Flashback Friday: Bruce Lee

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           He is Bruce Lee. He was  was a Hong Kong American martial artist, Hong Kong action film actor, martial arts instructor, filmmaker, and the founder of Jeet Kune Do. Lee was the son of Cantonese opera star Lee Hoi-Chuen. He is widely considered by commentators, critics, media and other martial artists to be one of the most influential martial artists of all time, and a pop culture icon of the 20th century. He is often credited with helping to change the way Asians were presented in American films.

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           Lee was born in Chinatown, San Francisco on November 27, 1940 to parents from Hong Kong and was raised in Kowloon with his family until his late teens. He was introduced to the film industry by his father and appeared in several films as a child actor. Lee moved to the United States at the age of 18 to receive his higher education, at the University of Washington, and it was during this time that he began teaching martial arts. His Hong Kong and Hollywood-produced films elevated the traditional Hong Kong martial arts film to a new level of popularity and acclaim, sparking a surge of interest in Chinese martial arts in the West in the 1970s. The direction and tone of his films changed and influenced martial arts and martial arts films in the United States, Hong Kong and the rest of the world.

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           He is noted for his roles in five feature-length films: Lo Wei‘s The Big Boss (1971) and Fist of Fury (1972); Golden Harvest‘s Way of the Dragon (1972), directed and written by Lee; Golden Harvest and Warner BrothersEnter the Dragon (1973) and The Game of Death (1973), both directed by Robert Clouse. Lee became an iconic figure known throughout the world, particularly among the Chinese, as he portrayed Chinese nationalism in his films. He trained in the art of Wing Chun and later combined his other influences from various sources, in the spirit of his personal martial arts philosophy, which he dubbed Jeet Kune Do (The Way of the Intercepting Fist). Lee held dual nationality of Hong Kong and the United States. He died in Kowloon Tong on July 20, 1973 at the age of 32.

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           On May 10, 1973, Lee collapsed in Golden Harvest studios in Hong Kong while doing dubbing work for the movie Enter the Dragon. Suffering from seizures and headaches, he was immediately rushed to Hong Kong Baptist Hospital where doctors diagnosed cerebral edema. They were able to reduce the swelling through the administration of mannitol. These same symptoms that occurred in his first collapse were later repeated on the day of his death.

           On July 20, 1973, Lee was in Hong Kong, to have dinner with James Bond star George Lazenby, with whom he intended to make a film. According to Lee‘s wife Linda, Lee met producer Raymond Chow at 2 p.m. at home to discuss the making of the film Game of Death. They worked until 4 p.m. and then drove together to the home of Lee‘s colleague Betty Ting Pei, a Taiwanese actress. The three went over the script at Ting‘s home, and then Chow left to attend a dinner meeting.

          Later Lee complained of a headache, and Ting gave him an analgesic (painkiller), Equagesic, which contained both aspirin and the muscle relaxant meprobamate. Around 7:30 p.m., he went to lie down for a nap. When Lee did not turn up for dinner, Chow came to the apartment, but could not wake Lee up. A doctor was summoned, who spent ten minutes attempting to revive him before sending him by ambulance to Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Lee was dead by the time he reached the hospital.

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            There was no visible external injury; however, according to autopsy reports, his brain had swollen considerably, from 1,400 to 1,575 grams (a 13% increase). Lee was 32 years old. The only substance found during the autopsy was Equagesic. On October 15, 2005, Chow stated in an interview that Lee died from an allergic reaction to the muscle relaxant (meprobamate) in Equagesic, which he described as a common ingredient in painkillers. When the doctors announced Lee‘s death officially, it was ruled a “death by misadventure”.

          Don Langford, Lee‘s personal physician in Hong Kong, had treated Lee during his first collapse. Controversy erupted when he stated, “Equagesic was not at all involved in Bruce’s first collapse”.

             Donald Teare, a forensic scientist recommended by Scotland Yard who had overseen over 1,000 autopsies, was assigned to the Lee case. His conclusion was “death by misadventure” caused by an acute cerebral edema due to a reaction to compounds present in the combination medication Equagesic.

           The preliminary opinion of Peter Wu, the neurosurgeon who treated Lee during his first seizure, was that the cause of death should have been attributed to either a reaction to cannabis or Equagesic. However, Wu later backed off from this position, stating that:

Professor Teare was a forensic scientist recommended by Scotland Yard; he was brought in as an expert on cannabis and we can’t contradict his testimony. The dosage of cannabis is neither precise nor predictable, but I’ve never known of anyone dying simply from taking it.

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          At the 1975 San Diego Comic-Con convention, Bruce Lee‘s friend Chuck Norris attributed it to a reaction between the medication he had been taking since 1968 for a ruptured disk in his back and the medication he was given for his headache on the night of his death.

          Lee‘s wife Linda returned to her hometown of Seattle, and had him buried at lot 276 of Lakeview Cemetery. Pallbearers at his funeral on July 31, 1973 included Taky KimuraSteve McQueen, James Coburn, Chuck Norris, George Lazenby, Dan Inosanto, Peter Chin, and Lee‘s brother Robert.

          Lee‘s iconic status and untimely demise fed many theories about his death, including murder involving the Triads and a supposed curse on him and his family. There is also a theory that Bruce Lee used electrical muscle stimulation and that may have exacerbated or resulted in his condition.

