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Thread: Bruce Lee: A Life by Matt Polly

  1. #1
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    Bruce Lee: A Life by Matt Polly

    Matt has working on this for a little while now.

    For Matt's previous books see:
    American Shaolin
    Tapped Out


    American who idolised Bruce Lee and trained at Shaolin writing star's biography

    He grew up wanting to be Bruce Lee, and later became a Shaolin disciple; now Matthew Polly is in Hong Kong to write story of kung fu star's life
    Saturday, 20 April, 2013 [Updated: 03:37]

    Shirley Zhao


    Martial arts expert Matthew Polly in front of a statue of Bruce Lee in Tsim Sha Tsui. Polly, who dropped out of Princeton to become a Shaolin apprentice, is writing the late star's biography. Photo: Edward Wong

    Matthew Polly knows about being an introvert and an extrovert. When it's suggested he must be an extrovert, he doesn't deny it but confesses he used to be a skinny, nerdy boy, always too shy and geeky to communicate. Back then, he found it was always the suave and outgoing people who tended to lead or become popular among girls in the US, and he wanted to be one of them.

    He believed going to China, to the Shaolin Temple to learn kung fu, would make him different. He went. It did.

    "I'm getting better at it [being an extrovert] now," said the 41-year-old American author.

    He certainly looks a natural now, always keeping a keen smile, hearty laughs, cracking jokes from time to time and, every so often, giving you a friendly pat on the shoulder or gentle touch on the arm. Even though he stands 1.92 metres tall, he doesn't look intimidating. He is a friend, a pal, and he makes sure you are impressed through showing off his tongue-curling Beijing Putonghua during conversations.

    After American Shaolin, a US bestseller on his two-year kung fu training in Shaolin, and Tapped Out, on his ultimate fighting experience in mixed martial arts (MMA), Polly has come to Hong Kong for his third book project, a biography of Bruce Lee.

    "No one's written a biography [of Bruce Lee] in the last 20 years," he said. "He's such a huge star. It seemed a shame that no one had written a very good biography about him."

    Polly says most books in English about Lee only cover his life in the US, so he came, four decades after the death of Lee, trying to find out what he was really like through interviewing people in Hong Kong who actually knew him and his family.

    Among those he has interviewed are movie mogul Raymond Chow Man-wai, Robert Chua Wah-peng, who created the popular television show Enjoy Yourself Tonight, martial arts master Ip Man's son Ip Chun and Betty Ting Pei, Lee's mistress, who was with him when he died in her apartment.

    The interview with Ting lasted seven hours, Polly said, during which she showed him her kung fu moves and did Buddhist chanting.

    "That has to be the most unique interview I've ever been in," he said. "I think it's one of the very first times she's ever told to Western journalists about her relationship with Bruce. For many years Betty Ting was blamed for Bruce's death, so I think it's good that she's finally decided to open up and tell her side of the story."

    Polly's first encounter with Bruce Lee is a typical story. A scrawny 13-year-old who was always bullied suddenly discovered this exotic Hong Kong movie, Enter the Dragon, where a small, lean Asian man beat a whole bunch of people taller and stronger than him. The boy was fascinated and started learning kung fu two years later. He wanted to be Bruce Lee.

    The boy, Polly, later entered the Ivy League, majoring in religion and East Asian studies at Princeton University, focusing on Buddhist and Taoist philosophies. He was charmed by the philosopher Zhuangzi's sense of humour and irony and imagined one day, through meditation, he could achieve enlightenment.

    Then, after three years of study, he found the perfect answer to his pursuit of martial arts and spirituality - Shaolin Temple, which offered both. In Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee played a Shaolin monk, so there was a definite plus side to it.

    "I thought I could become a badass," he said. "And become an enlightened Buddhist, a master. It made perfect sense to me but everyone else thought I was crazy."

    That was in 1992, when China was a mystery to many in the West. Polly's mother cried over his decision to leave university for Shaolin, and his father wouldn't talk to him for six months after he bought his plane ticket.

    He left anyway, with a backpack and a sleeping bag, expecting to camp outside a quiet, peaceful Buddhist monastery in the middle of Henan province for days or even months until the monks let him in.

    Instead, he wound up in a tourist attraction with souvenir stores and restaurants. A young monk led him to a martial arts school next to the temple, Shaolin Wushu Centre, where the school party chief agreed to let him be a Shaolin student for US$1,300 per month. He later discovered the chief overcharged him by almost US$800.

    Polly, the first American Shaolin disciple, stayed in the school for two years, training with the Shaolin monks for seven hours a day and six days a week. There was no TV nor any other entertainment, and no one talked to him for the first two months, because the school leaders told them not to, fearing he might spread "impure thoughts".

