Friday, June 05, 2009

Last Stop on the Endless Highway

For months, I've been meaning to post my review of David Carradine's autobiography, Endless Highway. Now I find the task bittersweet, since the final chapter is being written in Thailand and Hollywood as we speak. It's horrible irony, as my colleague Michael pointed out when he picked up my copy of the book this morning and perused the first chapter, that Carradine wrote:

"When I was five I tried to hang myself in the garage by jumping off the bumper of the Duesenberg. My father saved me, and then confiscated my comic book collection and burned it - which was scarcely the point."

Endless Highway is a thoroughly entertaining read because Carradine's entertaining way of telling stories drips through every page. He's got thousands of anecdotes like that and he tells them in a way that's both arresting and matter-of-fact, open-ended like the comment above - I mean these are on every page, leave you going, "What?" and "Man, I'd like to have coffee with this guy."

Endless Highway tells the story of Carradine, the son of an accomplished Hollywood leading man and character actor who grew up constantly shuffled between homes and reform schools. Carradine was an original member of the post war counterculture(s), first as a painter, musician and actor/dancer beatnik-type in New York, then as a California hippy. That's when he did "Kung Fu" and made his stamp on the 20th century American experience. His career post "Kung Fu" was checkered and interesting - I think a lot of us overlook the fact that he made a number of great movies as well as a long list of cult films and stinkers: think Roger Corman's Death Race 2000, Circle of Iron, Bound for Glory and Lone Wolf McQuade. Kill Bill was a natural fit, pointing out yet again that Tarantino has had an instinct for ferreting out people like Carradine, Harvey Keitel, John Travolta and Robert Forrester and putting them to great use.

David Carradine was, in the last equation, a working actor, a seeker, someone who struggled with substances, part new ager and part redneck, all American and, in my mind, one of those people that's just a part of things, so germane to them that they are simply invisible. He wrote:

My story isn't a personal saga. It's a chronicle of a time, a period in history when everything came up for grabs. We all had to make choices. I made mine sometimes. Sometimes shit just happened... After all the triumphs and failures, the lovers, the detractors, I still am not finished, not hardly started really. There's a whole slew of things still undone, dreams not yet realized. I'd better get on with it; get back out there on that endless highway and give them more hell. I don't have forever, as far as I know.

How right he was.

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Blogger Capcom said...

Good post, for a sad passing.

Looking forward to reading more of your thoughts, Kung Fu was a favorite of mine.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Charlie Kondek said...

Thank you. Please stop by often. I'm about to wrap up my reviews on Season One and dive into Season Two.

1:35 PM  
Blogger Oona =^..^= said...

Thank you very much for this. There has been so many disrespectful things said to one who canny defend himself at this time that I have been collecting good articles about David. I enjoyed this review very much. Do you know they are selling copies of this book at Amazon and around for outrageous sums. It is sad.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Capcom said...

I hope that you are able to review the book in the near future. Now that the price of it is almost up to $200 on Amazon's secondary market, I doubt that most of us will be able to read it unless they reprint some more.

6:53 PM  

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