Jauntily, David Carradine strolls down La Croisette, the main drag of the Cannes Film Festival and site of the Palais des Festivals where, as it happens, "Bound For Glory" is playing. Now "Bound for Glory" is the movie in which Carradine plays Woody Guthrie, folk singer and union-organizer; and "Bound For Glory," as happens, has (some hope, some suspect and some deny furiously) a good chance of getting the Golden Palm, the coveted prize here in Cannes.
Still - nobody among the permanent crowd of gawkers who stand in front of the Palais really notices Carradine, all lanky and limp-haired, one of 30,000 who descend on this city each year at this time.
When he reaches the Hotel Carlton, Carradine walks inside. Minutes later he emerges: a guitar slung, Gutherie-style over his shoulder.
Now everyone notices. Their mouths fixed in a permanent gape, they nudge each other and whisper among themselves.
Later that night, he's in the Hotel Carlton in his room. Outside within arm's reach is a huge mushroom-shaped revolving disc that proclaims an assortment of new films to the strollers along La Croisette. Walking out onto the balcony, Carradine turns the disc around so all the passersby can look up and see "EN ROUTE POUR LA GLOIRE."
If you're at the movie festival and you want to be noticed and interviewed, you stay at the Carlton Hotel.
If you're at the festival and you want to be noticed, but don't want to be obvious about it, you stay at the Hotel du Cap, which is 15 minutes outside of Cannes.
David Carradine seems to be shuttling back and forth.
He is standing next morning, in the dining room of the Hotel du Cap, rubbing his wife's long and lovely neck, every muscle, every bit of cartilage of Linda Carradine (three-months' wed), expertly massaged by Kung-Fu hands. Nobody in the breakfast room pays them any mind, the patrons being Hollywoodians, who regard Carradine with some suspicion.
He has, first of all, ordered lettuce, strawberries and mint tea for breakfast; and is, second of all, wearing a Kung-Fu-ish outfit, a pale yellow Nehru jacked with matching loose trousers.
"I am Kung Fu," Carradine insists after his wife, who is not feeling well, leaves. "I mean I'm not (messing) around you know. I wear this as a mark. I mean a suit, a tie - it is a class thing. Isn't that what full dress is about? I'm really into revolution, but it's the revolution of the body and the spirit - seeking illumination is what I'm doing. And I'm trying to get it going for everybody."
Yes, David Carradine, once the star of that famed TV series ("I have spent my whole life preparing for that part - in a sense. All the intellectual, mystical searches . . .") is still a Kung-Fue still learning from his master. "He gives lessons right across the street from MGM," explains the star. "But he also comes out to Malibu and works with me and Bob Dylan. Oh yes - Dylan's come a long way and getting pretty good at it too."
Smiling, he picks at his strawberries, shrugs off the mint tea (which arrived too late for enjoyment) and selects coffee instead.
"I have always had a great deal of faith in the future," he says, sipping delicately. "I was taught to have it by my mother. Just to believe in the essential goodness of the universe.
"Oh you do, too," he maintains staunchly, in the face of certain objections. 'In your heart you do. I can see it in your eyes, your teeth, your nose."
The essential goodness of the universe, however, has not exactly spilled all over the fate of "Bound For Glory" in this country, according to Caradine. The French, of course, appear to love it because it attacks American society. The Americans, he maintains, either stand up and applaud - or don't get a chance to see this saga of Depressionera poverty and triumph.
"But if I'm an asset, you've gotta get me up there. You gotta get out there and say, 'DAVID CARRADINE, STAR OF 'KUNG FU', IN A NEW AND DIFFERENT ROLE.'"
Well, maybe they're ashamed of Carradine's TV past.
"You're right," he agrees "!!-em. They're trying to be so classy.When GREAT DUST STORM OF '38. SEE they should be saying, 'SEE THE GREAT DUST STORM OF '38. SEE THE TORNADO. GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS!"
"I can't tell you how many times people have come up to me and asked, 'Are you making any movies lately?'"
He shakes his head in true disgust. Why just a few months ago he finished filming Ingamar Bergman's "The Serpent's Egg" with Liv Ullmann. Right at this very moment, at this very breakfast he's being importuned by a patient Swedish director (who claims he has penumonia) who wants him to narrate a documentary on Bergman. In a few days he'll be off to India to make his own film which will star his daughter.
David Carradine is, of course, not only the 40-year-old son of the actor, John, but brother of Keith, 13 years his junior and a target for all the ladies in Robert Altman movies.
"Well," he says, "they go mad for Keith in real life too."
And do they go mad for David as well?
He demurs, "I feel like such an ass - answering a question like that. But I can't remember ever not getting a woman I wanted. And also there's always been one or two hanging around I don't want as well. The few times I go to a bar, which I don't do often, but when I do, I always get hit by some chick."
He thinks that over. "But I feel that's not me. That's my fame they find so attractive - in the bars I mean. Not the heavy ones though - not Barbara Hershey (a former girl friend) or Linda. Both those girls - I picked."
No, David Carradine does not exactly rush into things. The movie he's about to film in India with his 15-year-daughter, Calista should take him, he suspects, about 17 years to complete. The subject: Mata Hari, Or, as Carradine says, "Mata Hari the dancer, Mata Hari the liar, Mata Hari the spy, Mata Hari the free spirit -"
The list of epithets is interrupted by the entrance of a young mustachioed man named David whom Carradine introduces as a poet. "Who wants to break into journalism." David enters burdened with gifts and good news. The good news is he got Carradine his visa to India: "It's cool," he explains the procedure. "I just telephoned the embassy and they say it's cool." Also that he's going to get to meet Princess Grace that afternoon.
The first gift he hands Carradine is a large Chinese scroll, which translated, ostensibly details the tearful parting of two old scholars. "Let your singing girls sing me a song," suggests the departing scholar. "No," says the other, "because every time I hear that song, It will remind me of you."
Then there's another gift the poet offers, which looks considerably less Kung Fu-ish. "I'm way ahead of you, Babe," he announces as he hands Carradine a bottle of 1953 Chateau Haut Brion.
"But I thought," Carradine says, thoughtfully inspecting the bottle, "this isn't as pungent and deep as the '61."
"No," David maintains, "You can't judge them that way. Some of the older years are heavier."
David Carradine is asked why the poet comes bearing gifts.
"I gave him my guitar," he explains.
At the press conference, the day before the guitar is abandoned, all the reporters go bananas over Carradine and director Hal Ashby. In French, in English, they spill over with their questions. Did their favorite director, John Ford influence Hal Ashby? Did Carradine identify with Woody Guthrie? Was that really and truly Carradine singing in the movie.
Broadly, David Carradine grins down at the Lebanese reporter, the serious and highly political Swede, the Italian television crew, the lady journalist from Oklahoma who wants to know what this movie says about her home state - all of the assembled. Then he whips out his guitar, hoists one foot on a chair, and starts strumming.
"This land is your land this land is my land," he croons to the press conference.