    Two sympathetic monks did break the order and talk to him, and they became close friends. But the big change didn't come until nine months into the training, when a kung fu master from the city of Tianjin requested a challenge match at a banquet thrown by a French photojournalist for Shaolin in the school's restaurant. Polly offered to take the challenge. The monks agreed. He won.

    "That was the moment when I became sort of an official member of Shaolin Temple," he said. "And instead of Bao Mosi [his Chinese name], they started to call me laobao ['old Bao', an affectionate nickname]."

    In 1995, seeing many monks emigrating overseas, Polly realised he had spent too much money being a foreign disciple in Shaolin and he wanted to finish university and get a job. He went back to the US, but his parents were not impressed by his kung fu achievements. "I don't know what we did wrong," his father said to him when seeing him practising his "iron forearm" against a tree, "but whatever we did wrong, I'm sorry".

    His was an achievement-oriented family. He went to Princeton, later Oxford and became a Rhodes Scholar. His sister went to Yale. "At first [my parents] thought I'd fallen off the path of success by going over there," he said. "I think it was after I wrote the book and it became a national bestseller and a Hollywood option that they were like okay."

    His two years in Henan being the only foreigner among all the monks and disciples also made him tougher, more confident and outgoing. "For me, whenever any problems come up, I'll think 'well, it can't be worse than Shaolin'," he laughed. "No matter how scared I am now, I can't be any more scared than I was at Shaolin. I think that's the great advantage of chiku [eat bitterness]. If you eat bitterness, then you'll know what sweetness is."

    Having stayed in Hong Kong for more than two weeks, Polly will return in July, when the Heritage Museum has an exhibition about Bruce Lee and Betty Ting Pei may be doing a television show on the 40th anniversary of his death. He also hopes to interview more people who knew Lee, such as singer-songwriter Sam Hui Koon-kit and his wife Rebu, as well as Jackie Chan.

    Polly says Hong Kong people have been talking more about Bruce Lee recently. He suspects this is related to the huge success of the three films in the recent Ip Man series about Lee's martial arts mentor.

    "There's an old saying that a prophet has no honour in his hometown," he said. "Now people are remembering that it really was Bruce Lee who put Hong Kong on the map. He was the one who brought Hong Kong and Hollywood together. Without Bruce there wouldn't have been a Jackie Chan or Jet Li. I'm glad he's getting the attention I think he deserves it because, for a while, I think people thought he wasn't cool any more."
    Gene Ching
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    A teaser...IN PLAYBOY

    Chasing The Dragon by Matthew Polly

    NOTE: This hyperlink goes to the PLAYBOY site, which might be NSFW, depending where you work.
    Gene Ching
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    Sexual escapades continued off-screen too. “Jim Kelly screwed everything that moved in Hong Kong,” says Heller. “He ended up in the hospital. We had a harness for him to hang over the acid pit for his death scene, but he couldn’t wear it, because he was so sore. We had to specially make a cargo net for him.
    Awesome !
    Psalms 144:1
    Praise be my Lord my Rock,
    He trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle !

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    Don't tell me s_r...

    ...now *you* want a specially-made cargo net.

    From Matt's hometown paper...
    Playboy features Topeka-born author's writing, not body
    Magazine publishes preview of Matthew Polly's Bruce Lee biography
    Posted: June 27, 2013 - 1:06pm


    Topeka-born author Matthew Polly, who is working on a biography of Bruce Lee to be published by Penguin Books, has written a teaser for the book which appears in the July issue of Playboy.

    By Bill Blankenship
    bill.blankenship@cjonline.com

    Topeka-born author Matthew Polly appears in the current issue of Playboy, but he assures his hometown friends and family in an email there is "no need to fear any revealing photo of yours truly."

    Instead, the July edition of the men's magazine includes Polly’s article "Chasing the Dragon," a teaser for the biography he is writing about Bruce Lee, the late Chinese martial arts artist and action film star.

    Polly said the manuscript for the book, to be published by Penguin Books, isn't due until July 2014, but Playboy wanted the advance article because July 20 is the 40th anniversary of Lee's death and Aug. 17 marks 40 years since the release of his final film, the mega-hit "Enter the Dragon."

    Polly said his article provides "a plausible excuse to buy a copy" of the magazine.

    "Or if you truly only want to read the articles, you can find mine here: www.playboy.com/dragon," he wrote.

    Martial arts isn’t new territory for Polly, a 1989 graduate of Topeka West High School and a Rhodes scholar. In 1992, the then-21-year-old Polly took a leave of absence from his studies at Princeton University to spend two years in China at the Shaolin Temple, the birthplace of Zen Buddhism and kung fu.

