How Bruce Lee changed pop culture

 

"Everybody is Kung Fu fighting", that is, how Bruce Lee changed pop culture.

He was the first Chinese who got a leading role in the American film, although he did not live to see his premiere. He introduced martial arts to Hollywood salons - today, no self-respecting action movie can go without them. Exactly 45 years ago, Bruce Lee died.

From San Francisco to Hong Kong

 

He was born in the San Francisco neighborhood of China as the fourth of the five children of Lee Hoi-chuen, a Chinese actor and opera singer, who comes from the rich and extremely respected Grace Ho family in Hong Kong. Bruce's father spent many years in the States along with the Cantonese opera, but unlike his bandmates, he did not decide to settle there permanently. Lee's family returned to Hong Kong, then the British estate, in early 1944, when the future superstar had only three months. His childhood and youth came to the times of the Japanese occupation of China, which meant for Hong Kong the need to deal with large waves of migration - citizens sought shelter in a safe, dependable British city that quickly became overcrowded and much less secure. After teen Bruce got into a few street fights, his parents decided he had to start practicing martial arts.

 

Escape from triads

 

His first teacher was Ip Man, who introduced him to the secrets of Wing Chun, one of the wushu styles. Bruce was not an outstanding student, but his speed and agility were appreciated. He was doing a lot worse at school, he had to change it twice. In 1959, the state of Lee decided that their son for his own safety should go to the US - in a short time he took part in many dangerous fights with members of other clans, he was stopped by the police, and above all beat one of the members of the influential Chinese triad, or organization mafia. His parents were afraid that Bruce would step in and get into the gang, and they would send him away to live with his older sister, Agnes, in San Francisco. After a short stay there, he moved to Seattle to complete secondary education, then he began studying at the University of Washington, with acting and philosophy as the main subjects. There he met his future wife, studying in the teaching direction of Linda Emery, whom he married in 1964 and with whom he had two children, born in 1965 Brandon and four years younger Shannon.

 

Return to the States and teaching "unworthy"

 

Not everyone knows that, but Bruce began his acting career very early, because he was still a boy for several years. His father, who after returning to Hong Kong changed the opera for the cinema, introduced him to the world of local show business and involved him in episodic and supporting roles. He performed in twenty films before the age of 18. Arriving in the States, Lee abandoned his acting aspirations, wanting to focus on martial arts and teaching - his first school, Jun Fan Gung Fu (which literally means "Kung Fu Bruce'a Lee") he founded in Seattle, he was also in competition karate. A lot of controversy arose from the fact that he decided to teach non-Chinese, which by some communities was perceived as a "betrayal" of ideals and admitting to the secrets of spiritualized styles of struggle "unworthy" people. The contacts he gained by teaching Kung Fu to white Americans resulted in 1964 with an invitation to the casting for the pilot of the series "The Number One Son." They never heard it, but Bruce managed to get a different role - for one season, and more precisely for 26 episodes, he played the role of Kato, a green sidekick in the popular comic. The hero who brought him some recognition was, unfortunately, the quintessence of what could have been achieved in Hollywood at that time: an exotic main helper, the main character, full of ideas from the West. Lee wanted to break into the mainstream, play the main roles and introduce elements of martial arts to movies and series. When he bounced several times from the wall, he decided to return to Hong Kong.

 

"The Kato Show"

 

After returning to China, it turned out that Bruce, thanks to the role in "Green Hornets", called "The Kato Show" there, became extremely popular. After the negotiations, he signed a contract for two full-length movies with the Golden Harvest studio, of course in the main role. In 1971, the "Big Boss" hit the movie theater, and a year later "The fist of Fury", making Lee the number one star. Later, the " Way of the dragon" was created (as well as the unfinished "Game of death"), enjoying notable popularity both in Hong Kong, as well as in the United States and Europe. Stunning success brought Bruce the interest of American producers who only a few years earlier saw him in only minor supporting roles. Now he was able not only to get the main role for himself, but above all for the Far East martial arts, which thanks to his performances have gained enormous popularity all over the world. Pictures to the iconic "Enter the dragon", the first film in the history of the United States with the Chinese in the lead role, began in January 1973.

 

The "exit" of the dragon

 

Unfortunately, Lee did not live to see his premiere. He died six days before the first show of the work that made him immortal. Health problems began earlier: in May 1973, Bruce complained of headaches, he also fainted during the sound work on the "Enter of the Dragon". He came to the hospital, where he was swollen by the brain, eventually his condition improved so much that he returned to the plan quite quickly. Less than two months later, he was working on a script for a new movie, in which the main role was played by Taiwanese actress Betty Ting Pei. During conversations in her apartment Lee complained again about the headache, so the woman gave him a tablet containing aspirin and meprobamate, an anti-anxiety and sleeping substance. At about 7 o'clock he took a break from work and decided to lie down, and when he did not show up at dinner, producer George Lazenby went to see what was happening to him, but he could not wake him up. An ambulance was called and the doctor arrived and found death on the spot. The autopsy did not show any external injuries, but the most disturbing was the large swelling of the brain. Donald Teare, an experienced pathologist working for Scotland Yard, who was assigned to the case, ruled that the cause of Bruce Lee's death was an allergic reaction to one of the painkillers, meprobamate. His use contributed to cerebral edema, which led to death. The widow of the actor, Linda Lee, decided to transport his body to the States and bury him at the Lake View Cemetery in Seattle.

 

Conspiracy theories and ... family curse

 

Although 45 years have passed since Bruce Lee's sudden death, there is still no conspiracy theory on the subject. The most popular is the one about the Chinese triads, which were to commission the murder of a star refusing to pay protection money. There was also a lack of supporters of the view that ... Lee really lives, leading the life of a hermit. The tragic death of his only son, Brandon, contributed to the popularity of the curse concept that surrounded his family. He died during his work on the adaptation of the comic "Crow", when a real sharp weapon was used instead of blind bullets in the scene of the shooting. Brandon was seriously wounded and the doctors could not him saved - he lived even shorter than his father, just 28 years old.

 

"Bruce Lee effect”

 

Although this is a rather brutal statement, Lee's death six days before the premiere of "The Enter of the Dragon," one of the highest grossing films of 1973, which has earned over 200 million dollars worldwide today, undoubtedly contributed to its "iconic" status. He paved the way for other actors of far eastern origin, of which Jet Li and Jackie Chan are among the most popular today. He popularized the archetype of a lonely hero struggling against adversities, the only righteous who defended the weak and helpless. The explosion of the popularity of martial arts - and everything related to them - in the States and Europe is also the "Bruce Lee effect". Like their entry into the canon of permanent elements of the world's action cinema.

 

Source: Empik.com

Translation from polish

 

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