John Carradine

  1. Bela Lugosi, Dracula, 1930.      Chaney was dead before the script was ready.  Conrad Veidt was first choice to succeed him. Paul Muni refused to be third.  Also in the vampire mix: Carradine, William Courtenay, Ian Keith. Enter: Broadway’s  Dracula (during a legendary 1927-1930 run). He refused to be Frankenstein’s monster the following year. Enter: Boris Karloff. Bye bye Lugosi. That’s the way it goes in Film City…

  2. Boris Karloff, Frankenstein, 1930.    
    “It’s alive!  It’s alive!”  Most records of Universal  Production #310 state that two actors only  – Karloff and Bela Lugosi – were contacted about playing The Monster, as directors were switched from Robert Florey (who helmed Lugiosi’s long-lost test) to James Whale (soon jealous of Karloff’s triumph). However, Carradine said  that he  was considered but felt it beneath him and his drama training. It was exactly that kind of background that helped Karloff to make such a classic performance of what he came to call the dear old boy. “Any actor who played the part was destined for success He was a helpless, dumb animal, and his only friend was Frankenstein. When he turned on him, he was lost.  You must remember he was brought to life out of different pieces, somebody else’s head and somebody else’s brain.  The malformation of his head was due to it being  opened a dozen or more times – when one brain didn’t work, others had to be tried. The first time you see him, it was though he’d just been born a full grown man, powerless in a strange and rather frightening world. A tragic figure.”

  3. Paul Sotoff, Anthony Adverse, 1935.      Sotoff made his third and final film when production delays meant Carradine had to quit being Fernando and report to his next gig. 
  4. Frank McGlynn, Sr, The Prisoner of Shark Island, 1935.     Carradine lost out to McGlyn who made playing Abraham Lincoln almost his life’s work. He played the 16th POTUS a dozen films during 1915-1939 – or from age 48 to 72! The Prisoner was Dr Samuel Mudd, jailed in 1865 as a conspirator in Lincoln’s assassination, simply because he innocently treating the broken leg of killer John Wilkes Booth.
  5. Jean Hersholt, Seventh Heaven, 1936.    All  change of Father Chevillon when Don Ameche – like the original lead Tyrone Power – was transferred to Love Is News by Head Fox Darryl Zanuck. Carradine had been the first replacement before Hersholt. 
  6. Basil Rathbone, The Adventures of Marco Polo, 1937.    Change of Ahmed from one stalwart character to another. Directors changed too. From John Cromwell to Archie Mayo, with some action scenes helmed by John Ford. But a flop is a flop is a flop!  What else with Gary Cooper, of all stars, playing the Italian adventurer.  Yep!
  7. Douglass Dumbrille, Du Barry Was a Lady, 1942.       Change for the dual role of Willie and the dream period villain Duc de Rigor –  from Carradine to the guy making life hell for everyone from James Cagney and Myrna Loy to (of course!) Gary Cooper and Franchot Tone in The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, 1934, when Dumbrille was first (?) to utter the immortal threat:  “We have ways of making men talk!”

  8. Paul Lukas, Kim, 1950.    
    Fourth time lucky for MGM’s desire to film the Rudyard Kipling classic 1900 adventure about Kimball O”Hara, the orphaned  son of a British soldier  in the 1886 India under British rule. Kim posed as a Hindi beggar boy to help the UK Secret Service spy on Russian agitators.  Irving Thalberg won the rights for MGM in 1934 and a year later, the ex-Little Lord Fauntelroy, Freddie Bartholomew, was selected opposite Lionel Barrymore as his Indian mentor, Mahbub Ali the Red Beard, in 1935.  The project was shelved for another Kipling tale, Captains Courageous, with Spencer Tracy and young Freddie – announced as Kim again in 1937, opposite Robert Taylor as Red Beard.  After various delays Mickey Rooney (like who else) was the ‘42 hero in a typically Metro all-stars  line-up of John Carradine (as a Tibetan lama),  Laird Cregar, Cedric Hardwicke, Basil Rathbone, George Sanders, Akim Tamiroff and Conrad Veidt .   WWII killed that fourth plan  as the script was    too pro-British Empire and…  anti-Russia. Finally, MGM’s Boy With Green Hair, Dean Stockwell, was Kim opposite  (a way too old and hardly Indian)  Errol Flynn. He quit King Solomon’s Mines to be Red Beard, because he didn’t fancy living  in a tent in Africa, when he’d have  a hotel suite  in Lucknow…  where Stockwell was doubled by a local kid.

  9. Robert Mitchum, Night Of The Hunter,  1954.      After talks with the inevitable, the scared and the interested (Carradine, Gary Cooper, Laurence Olivier), first-time director Charles Laughton had a brainwave… He called Mitchum and warned him: “The role is of an irredeemable shit!”  “Present!” said Mitchum.
  10. Charles Watts, Giant, 1955.

  11. Tom Conway, The She-Creature, 1955.  During the production delay following the death of headliner Edward Arnold, Peter Lorre simply fled the z-schlock… and, goes the legend, fired his agent for involving him with such crap.  Carradine passed on what can only be termed a serial hypnotist. Easily. And, naturally if you can’t keep the  tubby, little Lorre on the farm, you go for such an obvious opposite… the suave, tall Conway!
  12. Dean Jagger, End of the World, 1977.     Newly installed in Hollywood atsuggestion of Billy Wilder and Richard Widmarkk, Lee aimed to avoid horror vehiclesand was “conned’ in to this Z sf number, on the promise of co-starring with vets like Carradine, Basehart, José Ferrer, Arthur Kennedy. “That’s all right by me. But it turned out it was a complete lie.”
  13. Christophe Lee, The Last Unicorn, 1981.   Carradine, James Earl Jones and John Vernon were in the toon mix for King Haggard. The book’s author, Peter S Beagle, also supplied the scenario. Lee dubbed himself in the German release print.
  14. Barnard Hughes, The Lost Boys, 1986.  Carradine (a horror king) and Keenan Wynn (not so much) were top choice for Grandpa.  However, Carradine was in bad health and Wynn died just before shooting started.
  15. Carel Struycken, I Woke Up Early The Day I Died, 1997.       Pet project of Ed Wood, worst film-maker in the world. He wrote it in 1960 andcast it in 1974 for Aldo Ray and Carradine… just never actually made it.  Actor Billy Zane finally produced it in 1997.(Carradine played 327 screen roles, almost as much as his three sons’ combined output).


 Birth year: 1906Death year: 1988Other name: Casting Calls:  15