    "American Shaolin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch: An Odyssey in the New China," published in 2007 by Gotham, resulted from his experience as the first American accepted as a Shaolin disciple.

    Fifteen years later, he immersed himself in the world of mixed martial arts, including extensive training and getting into the ring to fight. He captured his experiences in "Tapped Out: Rear Naked Chokes, the Octagon, and the Last Emperor: An Odyssey in Mixed Martial Arts," published by Gotham in 2012.
    Gene Ching
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    Can't wait for this one, I will actually buy this one instead of borrowing from the local library.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fa Xing View Post
    Can't wait for this one, I will actually buy this one instead of borrowing from the local library.
    I'm looking forward to it too. I have read Mr. Polly's first two books and enjoyed his writing style immensely.
    "God gave you a brain, and it annoys Him greatly when you choose not to use it."

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    June 5, 2018

    Bruce Lee: A Life Hardcover – June 5, 2018
    by Matthew Polly



    The first authoritative biography—featuring dozens of rarely seen photographs—of film legend Bruce Lee, who made martial arts a global phenomenon, bridged the divide between Eastern and Western cultures, and smashed long-held stereotypes of Asians and Asian-Americans.

    Forty-five years after Bruce Lee’s sudden death at age thirty-two, journalist and bestselling author Matthew Polly has written the definitive account of Lee’s life. It’s also one of the only accounts; incredibly, there has never been an authoritative biography of Lee. Following a decade of research that included conducting more than one hundred interviews with Lee’s family, friends, business associates, and even the actress in whose bed Lee died, Polly has constructed a complex, humane portrait of the icon.

    Polly explores Lee’s early years as a child star in Hong Kong cinema; his actor father’s struggles with opium addiction and how that turned Bruce into a troublemaking teenager who was kicked out of high school and eventually sent to America to shape up; his beginnings as a martial arts teacher, eventually becoming personal instructor to movie stars like James Coburn and Steve McQueen; his struggles as an Asian-American actor in Hollywood and frustration seeing role after role he auditioned for go to a white actors in eye makeup; his eventual triumph as a leading man; his challenges juggling a sky-rocketing career with his duties as a father and husband; and his shocking end that to this day is still shrouded in mystery.

    Polly breaks down the myths surrounding Bruce Lee and argues that, contrary to popular belief, he was an ambitious actor who was obsessed with the martial arts—not a kung-fu guru who just so happened to make a couple of movies. This is an honest, revealing look at an impressive yet imperfect man whose personal story was even more entertaining and inspiring than any fictional role he played onscreen.
    Matt just sent me this link.

    More to come, for sure!
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
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    S&s

    Never mind Amazon above. Here's a link to the publisher's description, the illustrious Simon & Schuster:



    Bruce Lee
    A Life
    By Matthew Polly

    The most authoritative biography—featuring dozens of rarely seen photographs—of film legend Bruce Lee, who made martial arts a global phenomenon, bridged the divide between Eastern and Western cultures, and smashed long-held stereotypes of Asians and Asian-Americans.

    Forty-five years after Bruce Lee’s sudden death at age thirty-two, journalist and bestselling author Matthew Polly has written the definitive account of Lee’s life. It’s also one of the only accounts; incredibly, there has never been an authoritative biography of Lee. Following a decade of research that included conducting more than one hundred interviews with Lee’s family, friends, business associates, and even the actress in whose bed Lee died, Polly has constructed a complex, humane portrait of the icon.

    Polly explores Lee’s early years as a child star in Hong Kong cinema; his actor father’s struggles with opium addiction and how that turned Bruce into a troublemaking teenager who was kicked out of high school and eventually sent to America to shape up; his beginnings as a martial arts teacher, eventually becoming personal instructor to movie stars like James Coburn and Steve McQueen; his struggles as an Asian-American actor in Hollywood and frustration seeing role after role he auditioned for go to a white actors in eye makeup; his eventual triumph as a leading man; his challenges juggling a sky-rocketing career with his duties as a father and husband; and his shocking end that to this day is still shrouded in mystery.

    Polly breaks down the myths surrounding Bruce Lee and argues that, contrary to popular belief, he was an ambitious actor who was obsessed with the martial arts—not a kung-fu guru who just so happened to make a couple of movies. This is an honest, revealing look at an impressive yet imperfect man whose personal story was even more entertaining and inspiring than any fictional role he played onscreen.


