I don’t think there is anyone on the planet who hasn’t heard of Bruce Lee. There probably isn’t that much I can say about the man that is not know yet. But on the 48th anniversary of his death it might be a good starting point to look at the lesser known facts of Bruce Lee.
Lee was born Lee Jun Fan on November 27, 1940, in San Francisco, California, in both the hour and year of the Dragon. His father, Lee Hoi Chuen, a Hong Kong opera singer, moved with his wife, Grace Ho, and three children to the United States in 1939; Hoi Chuen’s fourth child, a son, was born while he was on tour in San Francisco.
Lee received the name “Bruce” from a nurse at his birthing hospital, and his family never used the name during his preschool years. He only started to use the name Bruce when he entered secondary school and began his study of the English language The future star appeared in his first film at the age of 3 months, when he served as the stand-in for an American baby in Golden Gate Girl (1941).
At the age of three months, Lee Hoi Chuen, his wife Grace and baby Bruce returned to Hong Kong where Bruce would be raised until the age of 18. Bruce’s most prominent memory of his early years was the occupation of Hong Kong by the Japanese during World War II (1941-1945). At the age of 13, Bruce was introduced to Master Yip Man, a teacher of the Wing Chun style of gung fu. For five years Bruce studied diligently and became very proficient. He greatly revered Yip Man as a master teacher and wise man and frequently visited with him in later years.
As a nine-year-old, he would co-star with his father in The Kid, also known as Kid Cheung and My Son A-Chang, is a 1950 Hong Kong drama film starring the then 9-year-old Bruce Lee in his first leading role in the title role of “Kid Cheung”, based on a comic book character written by Yuen Bou-wan, who also has a role in the film. Co-starring Lee’s father, Lee Hoi-chuen.
In high school, one of Bruce’s accomplishments was winning an interschool Boxing Championship against an English student in which the Marquis of Queensbury rules were followed and no kicking was allowed.
-As a side note- John Sholto Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry , was a Scottish nobleman, remembered for his atheism, his outspoken views, his brutish manner, for lending his name to the “Queensberry Rules” that form the basis of modern boxing, and for his role in the downfall of the Irish author and playwright Oscar Wilde. Lord Queensberry’s son Alfred had a relationship with Oscar Wilde-
Bruce was also a terrific dancer, and in 1958 he won the Hong Kong Cha Cha Championship. He studied dancing as assiduously as he did gung fu, keeping a notebook in which he had noted 108 different cha cha steps. In addition to his studies, gung fu and dancing, Bruce was also a child actor under the tutelage of his father who must have known from an early age that Bruce had a streak of showmanship. By the time he was 18, he had appeared in 20 films.
Lee finished high school in Edison, Washington, and subsequently enrolled as a philosophy major at the University of Washington. He also got a job teaching the Wing Chun style of martial arts that he had learned in Hong Kong to his fellow students and others. Through his teaching, Lee met Linda Emery, whom he married in 1964. By that time, Lee had opened his own martial arts school in Seattle.
Just as Bruce was cementing his plans to expand his martial arts schools, fate stepped in to move his life in another direction. In August of 1964, Ed Parker, widely regarded as the father of American Kenpo, invited Bruce to Long Beach, CA to give a demonstration at his First International Karate Tournament. A member of the audience was Jay Sebring, a well-known hair stylist to the stars. Jay told his producer client, William Dozier, about having seen this spectacular young Chinese man giving a gung fu demonstration just a few nights before. Mr. Dozier obtained a copy of the film that was taken at Ed Parker’s tournament. The next week he called Bruce at home in Oakland and invited him to come to Los Angeles for a screen test.
The rest of course is Hollywood history.
On July 20, 1973, Lee was in Hong Kong to have dinner with actor George Lazenby, known for his roles as James Bond in “Her Majesty’s Secret Service” with whom he intended to make a film. According to Lee’s wife Linda, Lee met producer Raymond Chow at 2 p.m. at home to discuss the making of the film Game of Death. They worked until 4 p.m. and then drove together to the home of Lee’s colleague Betty Ting Pei, a Taiwanese actress. The three went over the script at Ting’s home, and then Chow left to attend a dinner meeting.
Later, Lee complained of a headache, and Ting gave him the painkiller Equagesic, which contained both aspirin and the tranquilizer meprobamate. Around 7:30 p.m., he went to lie down for a nap. When Lee did not come for dinner, Chow came to the apartment, but he was unable to wake Lee up. A doctor was summoned, and spent ten minutes attempting to revive Lee before sending him by ambulance to Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Lee was declared dead on arrival at the age of 32.
The untimely death of Bruce was not the only tragedy to fall on the Lee family.
On March 31, 1993, Bruce Lee’s son Brandon Lee was filming a scene in The Crow where his character is shot and killed by thugs. In the scene, Lee’s character walks into his apartment and discovers his fiancée being beaten and raped. Actor Michael Massee’s character fires a Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum revolver at Lee as he walks into the room.
In the scene preceding the fatal scene, a gun was loaded with cartridges from which the crew had removed the powder charge, so in close-ups the revolver would show normal-looking bullets. The crew had neglected, however, to remove the primer from the cartridges. This caused one of the rounds to fire and lodge a bullet inside the barrel. For the fatal scene, which called for the revolver to be fired at Lee from a distance of 3.6–4.5 meters (12–15 ft), the emptied cartridges were replaced with blank rounds, which feature a live powder charge and primer, but no bullet, thus allowing the gun to be fired without the risk of an actual projectile. When the blank round was fired, the bullet lodged in the barrel was propelled forward with almost the same force as if the round were live, and it struck Lee in the abdomen.
Brandon Lee was rushed to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, North Carolina. Attempts to save him were unsuccessful and after six hours of surgery, Lee was pronounced dead on March 31, 1993 at 1:03 pm, aged 28
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