The Legend of Bruce Lee: His Life and Times


The legend of Bruce Lee is one of the more unique tales of Hollywood success. What makes Bruce Lee’s achievements so successful is the fact that he truly did overcome all manner of adversities and obstacles to achieve stardom that was seemingly elusive to him. As a martial arts instructor to the stars, one of Lee’s most famous clients was Steve McQueen. McQueen was a major international star coming off the success of BULLITT and during a training session with Bruce Lee, Lee asked McQueen if he would help open a door in Hollywood. McQueen arrogantly said no and did so in a dismissive manner. Essentially, McQueen said “Why should I let you ride my coattails?”

Most people would have been broken down and dejected over the apparent dismissive betrayal but Lee let it be known he would not be deterred. He mentioned to others he would be a much bigger star than McQueen ever was.

Today, both men have passed on and the legend of Bruce Lee has far overshadowed the somewhat forgotten career of Steve McQueen.

The life and career of Bruce Lee truly took off when the film ENTER THE DRAGON earned over $10 million in one month – a staggering sum in 1973. The film made Lee a massive worldwide star and, along with Clint Eastwood and Sean Connery, he was considered one of the founding fathers of the modern action film genre.

Sadly, this success was posthumous. Lee had passed just prior to the release of ENTER THE DRAGON. Films that he had made in Hong Kong in 1971 and 1972 would be released after the US premiere of ENTER THE DRAGON. The double feature of FISTS OF FURY and THE CHINESE CONNECTION would earn over $50 million in North America and Europe.

Yes, Bruce Lee was a massive box office draw because there simply was no one else in the movie industry quite like him. He was a superhero come to life which helped ENTER THE DRAGON draw in huge audiences of kids on matinee showings. This was ironic considering the film carried an R Rating at the time.

Through the lens of history, many will have a tough time believing that Bruce Lee ever had a difficult time in becoming such a star considering all his talents. The truth of the matter is Hollywood was leery of putting an Asian actor in a lead role. This is why he was turned down for the David Carradine role in the television series KUNG FU. Warner Bros. television did not think an Asian star would be accepted in a lead role in American television.

Bruce Lee proved his critics wrong and did so ever since his youth.

Lee was a notoriously hyperactive child who was considered “incorrigibly bad” and prone to fighting. His father felt that enrolling him in martial arts lessons would be good for him. Lee immersed himself in the study of Wing Chun southern kung fu at Yip Man’s kwoon (school) in Hong Kong. Apparently this calmed him down somewhat that he was disciplined enough to work as a child actor in Hong Kong films. Certainly, this is where the seeds of being a movie star blossomed.

Highly inquisitive, Bruce Lee studied as much as he could about various forms of Chinese martial arts until coming to America in 1959.

Lee moved to Seattle where he began to teach kung fu to non-Chinese students…something that did not sit well with most masters. Eventually, Lee moved to Oakland where the legend of Bruce Lee took another turn. He was challenged by a fellow kung fu practitioner due to Lee’s teaching non-Chinese kung fu. Lee won the fight but felt it took too long and that he was too winded in the aftermath. This led to him developing a new martial arts approach dubbed Jeet Kune Do, The Way of the Intercepting Fist. This new method eschewed the traditional concept of learning a martial arts style and, instead, combined kung fu, boxing, and fencing to establish a much more organic and fluid form of personal combat. Such a fluid nature not only made for a quality self-defense system; it also helped form the basis for a uniquely appealing theatrical style that was developed for demonstrations and films.

Bruce Lee eventually got bit by the acting bug once again and that led to his landing the role of Kato in the Green Hornet series. The success of the Green Hornet in syndication in Hong Kong eventually led to a movie deal overseas which eventually led to the green light for Enter the Dragon in the US.

Sadly, Bruce Lee would die at the age of 33 after a severe allergic reaction to a prescription led to cerebral swelling. As he passed on from this world, he would enter the annals of pop culture history due to his amazing success in life.

Today, the legend of Bruce Lee is still as powerful as ever as he has risen to worldwide fame as a martial arts icon and all-time great action movie star.

Source by D Bui

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