Bruce Lee was a martial artist, philosopher, poet, actor and film director of various record-breaking films who bore a legacy of self-expression, equality, and pioneering innovation. He is credited for enabling change in the way Asians were presented in American films.
|Net Worth:||10 Million $|
|Born:||November 27, 1940|
|Country of Origin:||United States Of America|
|Source Of Wealth:||American actor, film director, martial artist, martial arts instructor, philosopher, and founder of the martial art Jeet Kune Do|
|Spouse:||Linda Lee Cadwell
|Died:||July 20, 1973|
From as early as his first year, Lee was introduced to the film industry by his father and became a child actor in many films. Growing older, he learned martial arts and the philosophy behind it.
Being a man of many gifts, there were times when Lee felt the need to give up one for another. But when he mastered the art of mixing them all to produce his profession, Lee learned his gifts, himself and created a name that would outlive him.
“If you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits.There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.”
In his pursuit of a balance between martial arts and acting, Lee contributed to the penetration and change of perception of martial arts film genre around the world.
Lee began training a few of his friends in martial arts in 1959 when he moved to a high school in Seattle, USA.
He trained them his style of Wing Chun which he called Jun Fan Gung Fu instead of what other martial art teachers taught. At first, he didn’t charge them, but they persuaded him to start a proper martial art school where he would train more people
and earn a living from it.
In 1963, Lee started his first kung fu school, Lee Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute in Seattle. He taught other martial art practitioners his style; some began to teach other people the new techniques while others worked with him at his institution.
He associated with Ed Parker, a karate expert and Jhoon Rhee; a tae kwon do expert.
Enlarging his martial art circle, Lee made several guest appearances at key martial art events like the Long Beach International Karate Championships that was organized by Ed Parker. In such occasions, he demonstrated his famous 1-inch punch and two-finger push-ups.
In 1964, Lee dropped out of college and moved to Oakland where he set up his second martial art school. He met Jay Sebring, a Hollywood hairstylist who introduced him to a TV producer who needed an East Asian actor to take up a minor role in an animated version of The Green Hornet TV show.
Lee auditioned for the character, Kato, the Green Hornet’s sidekick and unlike others who had tried for that role and failed, he pronounced the main character’s names right. Upon being awarded the role, Lee insisted that his character behaves like a perfect bodyguard, keeping an eye on his boss’ enemies. At a time when actors didn’t have the power to object any instructions, Lee wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. He thought,
“To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.”
With the zeal to make his fighting scenes stand out, he played his role well in making the film a success. Though the show ran for 26 episodes before it was stopped, his martial art and acting skills didn’t go unnoticed. The show was aired in 1966 and 1967 with Lee winning the hearts of many fans in the USA and without his knowledge, Hong Kong.
Lee set up his third martial art school in Los Angeles and began training Hollywood actors. At first, he received a few students who were not willing to pay. Following his friend’s advice, he began offering personalized training to celebrities at the price of $150 per hour or $500 for ten hours. He later raised the price to $275 per hour.
He taught them his martial art style, Jeet Kune do, ‘a way of intercepting the fist.’ It was a mix of fencing, Cha-cha dancing, Western-style boxing and Wing Chun. The style emphasized on suppleness, soberness, competence and great body physique, instead of rigid rules that dominated other forms.
In the midst of his success, some Chinese martial art teachers learned that he trained non-Chinese people in martial arts, they were offended. In the early days, training martial arts to people of a different descent was considered wrong. Lee was well aware of it but didn’t adhere since he too was from mixed ancestry. To solve the discord, Lee challenged the leading opponent to a fight where his victory would be the key to retaining his schools.
The fight lasted over 20 minutes; Lee won and saved his schools.
The Fortune In Martial Art Acting
Having found the intersection between his passion for martial art and profession in acting, Lee continued to take up minor roles in TV series like Ironside, Here Come The Bride, Marlowe, and Blondie. Two of his students, Stirling Silliphant, a Hollywood, and James Coburn, an actor included him in their work whenever they could. Lee made a few guest appearances in a 1971 TV series, Longstreet written by Silliphant.
Lee didn’t like taking minor roles all the time; he knew he had greater potential and wanted to make use of it but was denied major roles. He had also been bedridden for about six months in 1970 after injuring his back while weightlifting. He took the resting time to write books on philosophy and scripts, with the hope of producing films in the USA; he didn’t succeed.
Having faced multiple rejections from those he once counted on, he decided to take a break and visit Hong Kong towards the end of 1970. His friend advised him to try getting a leading role for a Hong Kong-based film.
Upon reaching Hong Kong, he learned that people in Hong Kong watched The Green Hornet and referred to it as ‘The Kato Show’. He received a celebrity treatment with media houses seeking to interview him; he accepted. He also sent his portfolio to the most significant film production house then, asking for a contract to make a film for them, they proposed to pay him $2000 per film. Lee turned it down.
Lee returned to the US with high hopes for new opportunities after a successful visit to Hong Kong. True to his thoughts, he received a call from Raymond Chow, Golden Harvest Productions’ producer who had branched out of the largest film production house in Hong Kong.
Lee accepted the offer on condition that he would have full creative control of the film.
Chow had the contract forms delivered to Los Angeles for Lee to sign; he would make 2 films for a total of $15,000. One film was incomplete while the other, ‘The Big Boss’ was ready and he was going to have the lead role!
