welles played King Lear at New York’s City Center during January 1956. Prior to this, he had played the role in a 1953 live television version directed by Peter Brook.
36. Paul Robeson (1898-1976), American actor and vocalist (bass baritone). Played leads in The Emperor Jones, Show Boat and All God’s Chullin Got Wings on Broadway and in London. He also carved out a significant career as a concert singer and recording artist. His rendition of ‘Ol’ Man River’ remains unequalled.
37. Jose Ferrer (1912–1992), American film and stage actor.
38. Julius Caesar was a 1953 American film directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. It featured Marlon Brando (Mark Antony), James Mason (Brutus), John Gielgud (Cassio) and Louis Calhern (Julius Caesar).
39. Paul Scofield (1922–2008), English stage and film actor. His only Broadway appearance was as Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons (1961).
40. A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt began as a 1954 BBC radio play featuring Leon Quartermaine as Sir Thomas More. In 1956 Bolt adapted it for BBC television with Bernard Hepton in the title role. In 1960 it reached the stage. After a short try-out season in Oxford and Brighton, it opened in London at the Globe Theatre on 1 July, with Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More, Leo McKern as the Common Man, and Andrew Keir as Thomas Cromwell. When the London season closed on 1 April 1961, the play transferred to Broadway’s ANTA Playhouse, opening in November 1961 with Paul Scofield in his original role of Sir Thomas More. Leo McKern now played Thomas Cromwell, and George Rose was the Common Man. The play enjoyed an 18-month season on Broadway, winning a Critics Circle prize and five Tony awards.
41. Emlyn Williams (1905–1987), Welsh actor and playwright. Emlyn Williams played Sir Thomas More in A Man For All Seasons from 25 June 1962 to 4 May 1963. He was replaced by William Roderick who had played the role in South Africa.
42. Raymond Massey (1896–1983), Canadian stage and film actor. Father of actors Anna and Daniel Massey. In 1952 his (only) play The Hanging Judge, adapted from Bruce Hamilton’s 1948 novel Let Him Have Judgement, opened at the New Theatre in London on 23 September 1952, with the recently knighted Sir Godfrey Tearle as Sir Francis Brittain, an ruthless judge who is revealed to be leading a double-life. It was directed by Michael Powell. The following year it was produced as a radio play on the BBC with Boris Karloff as the Judge. A US TV production, directed by John Frankenheimer, aired in January 1956, with Raymond Massey as the Judge and Cedric Hardwicke as the newspaper magnate, Sir George Sidney. In 1958, Raymond Massey swapped to the role of the newspaper magnate in a UK television adaptation, directed by George More O’Ferrall, with John Robinson as the Judge (Robinson had played Sir George Sidney in the original stage production).
43. Godfrey Tearle (1884–1953), American-born, British stage and film actor. Son of actor Osmond Tearle and brother of actors Malcolm and Conway Tearle. The role of Sir Francis Brittain in The Hanging Judge was his final stage appearance.
44. Cedric Hardwicke (1893–1964), English stage and film actor.
45. Contemporary reviews and other sources suggest that Cedric Hardwicke played Sir George Sidney and that John Carradine played Colonel Archer, the police constable. See Note 42.
46. John Frankenheimer (1930–2002), American film director. His best films were made in the 1960s: Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Seven Days in May (1964) and Grand Prix (1966).
47. George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950), Irish playwright and critic. The term ‘Shavian’ refers to someone or something encapsulating the views and ideals of Shaw.
48. You Never Can Tell was an 1897 play by G.B. Shaw written in the style of a farce. Though it has been staged many times, Carradine exaggerates the frequency of its revival in London. Following its original production at the Royalty Theatre in 1899 (a single Sunday performance by the Stage Society) and at the Strand Theatre in 1900 (six matinee performances), it was revived at the Court (1905, 1906 & 1907), Savoy (1907), Garrick (1920), Little (1927), Westminster (1938), Wyndham’s (1947), Haymarket (1966 & 1987), and Lyric Hammersmith (1979). On these occasions, the role of the Waiter was played by James A. Welch (1899 & 1900), Louis Calvert (1905, 1906, 1907 & 1920), J.D. Beveridge (1907), Frank Darch (1927), Stanley Lathbury (1938), Harcourt Williams (1947), Ralph Richardson (1966), Paul Rogers (1979), and Michael Hordern (1987).
49. Tennessee Williams (1911–1983), American playwright. His most famous works include The Glass Menangerie (1944), A Streetcar Named Desire (1947) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955).
50. Jack Hawkins (1910–1973), English stage and film actor. Romeo and Juliet played 49 performances at the Broadhurst Theatre from 10 March 1951. It was directed by Peter Glenville and the production was designed by Oliver Messel. The lovers were played by Olivia de Havilland (her Broadway debut) and Douglas Watson.
51. John Carradine played Dracula in numerous films: The House of Frankenstein (1944), The House of Dracula (1945), Billy the Kid vs Dracula (1966), Mil Mascaras vs Las Vamiras (1969), Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969), McCloud Meets Dracula (1977), Vampire Hookers (1978), Nocturna, Granddaughter of Dracula (1979). For more on Carradine’s Dracula movies watch:
Next time ... Carol Channing