Boasting a cadaverous countenance and a mesmeric gaze, John Carradine seemed born to star in horror films, but his roots were in Shakespeare, whose tragedies and histories he memorized as a schoolboy. Hitchhiking west to break into films, Carradine wrestled a contract out of 20th Century Fox but did his best work for other studios, notably with director John Ford in "Stagecoach" (1939), "Drums Along the Mohawk" (1940), and the Academy Award-winning "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940). A free agent during World War II, Carradine played Nazi thugs and mad scientists with equal aplomb while inheriting the Dracula cape from Bela Lugosi for "House of Frankenstein" (1944) and "House of Dracula" (1945), cementing a lifelong association with fright films. Marrying often, often unwisely, Carradine was plagued for decades by alimony, child support and IRS debts, forcing him to work indiscriminately in such dreck as "The Black Sleep" (1956), "Billy the Kid vs. Dracula" (1966), and "Blood of Dracula's Castle" (1969) while he provided for a veritable acting dynasty that included sons David, Keith, and Robert Carradine. Hobbled by arthritis in old age, Carradine labored exhaustively with few quality films to his credit, with the exceptions being Joe Dante's whip-smart horror satire "The Howling" (1981) and Francis Ford Coppola's lyrical "Peggy Sue Got Married" (1986). At the time of his death in 1988, Carradine was effectively homeless and forgotten by Hollywood, but had long been immortalized in the hearts of horror film fans for making light of humanity's dark side.