Lee originally gave up acting while in the US pursuing his degree in favor of taking up martial arts, little knowing that would be his big break into the world of acting.
After being spotted at a martial arts exhibition, he was invited to play the role of Kato in the TV version of The Green Hornet. The show only lasted one season, and as he was not thrilled with the prospect of continuing to play second banana, Lee went to Hong Kong to make martial arts films he could showcase to Hollywood.
It worked. After the resounding success of “The Big Boss,” “Fist of Fury” and “Way of the Dragon,” Warner Brothers tabbed him to star in their entry into the kung fu film arena, “Enter the Dragon.”
Tragically, on the eve of his great US triumph — a mere six days before the release of “Enter the Dragon” — Lee would be dead from acute cerebral edema resulting from a reaction to a painkiller. He was only 32.
Tragedy hadn’t finished with the Lee family, unfortunately. Bruce’s son Brandon — who had become an actor and a martial artist in his own right — would die in a bizarre accident on the set of “The Crow” with only eight days of filming remaining. Brandon Lee died when he was just 28 years young. – AJW
Bruce Lee, kung fu actor, dies
Hong Kong — American-born actor Bruce Lee, who became a box office star by turning the ancient, unarmed Chinese fighting techniques of kung fu into a film fad, died Friday night. He was 32.
The San Francisco native died of an undisclosed illness shortly after he was admitted to a Hong Kong hospital.
Lee starred in the American television series, “The Green Hornet,” and taught such actors as James Garner, Steve McQueen and James Coburn the arts of karate and kung fu before returning home to Hong Kong to pioneer a fad that made him an Asian and European box office star.
He appeared in such films as “The Fist of Fury,” “The Big Boss,” and “The Way of the Dragon” — all rock ‘em, sock ‘em hits that set box office records at home and started a fad in the United States.
Lee was born in San Francisco while his parents, members of the Canton opera, were on tour.
Back in Hong Kong, he started acting at age nine in Chinese films. He returned to the United States to study, won the Long Beach karate championship and moved into an acting career in Hollywood.