    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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    Publisher's Weekly Top 10 summer reads 2018



    Bruce Lee: A Life
    Matthew Polly (Simon & Schuster)
    I must have been 12 years old when I first saw Enter the Dragon starring a lightning-quick actor and kung fu master named Bruce Lee, who made me feel that I, too, could be invincible. I watched his five movies and visited his gravesite overlooking Seattle but knew very little about him. Until now, that is, when this thick galley recently appeared on my desk. It’s the first full-length biography of Lee, in which author Polly promises to paint a portrait of Lee in all his complexities from his childhood movie stardom in 1950s Hong Kong to his mysterious death in 1973 at age 32. —Mark Rotella, senior editor
    I've read the galley. This is a landmark biography, well worth your attention. And I'm not just saying that because I'm horribly biased, given that Matt is my Shaolin Shixiong. It's a fascinating read.

    We'll have plenty more exclusive coverage on this to come.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
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    More from Publisher's Weekly


    Bruce Lee: A Life
    Matthew Polly. Simon & Schuster, $35 (672p) ISBN 978-1-50118-762-9

    This thorough, well-sourced biography from Polly (Tapped Out) is an engrossing examination of the life of a martial arts movie star and his shocking, early death. Lee was born in San Francisco in 1940, but his family moved to Hong Kong shortly after his birth. He started acting there as a child, and at age 16 began studying under kung fu master Ip Man. In 1959, Lee moved to Seattle in pursuit of a career acting and teaching kung fu. He landed a few roles in American television series such as The Green Hornet, but, eager for better roles, he moved back to Hong Kong, where he starred in such action movies as Fist of Fury and The Way of the Dragon. Polly describes Lee as a patron of kung fu who “sought to straddle East and West” yet routinely faced racism (relatives of his wife, Linda, refused to attend their wedding in 1964). He possessed a volatile temper, a dangerously obsessive work ethic, and a propensity for extramarital affairs. In 1973, Lee collapsed and died while dubbing dialogue for Enter the Dragon, and Polly is especially strong as he sifts through the sensational aftermath of Lee’s death, rejecting tabloid rumors that he died in an actual fight and outdated medical opinions of death by “cannabis intoxication” in favor of the more logical cause—heatstroke, given Hong Kong’s heat wave that day. In what is certainly the definitive biography of Lee, Polly wonderfully profiles the man who constructed a new, masculine Asian archetype and ushered kung fu into pop culture. (June)
    I had lunch with some of the WJM masters after our last TCJU meeting on Sunday. The topic of 'the fight' came up once again. They won't like Matt's version at all.
    Gene Ching
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    Enter to win KungFuMagazine.com's contest for Bruce Lee: A Life autographed by Matthew Polly! Contest ends 5:30 p.m. PST on 6/7/2018.
    Gene Ching
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    Our newest exclusive web article

    What's the MUST-READ book this summer? Find out in Matthew Polly on Bruce Lee – A Life by Gene Ching

    Gene Ching
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    Related Vulture article by Matt

    June 8, 2018 2:00 pm
    Every Bruce Lee Movie, Ranked From Worst to Best
    By Matthew Polly


    Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. Photo: Getty Images

    Bruce Lee came from an entertainment family. His father, a famous Cantonese opera singer, and his mother, a seamstress and wardrobe woman, were touring America when Bruce was born in 1940; he faced his first movie camera before he was old enough to crawl. His acting career began in earnest at the age of 6 after his family returned to their native Hong Kong. By the time he was 18, he had made nearly 20 Cantonese films — none of which were kung fu flicks.

    Upon returning to the U.S. for college, Lee took a look at the type of roles Asians were offered and abandoned any acting aspirations. “How many times in a [Hollywood] film is a Chinese required?” Lee later explained to Esquire. “And when it is required, it is always the typical houseboy or pigtailed coolie stuff. I said ‘To hell with it.’” Instead he decided to become the Ray Kroc of kung fu, franchising dojos along the West Coast. It wasn’t until a karate tournament in 1964 when he was discovered by a producer who cast him as sidekick Kato in The Green Hornet TV series. It set him on a path to become the world’s first martial-arts megastar — a dream that came to fruition, bittersweetly, with the 1973 release of Enter the Dragon, one month after his death at the age of 32.

    To commemorate the 45th anniversary of Lee’s passing and Enter the Dragon’s release, Simon & Schuster has published Bruce Lee: A Life, the first comprehensive biography of the icon’s life and work. As this ranking of his 24 films demonstrates, Lee appeared in a far wider variety of films than his legend gives him credit for, from comedies to melodramas. But the one constant in almost all his performances was his ease in front of the camera. It’s as if he was born into it.

    24. Game of Death (1978)
    This is the flick Bruce Lee fans love to hate. In 1972 Lee filmed 30 minutes of fight scenes for a movie about a yellow-jumpsuited hero who battles his way up a five-story pagoda to retrieve a secret treasure. Lee died before he completed the project, but five years later, Golden Harvest studios unearthed the footage, cut it down to seven minutes, and stuck it on the end of a creaky plot about a Chinese stuntman who gets shot in the face, gets reconstructive surgery, and takes revenge from beyond the grave. The whole thing is a distasteful mess.

