Carradine found himself accepting ludicrous parts in Poverty Row and low-budget chillers in order to fund his ambitious theatrical productions, by the 1960s he was degraded by taking on roles just to pay the bills.
He traveled to Africa for Paramount’s Tarzan the Magnificent and acted on Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone 1960 episode ‘The Howling Man.’
When David Ellington (H.M Wynant) seeks refuge at a remote monastery where Carradine is the solemn Brother Jerome in a heroic white beard, robes, and staff and the brotherhood stands guard over the devil (Robin Hughes) whom they trapped and locked away. Ellington disregards their warning and unwittingly releases evil upon the earth. This was a more sedate role for Carradine.
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6240 Hollywood Blvd. on February 8, 1960.
In 1962 he returned to Broadway in Harold Prince’s production A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. He played Marcus Lycus the scheming whoremaster of a Roman house of ill repute. The show saw 964 performances in New York’s Alvin Theatre.
“A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum” – Zero Mostel, right, is the lead performer in the Broadway musical “A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum”, along with (left to right:) John Carradine and Jack Gifford.
Carradine also appeared in several television series. Lock Up 1960 – as James Carew in the episode ‘Poker Club.’ He made an appearance in The Rebel 1960 as Elmer Dodson in episodes ‘Johnny Yuma’ and ‘The Bequest.’
These were bare times for Carradine. He wasn’t making it financially for all the film and television work. He took a role in NBCs Wagon Train in 1960 in an episode called ‘The Colter Craven Story’, directed by John Ford.
Considered his favorite experience working in the horror genre – was appearing in Boris Karloff’s superior horror/film noir anthology series Thriller 1961, which ran from 1960-1962.
From an interview with KMOX in 1983:
What was your favorite horror film that you did?
“Oh god I don’t know. Eh, I don’t think I had one. I think it’s probably something I did with Boris. I did several for Boris. He had his own series that he introduced as a host and on a couple of them he worked also on as an actor. And I did two or three of those with him and for him. And I think that was the best part of the horror genre that I did.”
What was he like to work with.?
“Oh, charming. He was a charming man. And I first worked with him on the first thing he did in this country. We had a play down in Los Angeles, the old Egan Theater which was a 400-seat theater down on Figueroa street. And we did a play together called Window Panes which he played a brutalized Russian peasant immigrant unlettered. And I did a Russian peasant half-wit and there was a character sort of a Christ-like character who was wanted by the authorities as he was, was a rebel. But the ignorant peasantry took on him almost as a Christ figure and I did that for ten weeks and we moved over to the Vine Street Theater which is now the Huntington Hartford in Hollywood. And Boris played the brutalized Russian peasant and played it to the nines. And we became very good friends then. And that was in 1928. And we remained good friends until he retired and went back to England.”
For Thriller, Carradine was cast as Jason Longfellow and Jed Carta in ‘The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk’ starring Jo Van Fleet and directed by John Brahm, and ‘Masquerade’ starring Elizabeth Montgomery and Tom Poston directed by Herschel Daugherty and blessed with a whimsically macabre score by Mort Stevens.
Carradine as Jason Longfellow with Hal Baylor in Thriller episode ‘The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk’ 1962.
Above are two images: from the episode ‘Masquerade.’
For the series, Carradine appeared in two of the most comic and compelling episodes. In ‘The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk’ and ‘Masquerade’ he was both sardonic and sinister.
In Masquerade airing in 1961 Carradine plays Jed Carta, leader of a depraved family of murderers and cannibals who entraps wayward travelers, stealing their money and butchering them like hogs. When Tom Poston and Elizabeth Montgomery stumble onto the creepy dilapidated house to get out of a rain storm, Carta greets them with dark glee, trading menacing cracks with Montgomery. What lies beneath the surface might be something more nefarious than the mere suggestion of evil cloaked in black humor that surrounds the Carta family and Carradine’s spooky wisecracks. He’s magnificently droll, skulking around the dreadful house, with Poston, and Montgomery being assailed by disembodied cackling and dimwitted Jack Lambert who wields a large butcher knife lumbering around. Dorothy Neumann plays the feral Ruthie chained to the wall spewing animosity for the Carta clan and demonstrating an itchy type of lunacy. It’s both comical and arouses jitters simultaneously. In my opinion, it is one of Carradine’s most underrated roles in the horror genre, emphasizing his ability to shuffle both dark humor and horror equally.