Entry to Stardom and Beyond
Lee left Los Angeles on July 12, 1971, for Hong Kong then proceeded to Bangkok, Thailand for the shooting of ‘The Big Boss.’ The process was tough, both the crew and cast lived in terrible conditions, but they were determined to complete the film. He returned to America in September 1971 to film other episodes of Longstreet.
On October 23, 1971, The Big Boss was released; it became a huge success catapulting Lee to stardom all over Hong Kong. The film garnered $2.8 million in Box Office breaking the previous record held by The Sound of Music.
In 1972, Lee retook a leading role in a new film, ‘Fist of Fury’ with Golden Harvest productions. It was the script Chow told Lee was incomplete. The film was set in Shanghai with better working and living conditions than Lee had experienced in the last shoot. Fist of Fury was released on March 22, 1972, breaking the record set by The Big Boss. It made $3.4 million in Box office.
Lee then formed his own production house, Concord Production Inc. with Chow. From a script he had written earlier, he directed, produced and acted the leading role in ‘Way of the Dragon.’ Upon the release of the film on June 1, 1972, Lee broke the record for the third time, making $5.2 million in Box Office.
With three wins in a row, Lee’s fame caught the ears of US production houses prompting Warner’s Brothers to seek collaboration with Golden Harvest Production for a new film, ‘Enter The Dragon.’ Lee scooped the leading role and began to shoot the movie in Hong Kong. Though the film did well in Box Office making $22 million, it was the last that Lee ever made. He died six days to its premiering and never got to watch it.
After his death, his fans continued asking for more of his films. This promoted for the crafting of a footage Lee had completed before his death where he was fighting a number of rivals into a movie. The process was used to create ‘Game OF Death,’ released in 1978 and ‘Game of Death II,’ released in 1981.
If any of the cast or crew members got injured during a set, Lee would rush to the scene to assist. While shooting Enter The Dragon, Lee hit Jackie Chan across the face with a stick by mistake. Though Chan was used to such accidents, Lee was concerned he had hurt him. He rushed to him to find out if he was alright; he never took anything for granted.
Stuntmen who worked with him experienced his first-hand care; Lee would sometimes contribute towards their medical bills if they got hurt. He would say, “Real living is living for others.”
Sources claim that Lee’s net worth at the time of his death was $10 million and his films continued to earn more money. He was named ‘The Top-Earning Dead Celebrity’ making true his belief, “The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.”
Here His Top Rules!
Lee Jun Fan (Bruce) was born on November 27, 1940, in Chinatown, San Francisco to Grace Ho, a Eurasian woman from a wealthy family and Lee Hoi Chuen, a singer with the Cantonese Opera.
According to the traditions of the Chinese people, he was born in the hour and year of the dragon. His mother gave him the name Lee Jun Fan, meaning ‘return’ believing that he would one day return to the USA after growing older.
When he was three months, Lee’s family returned to their home in Kowloon, Hong Kong. His father got him his first acting role, as a Chinese baby in ‘Golden Gate Girl’ in 1941. By the time he turned 18, he had featured as a child actor in 20 films including ‘The Beginning of a Boy’ in 1946 and ‘Fu Gui Fu Yun’ in 1948.
Though Lee’s family lived in a well-to-do setting, his neighborhood was congested with refugees and dangerous gang rivalries. In that light, his father introduced him to martial arts.
In 1957, Lee was beaten by one of the gangs, inspiring him to increase his martial arts skills. He met Sifu Yip Man who began training him in Wing Chun style of Kung Fu.
Though he loved reading, Lee didn’t perform well in academics but stood out in martial arts, boxing, and dancing. Having learned Cha-Cha dancing and he scooped the top position in a major dance championship in Hong Kong when he was 18 years old. He also won the Hong Kong schools boxing tournament.
With private tutelage in Wing Chun, Lee learned to kick fast and with accuracy. Led by his ill temper and dislike for authorities, he often engaged in street fights against the teaching of Sifu Yip Man. His parents feared for his life knowing that his opponent came from a dreaded family. In April 1959, they sent him back to San Francisco, the USA to live with his elder sister, Agnes.
Later in 1959, Lee went to live with his father’s friend where he worked as a live-in waiter while continuing with his high school education until completion. He proceeded to the University of Washington in 1961 to pursue philosophy and dramatic arts.
While pursuing his university studies in 1963, Lee met Linda Emery at Garfield High School where she was a student, and he had visited to demonstrate the art of Kung fu.
Linda later joined the University of Washington in preparation to become a teacher and also joined Lee’s kung fu classes. On August 17, 1964, Lee married Linda and together had two children; Brandon in 1965 and Shannon in 1969.
Despite his fame in martial arts, Lee was not a master of any particular style, he used a combination of all the methods he knew and gave a good fight. He felt that techniques applied in martial arts were rigid and too formal for his liking. His thoughts,
“Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless, and add what is specifically your own,”
so he created his own style.
Lee loved, wrote and translated poems during his adulthood though he didn’t publish them. He also had a passion for fast cars, had a mistress and often overspent though he invested in insurance policies.
He died on July 20, 1973, at the age of 32 after experiencing a hypersensitive reaction from an ingredient in a painkiller he took to calm a headache.