Bruce lee is a name that most people know even if they are not from the martial arts world, if asked most people could tell you something about this great man, it raises the question why after more than 35 years is the teachings of Bruce lee still so widely recognised?
However, his temper and quick fists saw him fall foul of the HK police on numerous occasions, and his parents suggested that he head off to the United States. Lee landed in San Francisco's Chinatown in 1959 and worked in a relative's restaurant, however he eventually made his way to Seattle, Washington where he enrolled at university to study philosophy, and found the time to practice his beloved kung fu techniques. In 1963, Lee met Linda Emery (later his wife) and in addition he opened his first kung fu school at many key martial arts identities in the USA including kenpo karate expert Ed Parker and tae kwon do master Jhoon Rhee. He made guest appearances at notable martial arts events including the Long Beach Nationals. Through one of these tournaments, Bruce met Hollywood hair stylist Jay Sebring who introduced him to TV producer William Dozier. Based on the runaway success of "Batman", Dozier was keen to bring the cartoon character of "The Green Hornet" to TV and was on the lookout for an Oriental actor to play the Green Hornet's sidekick, "Kato". Around this time, Bruce also opened a second kung fu school in Oakland, California and relocated to Oakland to be closer to Hollywood.
Bruce's screen test was successful, and "The Green Hornet" starring Van Williams went to air in early 1966 to mixed success. However, the show was surprisingly terminated after only one season (30 episodes), but by this time he was receiving more fan mail than the show's star. He then opened a third branch of his kung fu school in Los Angeles, and began providing personalized martial arts training to film stars including Steve McQueen and James Coburn. In addition, he refined his prior knowledge of wing chun, plus incorporating aspects of other fighting styles such as traditional boxing and okinawan karate. He also developed his own unique style "Jeet Kune Do" (Way of the Intercepting Fist). Another film opportunity then comes his way, as he landed the small role of a stand over man named "Winslow Wong" intimidating private eye James Garner in Marlowe (1969). Wong paid a visit to Garner and proceeded to demolish the investigator's office with his fists and feet, finishing off with a spectacular high kick that shattered the light fitting. With this further exposure of his talents, Bruce then scored several guest appearances as a martial arts instructor to blind private eye James Franciscus on the TV series Longstreet (1971).
With his minor success in Hollywood and money in his pockets, Bruce returned for a visit to Hong Kong and was approached by film producer Raymond Chow who had recently started "Golden Harvest" productions. Chow was keen to utilize Lee's strong popularity amongst young Chinese fans, and offered him the lead role in _Tang sha da xiong (1971)_ ( aka "The Big Boss").
Once more, Hong Kong streets were jammed back with thousands of fervent Chinese movie fans who could not get enough of the fearless Bruce Lee, and his second film went on to break the box office records set by the first!
Lee then set up his own production company, Concord Productions, and set about guiding his film career personally by writing, directing and acting in his next film, _Meng long guojiang (1972)_ (aka "Way of the Dragon", aka "Return of The Dragon"). A bigger budget, meant better locations and opponents, with the new film set in Rome, Italy and additionally starring hapkido expert Ing-Sik Whang, karate legend Robert Wall and seven times US karate champion Chuck Norris. Bruce played a seemingly simple country boy sent to assist at a cousin's restaurant in Rome, and finds his cousins are being bullied by local thugs for protection.
Shooting was completed in and around Hong Kong in early 1973 and in the subsequent weeks, Bruce was involved in completing over dubs and looping for the final cut. Various reports from friends and co-workers cite how he was not feeling well during this period, and on July 20th 1973 he lay down at the apartment of actress Betty Ting Pei after taking a headache tablet, and was later unable to be revived. A doctor was called, and he was then taken to hospital by ambulance and pronounced dead that evening. The official finding was death was due to a cerebral edema, caused by a reaction to the headache tablet. In other words, death by misadventure.
Fans worldwide were still hungry for more Bruce Lee films, and thus remaining footage (completed before his death) of Lee fighting several opponents including Dan Inosanto, Hugh OBrian and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was crafted into another film titled Game of Death (1978). The film used a look alike actor and shadowy camera work to be substituted for the real Lee in numerous scenes. The film is a poor addition to the line up, and is only saved by the final twenty minutes and the footage of the real Bruce Lee battling his way up the tower. Amazingly, this same shoddy process was used to create Si wang ta (1981) (aka "Game of Death II"), with more look alike and stunt doubles interwoven with a few brief minutes of footage of the real Bruce Lee.
Tragically, his son Brandon Lee, an actor and martial artist like his father, was killed in a freak accident on the set of The Crow (1994).
Bruce Lee was not only an amazing athlete and martial artist, but he possessed genuine superstar charisma and through a handful of films he left behind an indelible impression on the tapestry of modern cinema and the world of martial arts.