He hit the big time when he landed the part of Asa Watts, the villainous “Long Hair” who kills John Wayne in “The Cowboys,” for which he is punished later by being pulled apart by horses. To be honest, neither of these scenes terrified me so much as the one in which he grabs a young kid and SLOWLY AND DELIBERATELY BREAKS THE KID’S GLASSES. Yep. That bastard. Being a boy who was incessantly breaking, misplacing or sitting on his own spectacles, Bruce ending up on the wrong end of an equine taffy-pull wasn’t punishment enough.
By this time, he had perfected the Dernsies. First, there’s hiss quiet, quiet voice -- the soft drawl that quickly ramps into a screech. His eyes triple in size, his brow accordions up, his teeth are bared. His gestures and inflections swoop, twitch, flare, growl, subside, and finally bury the needle in the red. You aren’t sure what’s going to happen next, but you are sure it’s going to be interesting.
Carradine’s gaunt, fierce, demonstrativeness, his roundly phrased orations, came from the conventions of the Victorian stage. It worked for Carradine, usually in a horror-film context, partly due to the acceptance of “bigger,” tragically-pitched performances in that genre.
So give the guy some love. He says, of meeting Marilyn Monroe, “She leaned over to me and, I’d never met her – she’s Marilyn Monroe, I’m Brucy from Winnetka – and she said, ‘Oh, you’re Gadge’s [Elia Kazan’s] new wunderkind, aren’t you? And I said, ‘Oh, c’mon, please. He doesn’t say that.’ She said, ‘Yes, he does. He also says nobody’s going to know who you are until you’re in your late 60s.’” He’s 77.