Bruce Lee, The Fighter Who Won Top Billing But Left Too Soon

By | November 29, 2016

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Left: Bruce Lee as the stylish and charming movie star. Right: Lee as Kato in The Green Hornet. Source: IMDB

There's precious little to the filmography of Bruce Lee: The Big Boss (1971), Fist of Fury (1972), Way of the Dragon (1972), Enter the Dragon (1973) and The Game of Death (1978). Five feature films for the international market, one of them a posthumous release and another stitched together from a never-completed project -- that's it. But his persona looms large for numerous reasons beyond the performances. A martial-arts star and teacher, Lee broke barriers for Asian actors and specifically Asian males on screen, who had not been favorably portrayed in the decades that preceded him. A muscular, formidable, handsome and charming presence on screen, Lee was unlike Asian actors American audiences had yet seen, and his films transcended the martial-arts genre. Prior to Bruce Lee, it was hard to imagine a Hollywood film with an Asian male actor in the lead role, but at the peak of his career Lee proved to be a major box-office draw.

Bruce Lee, also known as Lee Jun-Fan was born in Chinatown, San Francisco on November 27th, 1940. His family moved back to Hong Kong when he was only 3 months old. Despite Lee's mother being from a wealthy family and his father being a very popular opera singer, the rich neighborhood that he grew up in soon became overcrowded and full of gangs. This led to Bruce being involved in several fights which worried his parents. 

He Returned To The States To Go To College

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Left: Bruce Lee in 'Game Of Death,' 1978. Right: Lee with son Brandon Lee. Source: IMDB

They then decided that he should be trained in martial arts and so he began at the age of 16 in the art of Wing Chun. In 1959, his father decided to send him back to the United States to live with his older sister after getting into another street fight in which the police were called.

After finishing high school and earning his diploma, he enrolled at the University of Washington where he majored in drama. While there, he met his future wife Linda Emery whom he married on August 17th 1964 and later went on to have two children, Brandon and Shannon Lee.