Rebirth of the Dragon: Bruce Lee's Journey Back to the West
Bruce Lee was more than an pop culture icon who created the first mixed martial art thanks to Jeet Kwon do, but he was also a philosopher and one of the most influential actors of our time!
When Lee, who was born in San Francisco, migrated back to the states, he established a martial arts school who his first student was Jesse Raymond Glover. However, the Chinese community issued an ultimatum for Lee to stop teaching non-Chinese people (Whites and Blacks) their sacred arts. Bruce defiantly refused to comply and was issued a challenge against martial arts practitioner Wong Jack Man. Lee defeated Jack Man in a matter of 3 minutes! Lee was discovered by producer William Dozier who was mostly known for the 1966 Batman series which in fact had Lee guest star as Kato, who looking back should have easily kicked Robin's ass, but that wouldn't look good in the narrow eyes of most Americans during that time.
After establishing himself as a bona-fide action celebrity courtesy of the Sixties' Green Hornet series, Lee came up with a new concept for a television series, "The Warrior" which would involve a nomadic Shaolin Monk within the setting of the wild west. This proposed vehicle would feature Lee as the main protagonist. ABC television which aired the then canceled Green Hornet series, turned it down...but wait... here's the fucked-up part!"
ABC did develop the series that Lee had pitched, but his character was replaced with a Caucasian man, David Carradine. Wait, what??!!?? It was lazily named "Kung Fu." The studios thought by casting a white man for the role, it would be less of a risk. Disappointed, Lee understood ABC's decision. After all, it's just business. Frustrated with his lackluster roles in the US, Lee returned to Hong Kong. But due to his surprise The Green Hornet enjoyed a modicum of success in Hong Kong to the extent that it was unofficially referred to as "The Kato Show", and after gaining more recognition, Lee’s career in Hong Kong had skyrocketed.
His instant fame featured him in Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest films such as The Big Boss, Fists of Fury and Way of the Dragon featuring another martial arts icon, Chuck Norris.
The latter two films respectively earned over $100 million and $130 million worldwide. Lee’s Shaw Brothers’ movies were nationalist in nature as most of his character's antagonists were foreigners. He went against the stereotypes of Asians being docile and obedient.
Lee's films were well received in the United States especially when it came to movie houses within the urban i.e., Black communities. Hollywood finally took notice as Warner Brothers, yes, the same Warner Brothers, that took Lee's idea, casted someone else, and gave him not one ounce of credit, had made an offer for Lee to (finally) star as the main lead for a joint venture between the legendary American studio and Golden Harvest, the picture was appropriately titled, "Enter the Dragon!"
This was to be Bruce's official Cinematic debut in the country where he was born, sadly on July 20, 1973, Lee had died from cerebral edema brought on by removal of sweat glands combined with an allergic reaction to medications.
Lee's death was one month prior to Enter the Dragon's release in August of 1973. Had Bruce Lee lived, there would have been more exciting projects that would have further cement him into pop culture but as it stands, his legacy dominated the landscape as there was a Kung fu explosion that paved the way for other Asian martial artists like Jackie Chan who also appeared in Enter the Dragon.
Martial art films have been a standard within the United States from Jim Kelly's Black Belt Jones, Steven Seagal's Under Siege, John Claude Van Damme's Hard Target, Scott Adkins' Accident Man to Keanu Reeves' popular John Wick series.
Of course, Lee's contributions have transcended to other avenues of entertainment like Comic books, Anime, Television series, and videogames like Street Fighter, Tekken and Mortal Kombat. Bruce Lee is immortal!
“Do not allow negative thoughts to enter your mind for they are the weeds that strangle confidence."