In ‘The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk’ starring Jo Van Fleet as Mrs. Hawk/Circe, Carradine plays Jason Longfellow an erudite transient who stumbles onto the true identity of Mrs. Hawk, and the secret of her ‘Isle of Aiaie Home of the Pampered Pig.’
Cultivated and shrewd, Longfellow is a scheming vagabond who plans on using his revelation about Mrs. Hawk to his advantage – much to an ironic end.
It’s an inspiration for writers Don Sanford and Margaret St. Clair to transform a classical tale from Greek mythology and position it within a southern Gothic rural setting, using a hog farm and a visiting carnival/State Fair that adds a layer of mystique and mayhem. There’s a great scene that utilizes theatrical anachronism wonderfully when Cissy Hawk (Van Fleet) carries the bowl, or ‘Circe’s cup’ the night she feeds the pigs grapes and proceeds to turn Johnny (Bruce Dern) back into a man for a while. Under the moonlight, she conducts an ancient rite on modern rural farmland as Pete (Hal Baylor) watches in fright and disbelief from his window.
Not only is this particular episode so effective because of Jo Van Fleet’s performance as the modern-day witch but it’s also due to the presence of the ubiquitous John Carradine, whose facial expressions alone can be so accentuated by his acrobatic facial expressions that make him so uniquely entertaining to watch not to mention listening to his Shakespearean elucidations, hard-bitten insights, and crafty machinations.
Carradine enters the story: A train whistle is blowing in the backdrop. There is a close-up of Jason’s (John Carradine’s) face. Carradine is the perspicacious Jason Longfellow, an erudite transient, shabby and unshaven, dressed like a gypsy with white tape holding his black-framed glasses together. Skinny, almost skeleton-like, and lanky. Longfellow’s razor-sharp acumen betrays his urbane sensibilities that travel incognito like a stowaway. He may look like a scraggly bum, but he is a highly educated defector of society. He also enjoys giving his companion Peter grief, waging his intelligence that he uses as a refuge. Pete is a wayward boxer who looks to Longfellow as a mentor. This horror-themed, fable-like episode is overflowing with ironic, comical repose until the baleful scenes leap out at you when Circe wields her powerful magic.
A Pan flute is trebling a child-like tune, a delightful wisp of scales. To the left of the screen are a pair of black & argyle socks with holes worn in the toes, tapping out the melody in the air with his feet. A fire is burning in the trash can. This is a slice-of-the-night mystique of the hobo’s life. Carradine as Jason Longfellow is sitting in a cane back fan rocking chair, a junkyard living room, and a cold tin coffee pot atop an oil drum.
Suspecting their friend Johnny’s disappearance is connected to Mrs. Hawk (Jo Van Fleet) and the rumors about her young handymen all gone missing.
”If I knew Johnny’s fate, my friend, I’d understand why Mrs. Hawk’s farm is designated Caveat Accipitram among the brotherhood ” Jason’s eyes bulge out of the sockets with glee and rancor.
Carradine manifests an exquisite mixture of the facial expression of a malcontent. Pete seems stupefied –” Hhm?” “Come on.. speak American would ya” Jason raises his voice and changes his tone to indicate the hierarchy in their educational backgrounds. ” Caveat Accipitrum… Caveat Accipitrum BEWARE THE HAWK….” Longfellow ends his little lesson for Pete with emotive punctuation.
He grunts/laughs dismissively “Oh…Hey!” and looks away and takes a drag of his cigarette with his bone-like fingers, squinting his thoughtful blue eyes (not obscured by the black and white film) as if in deep contemplation about the matter. Longfellow was written for Carradine.