    23. The Birth of Mankind (1946)
    Lee’s father, Hoi-chuen, was cast in a number of movies, and he would often bring his son on set with him. “Bruce climbed the wooden ladders to reach the suspended studio lights,” actress Feng So Po remembers of the hyperactive boy. “He wanted to touch everything from the cameras to the sound equipment.” One of the directors saw his relentless energy and offered him a part in this Cantonese tearjerker about a runaway who becomes a pickpocket and, uh, gets run over by a truck. A forgettable flick that flopped at the box office, this one’s only notable for typecasting young Lee as a wily street urchin with a heart of gold, a kind of Artful Dodger.

    22. Wealth Is Like a Dream (1948)
    Once again, Lee was cast as a lost boy. His father co-starred in the film and the promoters, seeking to play off the family connection, gave Lee a new stage name: Little Hoi-chuen. The newspapers followed suit, calling him “Wonder Kid.” The son would spend the rest of his life determined to outshine his old man. Based on this performance, he had his work cut out for him.

    21. Thunderstorm (1957)
    Adolescence proved a tricky transition for Lee’s career. Too old for the scrappy orphan role, he attempted to play against type and broaden his range with mixed results. His character is proper, naïve, dutiful, and rich — and in love with his family’s housemaid. Critics panned the movie, singling out his performance as “rigid,” “artificial,” and “over-eager.” Mercifully, this was his only attempt to play the refined gentleman.

    20. Golden Gate Girl (1941)
    Esther Eng was a pioneering female film director who specialized in patriotic war movies. While filming Golden Gate Girl, she needed a newborn girl for several scenes and asked Lee’s father if she could borrow his son. In one brief appearance, two-month-old Lee is rocked to sleep in a wicker bassinet, wearing a lacy bonnet and girl’s blouse. His mother was flustered to see her delicate child so transfigured for the camera. In another close-up, a warmly wrapped baby Lee cries inconsolably, eyes squeezed shut, mouth agape, arms flapping, chubby cheeks and double chin reverberating as the sound echoes through San Francisco.

    19. The Beginning of Mankind (1951)
    In what amounts to a PSA against harsh Confucian parenting, Lee plays a poor kid who, yes, runs away to become a street urchin and petty thief. In real life, Lee and his classmates had formed an actual gang that would roam back alleys looking for fights. That lived experience led to a sharp performance in an otherwise tedious film.

    18. We Owe It to Our Children (1955)
    In 1953, Lee joined a socialist collective of filmmakers and actors called Union Films, leading him to appear in a string of socially conscious, message-driven movies. In this particularly earnest melodrama, a poor mother and father give away their infant daughter to a childless middle-class couple, only to regret their decision. (It was all too common an occurrence in postwar Hong Kong; Jackie Chan’s parents considered selling him to wealthy doctor.) In the movie, Lee shows up only briefly as the lazy landlord’s son, constantly slicking back his greased hair with a comb like Elvis.

    17. A Mother’s Tears (1953)
    This family drama was once considered one of Lee’s lost films until the Hong Kong Film Archives eventually located a scratchy print. But it probably would’ve been fine if they hadn’t, as it’s essentially only half a Bruce Lee movie: He plays the role of a thoughtful son before getting replaced halfway through the film by an older actor.

    16. A Myriad Homes (1953)
    This social-realist satire contrasts the family life of a rich businessman with a poor car mechanic who makes an honest living, finding comfort in his family. In a bit of a twist, Lee finally plays a happy, non-urchin child as the mechanic’s cheerful son. Blink and you’ll miss his grinning face in this largely decorative role.

    15. Orphan’s Song (1955)
    Lee, as the titular orphan, doesn’t show up until the last 20 minutes — a long slog through thick gruel for what amounts to a wan performance, too passive and diffident to care about.

    14. Darling Girl (1957)
    Fun fact: Lee was once the cha-cha champion of Hong Kong. Also fun: His real-life dance partner, Margaret Leung, co-stars as a spoiled rich girl in this lighthearted rom-com. Want to see Bruce Lee as a fashionable, sweater-vest-wearing toff as he cha-chas in a nightclub? This is the movie for you. The only bit of acting required on his part is when Leung’s love interest angrily confronts him — and instead of engaging, Lee’s character flees in terror. It may be the only known instance of Lee running away from a fight.

