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Kung Fu forever

Actor David Carradine, who was found dead Thursday in his hotel room in Bangkok, Thailand, where he was filming a movie, was proof that actors can't always choose the roles they become famous for. Although he appeared in more than 100 films and Broadway productions during his career, including the title character in Quentin Tarrantino's two Kill Bill movies, Mr. Carradine, who was 72, probably will be best remembered as the nomadic half-Chinese, half-American Shaolin monk Kwai Chang Caine in the 1970s television series Kung Fu.

Based on the improbable story of a nomadic martial arts master in the American Wild West, the show delighted a generation of impressionable youngsters with what for many may have been their first taste of Asian culture and philosophy, served up in the trappings of a traditional Hollywood shoot-em-up. In its depiction of the era's anti-Chinese bigotry and senseless violence, it also managed to tap into older viewers' sense of both the moral urgency of the civil rights movement and the widespread weariness with the Vietnam War.

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Thai police described Mr. Carradine's death as an apparent suicide, though his family questioned that report, saying he had far too much to live for to kill himself. Certainly it's something the character Mr. Carradine played in Kung Fu -- who despite his deadly skills espoused a reverence for the holiness of all life -- would have instinctively recoiled from. That's also undoubtedly how the actor's millions of fans from those years will always prefer to remember him.

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