Kung Fu Movies
Kung fu movies have given the world action stars such as Jackie Chan, Chuck Norris, and Jet Li. The one to take the title of the greatest would have to be Bruce Lee.
He took over the Hong Kong scene before coming to America and becoming just as popular. He stood out with his deft skills and unique martial arts techniques.
That was until his sudden and tragic death. A similar fate befell his son. He only has one child left to carry on and protect his legacy.
Keep watching as Bruce Lee’s daughter reveals the awful truth about him.
Bruce Lee’s Life and Career
Lee Jun-fan, who would later become Bruce Lee, was born in San Fransisco in 1940. His family moved to Hong Kong the next year, where he began developing his skills as a child actor and martial arts student. He returned to the US in 1959 to attend the University of Washington and teach martial arts.
His breakout role came in 1966 with the TV show The Green Hornet. He played the hero’s partner and valet, Kato. He’d finally found a role that wasn’t stereotyped or shallow and was excited to play it.
His other roles after that includes shows and films such as Longstreet, Batman, and Ironside. He was also an action choreographer on films such as 1968’s The Wrecking Crew.
A string of Hong Kong martial arts movies in Hong Kong. The Big Boss and Fist of Fury broke box office records all over Asia and made him an official international star.
He went further behind the camera with The Way of the Dragon in 1973, a Hong Kong action film he directed, wrote, produced, and starred in. His final appearance was in 1973’s Enter the Dragon. It was a box-office hit in America and Hong Kong. It’s considered one of the most influential martial arts movies of all time even to this day.
His Suspicious Death and Enduring Legacy
Bruce Lee died suddenly at the age of 32 on July 20, 1973. The cause of death was ruled as cerebral edema. He had a funeral in Hong Kong but is buried next to his son in Seattle.
Bruce was a busy man in his career and at home before his death. He was working on several projects at the time, including Game of Death. He’d been married to Linda Emergy Lee for nine years. They had two children, an 8-year-old son named Brandon and a 4-year-old daughter named Shannon.
He was at the Hong Kong home of Taiwanese actress Betty Ting Pei, his alleged mistress, on the day of his death. His demanding schedule was enough to give anyone a headache, and he complained of one. He took a painkiller known as Equagesic, went to bed, and never woke up.
At The Queen Elizabeth Hospital
An ambulance was called when he became unconscious. There was nothing they could do by the time he arrived at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Several prominent members of the Hong Kong police went to the hospital to see him, including police chief Charles Sutcliffe.
Theories abound about what actually caused the edema that caused his death. In the 70’s, experts claimed he had a hypersensitivity to Equagesic. That theory seems a bit strange because he’d taken the pill before with no ill effects. Donald Teare, a forensic scientist assigned to the case, also denies the idea that the cannabis in his system contributed to his death.
Bruce Lee’s Autobiography
More recent studies suggest he could have had a heat stroke from overexertion. Matthew Polly wrote his autobiography and notes that he had his underarm sweat glands removed in 1972.
A 2022 study proposes an entirely different theory. Kidney specialists in Spain said he drank too much water which overloaded his kidneys and led to swelling in his brain.
The search to find out exactly what killed him only proves how much his fans loved him, and his legacy endures to this day. TIME Magazine named him one of the most influential figures of the 20th century in 1999. A 8.2ft statue was unveiled in Hong Kong on November 27, 2005, which would have been his 65th birthday. He even founded an entirely new discipline of martial arts, known as Jeet Kune Do, which is a predecessor to today’s MMA or mixed martial arts.
The story of Bruce’s son Brandon is equally tragic and suspicious.
He wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps as a martial artist. He also wanted to be an actor and moved to Seattle with his mother and sister after his father’s death.
Brandon’s first film was the Cantonese film Legacy of Rage in 1986. Others included the made-for-TV film Kung Fu: The Movie, Laser Mission in 1990, Showdown in Little Tokyo in 1991, and Rapid Fire in 1992.
The Death On March 13, 1993
1994’s The Crow was his ninth film. It came when his career was on the rise and was meant to make him a breakout star.
