On this day in history, July 20, 1973, martial-arts expert Bruce Lee died in Los Angeles at the age of 32 from a brain edema. During Lee’s career, he became a movie star in Asia and, posthumously, in America and the Caribbean.
Jun Fan (Bruce) Lee was born on November 27, 1940, in San Francisco, California. At the time, his father, a Chinese opera star, was on tour in the United States, the family moved back to Hong Kong in 1941. Growing up, Lee was a child actor who appeared in some 20 Chinese films also studying dancing and trained in the Wing Chun style of kung fu.
In 1959, Lee returned to America, where he attended the University of Washington and opened a martial-arts school in Seattle. In 1964, Lee married Linda Emery, who in 1965 gave birth to Brandon Lee, the first of the couple’s two children. In 1966, the Lees moved to Los Angeles and Bruce appeared on the television program ‘The Green Hornet’, playing the Hornet’s acrobatic sidekick, Kato. Lee also appeared in karate tournaments around the United States and continued to teach martial arts to private clients including the actor Steve McQueen.
Wanting better roles than Hollywood offered, Lee returned to Hong Kong in the early 1970s and successfully became a star in Asia with the action movies ‘The Big Boss’ and ‘The Way of the Dragon’, which he wrote, directed and starred in. Lee’s next film, Enter the Dragon, was released in the United States by Hollywood studio Warner Bros. in August 1973. Tragically, Lee had died one month earlier in Hong Kong, after he suffered a brain edema believed to be caused by an adverse reaction to a pain medication.
Enter the Dragon was a box-office hit, grossing more than $200 million, turning Lee into a movie icon in the States. Due to how sudden the movie star died and the young age, theories began to make the rounds about what the possible cause of death was. Among the many interesting theories, on said that Lee had been murdered by Chinese gangsters while another rumor circulated that the actor had been the victim of a curse. The curse theory came around again after Lee’s son, Brandon, died in an accidental shooting on the set of the movie ‘The Crow’ on March 31, 1991. Both father and son are buried at the Seattle Lake View Cemetery.