To know more about Burce Lee, just go here: http://www.brucelee.com/

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Flashback Friday: James Dean

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           He is James Byron Dean, also known as James Dean. He was an American actor. He is a cultural icon of teenage disillusionment, as expressed in the title of his most celebrated film, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), in which he starred as troubled teenager Jim Stark. The other two roles that defined his stardom were loner Cal Trask in East of Eden (1955) and surly ranch hand Jett Rink in Giant (1956). Dean‘s enduring fame and popularity rest on his performances in only these three films, in two of which he is in the leading role.

           Dean‘s premature death in a car crash cemented his legendary status. He became the first actor to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, and remains the only actor to have had two posthumous acting nominations. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked him the 18th best male movie star on their AFI’s 100 Years…100 Stars list.

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           Screenwriter William Bast was one of Dean‘s closest friends, a fact acknowledged by Dean‘s family. According to Dean‘s first biographer (1956), Bast was his roommate at UCLA and later in New York, and knew Dean throughout the last five years of his life. Fifty years after Dean‘s death, he stated that their friendship had included some sexual intimacy.

             While at UCLA, Dean dated Beverly Wills, an actress with CBS, and Jeanette Lewis, a classmate. Bast and Dean often double-dated with them. Wills began dating Dean alone, later telling Bast, “Bill, there’s something we have to tell you. It’s Jimmy and me. I mean, we’re in love.” Dean also kept in contact with his girlfriend in New York, Barbara Glenn, whom he dated for two years. Their love letters sold at auction in 2011 for $36,000.

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            Early in Dean‘s career, after Dean signed his contract with Warner Brothers, the studio’s public relations department began generating stories about Dean‘s liaisons with a variety of young actresses who were mostly drawn from the clientele of Dean‘s Hollywood agent, Dick Clayton. Studio press releases also grouped “Dean together with two other actors, Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter, identifying each of the men as an ‘eligible bachelor’ who has not yet found the time to commit to a single woman: ‘They say their film rehearsals are in conflict with their marriage rehearsals.”

          Dean‘s best-remembered relationship was with young Italian actress Pier Angeli, whom he met while Angeli was shooting The Silver Chalice on an adjoining Warner lot, and with whom he exchanged items of jewelry as love tokens. Angeli, during an interview fourteen years after their relationship ended, described their times together:

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           “We used to go together to the California coast and stay there secretly in a cottage on a beach far away from prying eyes. We’d spend much of our time on the beach, sitting there or fooling around, just like college kids. We would talk about ourselves and our problems, about the movies and acting, about life and life after death. We had a complete understanding of each other. We were like Romeo and Juliet, together and inseparable. Sometimes on the beach we loved each other so much we just wanted to walk together into the sea holding hands because we knew then that we would always be together.

            In his autobiography East of Eden, director Elia Kazan dismissed the notion that Dean could possibly have had any success with women, although he remembered hearing Dean and Angeli loudly making love in Dean‘s dressing room. In 1997, the television movie Race with Destiny was produced, a true-story account of the love affair between Dean and Pier Angeli. It was shot on location “where he lived and loved” until his death.

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          Despite their strong love for each other, a number of forces led them apart. Angeli‘s mother disapproved of Dean‘s casual dress and what were, for her at least, radical behavior traits: his T-shirt attire, late dates, fast cars, and the fact that he was not a Catholic. Her mother said that such behavior was not acceptable in Italy. In addition, MGM, where he worked, tried to talk him out of marrying and he himself told Angeli that he didn’t want to get married.

            After finishing his role for East of Eden, he took a brief trip to New York in October 1954. While he was away, Angeli unexpectedly announced her engagement to Italian-American singer Vic Damone. The press was shocked and Dean expressed his irritation. Angeli married Damone the following month. Gossip columnists reported that Dean watched the wedding from across the road on his motorcycle, even gunning the engine during the ceremony, although Dean later denied doing anything so “dumb.”

             Some, like Bast and Paul Alexander, believe the relationship was a mere publicity stunt. Pier Angeli talked only once about the relationship in her later life in an interview, giving vivid descriptions of romantic meetings at the beach. Dean biographer John Howlett said these read like wishful fantasies, as Bast claims them to be.

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           Actress Liz Sheridan asserts that she and Dean had a short affair in New York. Again Bast is skeptical as to whether this was a true love affair and says Dean and Sheridan did not spend much time together. Dean also dated Swiss actress Ursula Andress. “She was seen riding around Hollywood on the back of James’s motorcycle,” writes biographer Darwin Porter. She was also seen with Dean in his sports cars, and was with him on the day he bought the car that he died in. At the time, Andress was also dating Marlon Brando. Andress remembered her courtship with Dean: “He came by my house late. He came in room like wild animal, and smell of everything I don’t like,” she said. “We go hear jazz music and he leave table. Say he go play drums. He no come back. I don’t like to be alone. I go home. He come by my home later and say he sorry.” She added that Brando was “particularly interested in finding out from Ursula who the better lover was: James Dean or himself. It drove him crazy.”

           Rumors that Dean avoided the draft by registering as a homosexual appear to be of doubtful authenticity. Not only was he extremely near-sighted and required glasses, he was also a Quaker, either of which was sufficient cause for him to be excused from service.

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To know more about James Dean, just go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Dean