    13. Too Late for Divorce (1956)
    This is the third film in a romantic trilogy — beginning with She Says “No” to Marriage (1951) and followed by She Says “No” to Marriage But Now She Says “Yes!” (1952) — about a successful singer who is forced to retire and marry a man she despises. Lee plays her son — a dance tutor. (More Bruce Lee dance trivia: Later, as a college student in America, he taught dance classes to help pay the bills.) Smartly dressed in modern clothing, charming but a little smug, this performance gives the best glimpse into what Lee was actually like as a Westernized teenager in colonial Hong Kong.
    continued next post
    Gene Ching
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    Continued from previous post

    12. Sweet Time Together (1956)
    A cutup in class, it seemed natural for Lee to try his hand at comedy at some point. He did just that in this age-reversal slapstick farce, playing a doltish teenager who finds himself caught in increasingly absurd romantic situations. Yet the real humor comes from watching the King of Kung Fu stammering and twitching like a fool. Lee’s comedic idol was Jerry Lewis, and he does a credible imitation, down to the white sailor-boy outfit and black horn-rim glasses.

    11. In the Face of Demolition (1953)
    After WWII, millions of refugees from China’s civil war flooded into the British colony of Hong Kong. This classic film weaves together the stories of the many impoverished families all living in one teeming, soon-to-be-demolished tenement building, with Lee playing the sincere son of one of the poorest tenants. In less than five minutes of screen time, he manages to deliver a standout, touching performance in a movie filled with them.

    10. An Orphan’s Tragedy (1955)
    Here Lee gets to play a happy orphan, albeit briefly: His idyllic country life gets disrupted by an escaped criminal who turns out to be his biological father. The scenes where Lee is trapped in a shack with this desperate, violent man are the best of the movie, mostly because it’s fun to watch a 15-year-old Bruce Lee try to play weak.

    9. The Guiding Light (1953)
    In yet another message-driven melodrama, a foster child gets adopted by a doctor and his wife, who run an orphanage for blind girls. When Lee’s character grows up, he discovers the cure for blindness. The movie ends with a direct-to-camera plea: “Every child can be just like him. Poor handicapped children are waiting for your love, for education and nurturing.” By this point in his career, Lee had mastered the orphan role, infusing his performance with a heavy dollop of pathos.

    8. Love: Part 1 & 2 (1955)
    Set onboard a steamship, this two-part melodrama unfolds in six episodes, dealing with six different aspects of love. In the fifth story line, Lee plays the youngest son in a family of struggling street performers. A flashback of father and son performing for a crowd allows Lee, a ham at heart, to display his talent for showmanship. It’s utterly charming — and one of the best scenes of Lee’s career.

    7. Marlowe (1969)
    Lee’s first Hollywood cameo was a gift from his Oscar-winning kung fu student, Stirling Silliphant, who came up with the character of mob enforcer Winslow Wong for his mentor to play. There are moments when Lee, who was self-conscious about his Chinese accent, comes off as stiff and nervous as he exchanges snappy dialogue with James Garner’s Marlowe. But he eventually loosens up during a scene in which he demolishes Marlowe’s office in one continuous ballet of directed violence. The movie flopped at the box office and was panned by critics. Roger Ebert reserved his only praise for that action sequence, although he didn’t deem Lee important enough to use his name or get his ethnicity right: “Somewhere about the time when the Japanese karate expert wrecks his office (in a very funny scene), we realize Marlowe has lost track of the plot, too.”

    6. The Kid (1950)
    Lee landed his first starring role with his fourth film, once again about a tough street urchin with a heart of gold. At just 10 years old, Lee shows off a range of emotions and raw charisma. In one scene, he humorously imitates his teacher; in another, he puffs himself up with cocky bravado by throwing his shoulders back and thumbing his nose at an opponent — one of his signature moves as an adult actor. The movie was a box-office hit and a sequel was planned that might have turned Lee into the Macaulay Culkin of Hong Kong, but his father refused to let him repeat the role. Lee was causing trouble in school and getting into fights on the streets, so his parents put him in show-business time-out until his behavior improved. (It didn’t, but they eventually let him continue acting anyway.)

    5. Fist of Fury (1972)
    Lee’s second contractual movie with Golden Harvest studios was his only period piece. He plays Chen Zhen, the student of a famous kung fu master in 1930s colonial Shanghai. When Chen Zhen discovers his master was killed by the Japanese, he unleashes his furious fists. The movie’s overt ethno-nationalism was like an adrenaline shot of pure patriotism; many Chinese fans ripped up their seat cushions and threw them around the theater when Lee’s character strutted into the Japanese dojo and declared, “The Chinese are not the sick men of Asia.” Interestingly, Lee was a fan of Japanese films, particularly Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman, and he approached his role with the exaggerated emotional style of Japanese samurai movies (chambara). It doesn’t quite work, but Lee’s fight choreography is so riveting it doesn’t matter.

