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|Also Known As:||Bruce Lee Siu-Lung||Died:||July 20, 1973|
|Born:||November 27, 1941||Cause of Death:||cerebral edema induced by allergic reaction by painkiller|
|Birth Place:||San Francisco, California, USA||Profession:||actor, dance teacher|
Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY
fore bringing the house down with a final bout against Chuck Norris in the Colosseum. Though "Way" was a great success for all involved, it would be the last time Lee would ever exert such a degree of control over his own films.After three massive box office hits in the Asian market, Hollywood began to view Bruce Lee with renewed interest. Martial arts films were proving profitable for independent distributors, as proven by the runaway ticket sales generated by "King Boxer," a 1972 Hong Kong actioner released in the U.S. as "Five Fingers of Death." Based on these successes, many studios began to purchase their own titles for release to inner city theaters. But few producers were willing to back an American-made kung fu film - that is, until producer Fred Weintraub traveled to Hong Kong and saw Lee's films. Convinced that he could create a huge hit in the States with a film starring Lee, he struck a deal between Lee's Concord Pictures and Warner Bros. to co-produce an English-language martial arts film shot entirely in Hong Kong and featuring Lee as its star, co-scripter, and martial arts choreographer. Despite their enthusiasm for Lee's participation, Warner Bros. remained skeptical that an Asian...
fore bringing the house down with a final bout against Chuck Norris in the Colosseum. Though "Way" was a great success for all involved, it would be the last time Lee would ever exert such a degree of control over his own films.
After three massive box office hits in the Asian market, Hollywood began to view Bruce Lee with renewed interest. Martial arts films were proving profitable for independent distributors, as proven by the runaway ticket sales generated by "King Boxer," a 1972 Hong Kong actioner released in the U.S. as "Five Fingers of Death." Based on these successes, many studios began to purchase their own titles for release to inner city theaters. But few producers were willing to back an American-made kung fu film - that is, until producer Fred Weintraub traveled to Hong Kong and saw Lee's films. Convinced that he could create a huge hit in the States with a film starring Lee, he struck a deal between Lee's Concord Pictures and Warner Bros. to co-produce an English-language martial arts film shot entirely in Hong Kong and featuring Lee as its star, co-scripter, and martial arts choreographer. Despite their enthusiasm for Lee's participation, Warner Bros. remained skeptical that an Asian actor could carry a Hollywood film, and so American actors John Saxon and martial artist Jim Kelly were brought it to support Lee; a Stateside director, Robert Clouse, was also tapped to helm the film. Though the final product lacked some of the explosive energy of Lee's Hong Kong efforts, "Enter the Dragon" (1973) was viewed by the international film community as the first phase in Bruce Lee's ascension to international movie icon status.
But his second attempt to penetrate the Western market proved frustrating; Warner Bros. began developing a period feature for Lee about a half-Chinese martial arts student caught up in intrigue during the creation of the Transcontinental Railroad in 19th-century America. The project, simply titled "Kung Fu," was then pitched as a television series for Lee, but the studio turned down his involvement for various unspecified reasons (among those cited by sources was Lee's lack of proficient English), and the easier-to-understand David Carradine was cast as Caine in the eventual series (ABC, 1972-75). Though disappointed, Lee was too busy to reflect on the loss; he had returned to Hong Kong in 1973 to commence work on another feature film, "Game of Death," which he would write and direct. In its original form, "Game" would star Lee as one of five competitors fighting their way through a Korean pagoda filled with various martial arts challenges, including Wang Ing Sik and U.S. basketball star Kareem Abdul Jabbar, whose fight with Lee was among the project's highlights. The project was planned to serve as a demonstration piece for Lee's finalized vision of Jeet Kune Do.
