Although he was far from the first Oriental to bring martial arts to the West, Bruce Lee was and remains undoubtedly the most iconic. He was actually born at San Francisco, in the world renowned Chinatown district on November 27, 1940, but lived in both America and Hong Kong - the latter being at that time under British rule. Lee's father was an actor and Cantonese opera singer; he and his wife were touring in the United States, but returned to Hong Kong shortly after Bruce was born.
He grew up in a fairly affluent household, but after performing poorly at school and being on the road to delinquency, he was packed off by his parents back to the land of his birth where he had family.
Although proud of his Chinese heritage, Bruce Lee rejected the narrow view that the martial arts belonged only to the Orient, and came into conflict with those who did; he prevailed, and kung fu and other martial arts have spread throughout the world; it remains to be seen how universal they would have become without him. After completing his education, he became a martial arts instructor, and moved seamlessly into first television and then films. This was a natural development as he had studied drama at the University of Washington, although he actually appeared in a 1941 film Golden Gate Girl
as a babe in arms followed by a number of others as a child actor.
His death at the age of just 32 shocked the world, many of his fans refusing to believe he was actually dead, and others claiming he had been murdered for the usual conspiratorial reasons. The curse was repeated when his only son Brandon Lee, who had followed in his father's footsteps, was killed in a tragic accident at the even younger age of 28.
Bruce Lee's TV appearances in The Green Hornet
and similar roles are perhaps best forgotten, at least as far as plots and dialogue are concerned, but his martial art - Jeet Kune Do
, his philosophy, and most of all for the general public his kung fu films, are his true legacy. Here he is in what is arguably his greatest fight scene, from Way Of The Dragon
, a duel with a worthy opponent who likewise preferred death to dishonour.
For those too young to remember him, the Official Bruce Lee website
has all the information you need to know and then some.