Following Thriller, John Carradine made 9 guest appearances on the popular The Red Skelton Hour 1961.
Carradine as Major Starbuckle in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 1962.
Ford found working with Carradine a trial because of his free-spirited style but he cast him once again, this time joining him in 1962 with The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance starring James Stewart and John Wayne. Carradine played the bombastic Senator Cassius Starbuckle.
Carradine’s cameo happens toward the end of the film in a scene at the political convention with him kicking up a fuss “soldier, jurist and statesmen” he’s a mouthpiece for the cattle ranchers opposed to statehood. This would be Carradine’s last significant role with director John Ford.
“Offering up a caricatured portrayal of a bombastic Southern blue-blood blowhard, he strikes poses, grandstands, and dishonestly paints his political foe (Stewart) as a killer not fit for government. Without half trying Carradine was capable of exuding just the right sort of seedy grandeur in this pompous scoundrel role; his theatrical oratory enlivens the final reel of a movie. “ (Mank)
In 1963 he directed Hamlet at the Gateway Playhouse on Long Island where he performed the melancholy Dane.
Carradine made appearances on the television series The Lucy Show in 1964 as Professor Guzman in the episode ‘Lucy Goes to Art Class.’
Also in 1964, he appeared with Carroll Baker, Karl Malden, and Richard Widmark with Carradine playing Major Jeff Blair a gambler who joins James Stewart in a card game in Ford’s western Cheyenne Autumn 1964.
The Wizard of Mars, and Curse of the Stone Hand where he appeared for one minute as part of director Jerry Warren’s added footage in order to use Carradine’s name in the credits for his movie pieced together from two French dramas creating an incoherent mess.
Throughout the 1960s he worked constantly in Summerstock – appearing in Enter Laughing, Arsenic and Old Lace 1965 and in Oliver as the sly Fagin in 1966.
Carradine in John Ford’s Cheyenne Autumn 1964 starring Carroll Baker.
Carradine with Andrea King in House of the Black Death 1965/71.
in the low-budget House of the Black Death Carradine had more of a prominent role as Andre Desard, plays the patriarch of a family of Satanists and werewolves, with Lon Chaney, Jr. playing his evil brother Belial who sports a pair of horns and battles over their ancestral home. The film also stars Tom Drake and noir star Andrea King.
1966 saw Carradine cast as a smarmy Dracula once again in the bottom basement horror/western Billy the Kid vs Dracula directed by William ‘one shot’ Beaudine, with supportive roles by Virginia Christine and Marjorie Bennett. Carradine is painted as looking like a pasty-faced, maniacal magician with a greasy satanic goatee mustache, widow’s peak, frills, cravat, and top hat. Traveling by stagecoach in the Old West, Dracula meets James Underwood on his way to the cattle ranch to see his niece Betty (Melinda Plowman). When the passengers are killed by Indians, he assumes Underhill’s identity and seeks out Betty as his next undead bride. Carradine comes under suspicion for a series of unexplained murders. His Dracula sleeps in a bed not a coffin and moves around in broad daylight. Whenever Carradine exerts his hypnotic stare, Beaudine used a colored spotlight that turned his face a bright red, with Dracula dashing in and out of the frame, in a badly designed special effect.
“I have worked in a dozen of the greatest, and I have worked in a dozen of the worst. I only regret Billy the kid versus Dracula. Otherwise, I regret nothing… it was a bad film. I don’t even remember it. I was absolutely numb.”
He had a small role in Munster, Go Home in 1966 for Universal where he played the oddball butler Cruikshank. On television, he appeared on episodes of Daniel Boone in 1968 and Bonanza in 1969 as Preacher Dillard.
In 1967 he hosted five horror tales as part of Gallery of Horrors – Not to be confused with the superior portmanteau – Amicus’ Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors. Five short tales of the supernatural introduced by Carradine, who does appear in the first edition as a 17th century Warlock in ‘The Witch’s Clock’ about a young couple who find a cursed clock that can raise the dead.
‘The Witch’s Clock’ segment of Gallery of Horrors.