Happy Birthday, Bruce Lee: The Marshal of Martial Arts Movies

Happy Birthday, Bruce Lee: The Marshal of Martial Arts Movies

Happy Birthday, Bruce Lee: The Marshal of Martial Arts Movies

On this day in 1940, the boy who would go on to be the bona fide martial arts legend of cinema, Bruce Lee, was born in Chinatown, San Francisco.

Trained in the art of Wing Chun by the legendary Ip Man (who was played to perfection by Donnie Yen in films based on his life), Bruce Lee went on to meld his skill in the wushu technique with others, with a touch of his philosophy to create Jeet Kune Do, which remains popular to this day.

Inspired to join cinema from his father, who was a popular Cantonese opera star, Bruce Lee went on to be one of the foremost martial arts personalities in cinema and had a significant impact on the way martial arts was perceived by western audiences. But he didn't start like the man most film buffs know and revere, he started in the TV series called "The Green Hornet" (not the movie) as Kato, the sidekick of the Green Hornet, and went on reprise his role in the Adam West-era Batman TV series.

From then on, he went on to do minor films and stunt work in Hollywood cinema, even in films starring Chuck Norris. His first major role was in the 1971 film "The Big Boss", which instantly propelled him to stardom across Asia.

He then went on to act in "Fist of Fury", also another successful martial arts film.

His third film, "Way of the Dragon", was also his first film as director, producer, writer and fight choreographer.  The film went on to feature in Empire Mag's "100 Best Films of World Cinema" in 2010.

It was after this film that Bruce Lee's cinema experience changed significantly. While working on his fourth major production, "Game of Death", Warner Bros. offered him the lead role in "Enter the Dragon", which is universally hailed as one of the greatest martial arts films of all time, and has been preserved in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", joining a list of 700 films.

Tragically, just months after Enter the Dragon was completed, Bruce Lee died in his home in Hong Kong at the age of 32. Lee had been suffering from cerebral edema and a damaged spinal disc among other conditions believed to have manifested as a result of his intense dedication to martial arts. However, as he would say, "The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering", and his life and work have certainly immortalised him.