    4. The Big Boss (1971)
    For someone as worldly as Lee, he had a fondness for playing naïfs. In his first Golden Harvest movie, his character immigrates to Thailand to work in an ice factory, which is actually a front for a drug-smuggling operation. “He was a very simple, straightforward guy. Like if you told him something, he’d believe you,” Lee explained. “Then, when he finally figures out he’s been had, he goes animal.” His primal performance is the movie’s primary pleasure. He rips through his enemies with lustful glee. Hong Kong audiences were blown away. The Big Boss turned Lee into the biggest star in Southeast Asia.

    3. Way of the Dragon (1972)
    Lee hoped this Hong Kong movie, which he wrote, directed, and starred in, would be his ticket back to Hollywood as a leading man. Lee plays Tang Lung, a naïve bumpkin sent to Rome to protect a Chinese restaurant from the Mafia. “Well, it is really a simple plot of a country boy going to place where he cannot speak the language but somehow he comes out on top, because he honestly and simply expressed himself,” Lee laughingly told Esquire, “by beating the hell out of everybody who gets in his way.” In his directorial debut, Lee was unable to balance the humor of the early fish-out-water scenes with the violence at the end. The film’s appeal rests almost entirely on his fight scene with his student, Chuck Norris — arguably the best one ever captured on celluloid.

    2. The Orphan (1960)
    Lee was never fully comfortable onscreen unless he was the star, and he had been waiting ten years, since The Kid, for a leading role. Modeling his troubled teenage character on James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, Lee give his most emotionally complex performance as an actor in this film. One moment he is snarling, the next laughing maniacally, and all the while spewing out a fetid stew of Cantonese street slang. Hong Kong boys were so taken with Lee’s swaggering hoodlum that they began to emulate how he smoked cigarettes and cha-cha danced, causing one concerned high-school principal to hang a banner across his school’s entrance reading: “No one is allowed to imitate Bruce Lee’s Ah Sum in The Orphan!”

    1. Enter the Dragon (1973)
    This cheaply-made James Bond ripoff was supposed to be Lee’s entrée into superstardom. Instead, his death a month before its release left it the high-water mark of his career. The multiracial cast, the cat-stroking villain, and the tournament structure launched the West’s kung fu craze — and a thousand imitators. Terrified that Warner Bros. would recut the movie to make John Saxon the star, Lee fought onscreen and off to stamp his personality onto every frame. The result was a performance so intense he seems to vibrate off the screen. Two hours of watching Lee punch, kick, and hack his way through dozens of bad guys inspired millions of Western kids to take up the martial arts. Enter the Dragon is the movie that cemented Lee’s legacy, in film and beyond.

    Matthew Polly is the author of Bruce Lee: A Life and two other books about the martial arts, American Shaolin and Tapped Out.
    I've only seen a few of his non-martial child actor flicks, and they are always interesting.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  15. #15
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    The chapter in Matt Polly's new book that everyone wants to read...

    Yesterday’s Crimes: The Brawl That Almost Broke Bruce Lee
    American Shaolin author Matthew Polly sorts through the fact and fiction surrounding Bruce Lee's Bay Area grudge match in his new book, Bruce Lee: A Life.
    Bob Calhoun Mon Jun 11th, 2018 10:01amYesterday's Crimes


    Bruce Lee punishing a young Jackie Chan in Enter the Dragon. (Courtesy Image)

    Bruce Lee was born into a performing family; His mother gave birth to him in the year of the dragon on Nov. 27, 1940 in San Francisco’s Chinatown, while his parents were on tour with a Chinese opera company. His Chinese name, Li Jun Fan (李振藩), included the Chinese character for San Francisco (Fan), and can be translated roughly to “Shake Up and Excite San Francisco.” When Lee finally returned to the city of his birth in his early 20s, the future martial arts superstar did just what his name had prophesized.

    Lee took the stage of the Sun Sing Theatre on Grant Avenue between Jackson and Pacific in August 1964. What started with Lee doing the cha-cha with Diana Chang Chung-Wen, “The Mandarin Marilyn Monroe,” soon became one of Chinatown’s most enduring controversies. It all began during a demonstration of the Wing Chun kung fu techniques Lee had honed on the streets of Hong Kong.

    “In China, 80 percent of what they teach is nonsense,” Lee proclaimed during his show. “Here in America, it is 90 percent.

    “These old tigers,” he continued, criticizing San Francisco’s traditional kung fu masters, “they have no teeth.”

    “That’s not kung fu!” a man in the back of the theater shouted, while the Chinatown audience flung lit cigarettes onto the stage to show their disapproval of this young upstart.