But Lee would never complete "Game of Death." Despite his incredible physical health, Lee had collapsed during a dubbing session for "Enter the Dragon" and suffered seizures and a swelling of the brain known as cerebral edema. He was rushed to a Hong Kong hospital, where he recovered and commenced work on "Game" and the final stages of "Enter the Dragon." On July 20, 1973, Lee dined with Raymond Chow, before driving to the home of actress Betty Ting Pei to discuss "Game." While at Pei's house, Lee complained of a headache. The actress gave him a painkiller before he retired for a nap. Chow later returned to the apartment to get Lee up for dinner, but was unable to wake him. Lee was rushed to a nearby hospital, but was pronounced dead before arriving there. No concrete reason could be given for his untimely demise, save for the painkiller and a trace amount of marijuana in his system. All manner of conspiracy theories arose to make sense of the tragic loss - from a mob hit to the vengeance of fellow martial artists through poisoning, but the fact remained that Bruce Lee - the most widely recognized and revered star of Asian popular cinema - was dead. His legend was sealed. A funeral procession in Hong Kong was overrun by thousands of grieving fans before his body was returned to Seattle for a smaller ceremony, attended by Lee's family and many of his Hollywood friends. He was buried at Lake View Cemetery on July 31, 1973.
Six days later, "Enter the Dragon" was released in the United States. The international media attention surrounding Lee's sudden death helped to make the film one of the biggest box office hits of the year for Warner Bros., launching a worldwide fever for all things Lee and martial arts. A small distribution company called National General quickly bought the rights to Lee's three previous films for Golden Harvest and released them in dubbed, truncated form to hungry audiences across the U.S. and Europe. National General made life particularly difficult for early Lee scholars by administering bewildering changes to each of the film's titles - "The Big Boss" was retitled "Fists of Fury," while "Fist of Fury" was called "The Chinese Connection," and "Way of the Dragon" was called "Return of the Dragon" and sold as a sequel to "Enter the Dragon."
The older films only fanned the flames of desire for more Bruce Lee films. By the mid-1970s, kung fu had transcended its grindhouse origins and infiltrated the pop culture in a myriad of ways - from the "Kung Fu" series to Carl Douglas' 1976 pop-disco hit, "Kung Fu Fighting." Sensing that there was an insatiable demand for Lee, Hong Kong producers began to generate a series of films featuring look-alike actors performing wan imitations of Lee's signature skills. The resulting wave of "Brucesploitation" was, at best laughable, and at worst, tasteless - i.e. "Bruce Lee: His Last Days, His Last Nights," an appalling softcore trash film concocted by and starring Betty Ting Pei. Even Golden Harvest got into the act by hiring "Enter the Dragon" director Robert Clouse to make sense of the "Game of Death" footage left behind by Lee. The final result was a hodgepodge of Lee's exhilarating fight scenes mixed with crude, newer scenes featuring Lee doubles and bewildered American actors like Dean Jagger and Gig Young.
Though other Asian martial artists eventually rose to a degree of popularity that rivaled Lee (Jackie Chan, who once served as a stuntman in "Fist of Fury," came the closest to approximating Lee's status as a pop culture icon), his role as the leading symbol for martial arts entertainment never waned in the decades following his death. Lee's image came to personify the highest degree of dedication and skill in the martial arts field, and was approximated countless times in everything from video games like "Mortal Kombat" to movies - Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" (2005) was a virtual catalog of Lee references, from the Bride's yellow-and-black tracksuit - a dead ringer for Lee's in "Game of Death" - to the Crazy 88's Kato-style outfits. Lee's legacy even extended to his own children; both Brandon and Shannon became stars of their own martial arts films in the early 1990s. Sadly, Brandon's accidental death on the set of "The Crow" (1993) ech d his own father's untimely death (and launched a second wave of unpleasant "Lee curse" rumors). Shannon Lee eventually left the industry and, along with the help of her mother, maintained the Bruce Lee Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving her father's teachings and legacy.
Lee's life was also the subject of numerous documentaries, as well as a well-received biopic, "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story" (1993), with Jason Scott Lee (no relation) as Lee and featuring a cameo by Shannon Lee. A 40-part documentary series on Lee's life was launched in 2007 by Chinese television to promote Chinese culture during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, while a film based on Lee's early years was announced that same year by director Fruit Chan.n Italy, "Way" featured spectacular fight choreography by Lee, who took on champs Bob Wall and Wang Ing Sik be
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