The humanity of Bruce Lee versus a whitewashed hagiography

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In director Robert Clouse’s oft-imitated but never equaled 1973 martial arts masterpiece “Enter the Dragon,” Bruce Lee portrays a laconic Shaolin temple kung fu teacher conveniently named “Lee.” He is tasked with spying on a criminal mastermind plotting prostitution and drug trafficking from a privately owned island fortress. Photography by Dave Friedman / Warner Bros. / The Bruce Lee Podcast

The Matthew Polly Interview, Part Four

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Pull up your black sock! Nothing unusual here as taxi drivers and passerbys casually observe a hungover Matthew Polly leaping in mid-air in New York City’s Times Square on March 25, 2007, for a Times of London newspaper profile. The martial artist has published three best-selling tomes — “American Shaolin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch: An Odyssey in the New China” [2007], “Tapped Out: Rear Naked Chokes, the Octagon, and the Last Emperor: An Odyssey in Mixed Martial Arts” [2011], and “Bruce Lee: A Life” [2018]. Photography by Shahar Azran / Polaris / Courtesy of Matthew Polly
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“There is nothing to fear. This horse is very gentle, totally harmless, and a complete professional.” “Here Come the Brides” costar Bridget Hanley shoots the breeze with Linda Dangcil as Bruce Lee is about to regret ever stepping into a horse’s stirrup in “Marriage, Chinese, Style,” broadcast on April 9, 1969, as the 25th episode of the two-season ABC comedy western influenced by the 1954 mega blockbuster musical “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” The great Joan Blondell, best known for emblazoning gold-diggers and happy-go-lucky girlfriends in a slew of Warner Bros. gangster flicks and musicals in the 1930s, received two Emmy nominations for her leading turn as saloon-hotel owner Lottie Hatfield. Image Credit: Walt Disney Television / Getty Images
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Bruce Lee and producer Fred Weintraub plot their next movie on the Hong Kong set of “Enter the Dragon,” the Jeet Kune Do founder’s final completed film distributed on August 17, 1973, less than a month after his bewildering death. Weintraub also financed the landmark “Woodstock” concert documentary and worked closely with Lee confidant Steve McQueen on his penultimate film “Tom Horn,” an unjustly neglected 1980 western. Photography by Dave Friedman / Warner Bros.
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Chuck Norris, Betty Ting Pei, Bruce Lee, John Young, and Robert “Bob” Wall during Hong Kong filming of “The Way of the Dragon,” issued by Golden Harvest Films on August 14, 1972. The 25-year-old actress nearing the end of her Shaw Brothers contract first briefly encountered Lee outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Hong Kong on March 21, 1972, the 27th birthday of his wife Linda Emery. A dinner party was held inside Hugo’s restaurant to also mark the premiere of “Fist of Fury” occurring the next day. Lee wrote, produced, and directed the fish-out-of-water “Way of the Dragon,” injecting it with lighthearted moments that were sometimes marred by poor dubbing. Norris and Lee’s epic Colosseum battle may be the most thrilling fight ever captured on celluloid. The spaghetti eastern was Norris and Wall’s screen debut. Wall, also a martial artist specialist, reteamed with Lee in “Enter the Dragon” and the posthumous “Game of Death” and was still sparring with Norris decades later on the long-running “Walker, Texas Ranger” CBS action drama. Young was apparently a Scottish soldier based in Hong Kong. Image Credit: Pinterest user 담도랑
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The front and rear cover of “Bruce Lee: A Life,” written by respected researcher Matthew Polly and dropped on June 5, 2018. Both shots of the “Never Sits Still” icon are derived from his final film, “Enter the Dragon.” Photography by Dave Friedman [official “Enter the Dragon” still photographer] / Warner Bros. / Simon & Schuster / Courtesy of Matthew Polly

DON’T GO ANYWHERE YET! PART FIVE, the finale of the Matthew Polly / Bruce Lee interview, finds Lee pulling a knife on Lo “Orson Welles” Wei, his mysterious final days, how heat stroke may have contributed to his death, advice for an anxiety-crippled hopeless romantic, and more. To catch up with earlier installments, just go below.

Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ someone fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net

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