    Before Lee left the stage, he told the hostile crowd that if they wanted to research his Wing Chun, they could find him at his school in Oakland. To everyone at the Sun Sing that night, it sounded like the “Little Dragon” had just issued an open challenge to all of Chinatown.

    “(Lee) was 24,” Matthew Polly, author of the hard-to-put-down new biography Bruce Lee: A Life, explains. “He was trying to make a name for himself, and he was going out there, poking people in the eye trying to get them to change their minds.”

    Polly wrote about his experiences studying kung fu at the Shaolin Temple in Henan, China for his first book, American Shaolin (Penguin, 2007). He then trained in mixed martial arts for his follow-up, Tapped Out (Gotham, 2011).

    “After writing Tapped Out, I was looking for a project that didn’t involve me getting punched in the face,” Polly says, but he couldn’t stay away from martial arts. When Polly realized the only Bruce Lee biography still in print was from 25 years ago, he was “personally offended.”

    “The most important Asian American to ever live, and the most famous, couldn’t get his one biography when Steve McQueen has a half a dozen,” Polly says.

    Polly spent seven years researching Bruce Lee: A Life, which had him untangling fact from the urban legends surrounding Lee’s rise to stardom, his mysterious death, and the challenge match that emerged from that appearance at the Sun Sing Theatre.

    “Bruce lived a life that was a lot like his kung fu movies,” Polly says, pointing out that Lee accepted challenge matches well into his 30s. “And so whenever somebody wants to tell the story of Bruce, they want to tell it as if it was a kung fu movie, and of course they immediately go to the Wong Jack Man fight.”

    Wong Jack Man was not at the Sun Sing on the night of Lee’s performance, but Lee’s critique of the high kicks of Northern Shaolin kung fu got back to him. Like Lee, Wong was a skilled martial artist in his early 20s who had come to America from Hong Kong. Unlike Lee, Wong venerated martial arts traditions.

    “In the fight between Bruce and Wong Jack Man you have modernity versus tradition,” Polly says.

    After weeks of negotiations, Wong arrived at Bruce Lee’s Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute at 4175 Broadway in Oakland’s auto row on a weeknight in early November 1964. Wong’s pal, David Chin, who had egged on this fight, attempted to negotiate some ground rules, but Lee wasn’t having it.

    “You’ve already got your friend killed,” Lee spat in Cantonese.

    James Lee, one of Lee’s students, locked the dojo door from the inside and took a seat close to where he kept a loaded revolver in case any more of Wong’s friends showed up. Bruce Lee’s pregnant wife Linda was the only other person there on his side, while Wong and Chin had brought four others with them.

    When Wong reached out to shake hands, the tense Bruce Lee threw a powerful shot that crashed into Wong’s orbital bone.

    “He really wanted to kill me,” Wong later recalled.

    Lee followed up with a blistering series of Wing Chun chain punches. Wong backpedaled, blocking Lee’s shots. Lee kept coming. Wong struck Lee in the neck and drew blood with a studded wrist bracelet he concealed in his long sleeve.

    “When Bruce felt the blood on his neck and realized the deception, he went berserk,” Polly writes.

    Wong turned around and started to run. Wong stumbled on a raised platform in Lee’s studio leftover from when it was an upholstery shop. Lee got on top of Wong and pounded him. Chin and the others pulled Lee off of their fallen champion.

    The fight in Oakland only enhanced the reputations of both men. Lee became a Hong Kong-to-Hollywood tragedy who died right before the release of Enter the Dragon (1973), his greatest triumph. Wong earned the title of grandmaster teaching Tai Chi Chuan and Northern Shaolin at Fort Mason Center until 2005. Wong’s subsequent students have claimed their beloved sifu vanquished the arrogant movie star.

    The tiebreaker for Polly in determining just what happened that night in 1964 was that David Chin’s account jibed with Linda Lee’s.

    “I took that as a pretty good guarantee of the truth if Wong Jack Man’s friend thought a certain thing happened,” Polly says.

    “One advantage I have in writing this book over other biographers is that I was actually in a challenge match in China and fought another kung fu master,” Polly adds, recalling an incident he covered in American Shaolin.

    “So certain things rang true to me just based on my own experience,” he says. “I’ve watched challenge matches where one guy freaks out and panics and starts running.”

    Unsatisfied with how ugly the Wong Jack Man fight was, Lee committed to developing his own style, called Jeet Kune Do, and transformed martial arts in the process.

    “What’s amazing with MMA is this is what it’s become,” Polly reflects. “The way (Lee) was teaching is the way a significant portion of the martial arts community now practices.”

    THREADS
    Bruce Lee: A Life by Matt Polly
    Bruce Lee vs. Wong Jack Man fight
    American Shaolin by Matt Polly
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

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