He died on the set of that film on March 13, 1993, at the age of 28. He was fatally wounded at the hands of what was supposed to be a prop gun. It was meant to be loaded with blanks but no one checked it between takes so it had a real bullet instead. The death was ruled accidental, and it wasn’t even the only accident on the set.
Brandon’s was another mysterious and tragically early death in the Lee family line. Fortunately, there are still family members left to honor him and his father’s legacy.
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Who Is Shannon Lee?
Bruce’s daughter, Shannon, may not be the most famous member of her family. She hasn’t had a tragic death or developed a massive film career.
She’s a wife and mother who married Ian Keasler and had a daughter Wren in 2003. She’s also a producer, actor, and businesswoman. She also hopes that the world can learn from her brother’s senseless death and encourages mandatory gun safety training on film sets.
It’s primarily Shannon who continues on her father’s legacy. She founded the nonprofit Bruce Lee Foundation. It creates summer camps where children can learn about his philosophy and develop their martial arts skills.
Shannon is also making sure that her father’s legacy continues for generations. Wren is now in charge of the Bruce Lee Snapchat account.
Bruce Lee’s Dream
All of this effort to keep Bruce’s dreams alive didn’t mean she wanted to follow in his footsteps right away. Taking up her father’s specialized method of martial arts was originally too painful for both of Bruce’s children. Shannon eventually did it as a way to feel closer to him.
Entering the world of Hollywood was also too painful at first, especially after the death of her brother. That was until she found a story her father had envisioned in his personal items after his death.
It was called Warrior, a crime drama that takes place in San Francisco’s Chinatown. She was interested in bringing it to life and then found Justin Lin to help her. There are currently three seasons of the show that you can watch on the streaming service Max.
What Does Shannon Think?
Shannon may not have many vivid memories of her father because she was only four years old when he died. Despite that, she still feels close to him. She can feel his energy around her and remembers how wonderful it felt whenever he gave her even the slightest bit of attention.
She went deeper into her feelings on The Official Warrior Podcast, a companion piece to the show Warrior 50 years after his death.
What He Taught Her
Shannon looks back on her father’s legacy and notices everything he was able to accomplish. He had an impressively influential life despite it being cut short. She says he was ahead of his time and that the world is “just catching up to him” now.
She also remembers the principles he would follow every day. He managed to impart them to her in the short four years she spent with him.
Most of them were based on Eastern philosophy such as personal practice and growth. Bruce exercised his mind as much as his body, and it rubbed off on his children.
She remembers how he talked about self-actualization and becoming who you want to be. It’s a concept she still needs to remind herself about. She also remembers him teaching her to look inward and focus on whether her internal life is in check.
The Awful Truth
The awful truth she feels the need to reveal is that the world misunderstands her father’s legacy. She’s criticized Once Upon a Time in Hollywood for portraying him as a “dispensable stereotype.”
The character was an insensitive alpha male. He was also hyper-competitive. Shannon says that this couldn’t have been more different from the way her father was in real life, even if the world thought he was.
She feels that the worst misunderstanding the world has about Bruce Lee is that the action star was hypermasculine. It’s an issue that many action stars face. His physical strength was undeniable, but he wanted to challenge typical ideas. There was so much more that he wanted to show the world through his roles than being a man who could beat up a bunch of baddies.
What Was He Really Like?
Shannon says Bruce was neither the stereotypical weak Asian man nor the one who could never be vulnerable. He once wrote a letter to the head of a studio saying that he was prepared to deliver an amazing action film but they had to give not just their heads but their hearts.
Bruce wasn’t a fan of competition, either. He preferred to collaborate with everyone on set. And he taught kung fu to the non-Chinese, even though that was looked down upon at the time. He worked with those who were different from him, including black men such as Jesse Glover and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar. He even once said, “Under the sun and the heavens, there’s one family. There’s one human family.”
That didn’t mean he didn’t love his country. He was proud to be Chinese and wanted to portray his nationality in a positive light which is why he always fought against stereotypical roles.
Shannon and her son are the only ones left to protect Bruce’s legacy. Hopefully, they can show the mind behind the man and change it for the better.
Are there any stars you think the world loved but didn’t understand?