Bruce Lee: A Voice For The Marginalized

Bruce Lee Foundation

"Under the sky, under the heavens, there is but one family". A look into the prejudice Bruce faced in his career, and the barriers he broke throughout his life. 

Reform The Formula
"Many people are still bound by tradition; when the elder generation says "no" to something, then these other people will strongly disapprove of it as well. If the elders say that something is wrong, then they also will believe that it is wrong. They seldom use their mind to find out the truth and seldom express sincerely their real feeling. The simple truth is that these opinions on such things as racism are traditions, which are nothing more than a "formula" laid down by these elder people's experience. As we progress and time changes, it is necessary to reform this formula...I, Bruce Lee, am a man that never follows these formulas of the fear-mongers. So, no matter if your color is black or white, red or blue, I can still make friends with you without any barrier." Bruce Lee.
Journalist, and friend of Bruce's, Ted Thomas, speaks with Bruce Lee researcher, John Little, about Bruce Lee's attitude and how he changed the way the world looks at the Chinese man.
All Welcome
Bruce, pictured here in the dark shirt, sits with his martial arts students in Seattle. He welcomed, and openly taught, students from all walks of life no matter their race, age or gender. Bruce believed the Chinese culture had much to offer the Western world and was not beholden to traditions when it came to whom he would share that culture with. Jesse Glover, an African American (far left) was Bruce's first student. 

A clipping from the University of Washington's newspaper. Further evidence that Bruce's desire to showcase the Chinese martial arts and culture with the Western world held no bounds.

In this picture he is working with Nancy Kwan and Sharon Tate on the set of "The Wrecking Crew" movie. Bruce was by no means the first person to teach Chinese martial arts to non-Chinese, but he is certainly considered a modern day pioneer of this inclusive attitude.

Breaking With Stereotypes
Longstanding stereotypes portrayed Asian Americans as the evil villain or servant with slanted eyes, buckteeth and long pigtails on TV and in films. This limited the roles for Asian Americans in Hollywood. After giving a gung fu demonstration at the Long Beach Internationals in 1964, Bruce caught the attention of Hollywood hair stylist Jay Sebring who mentioned him to television producer William Dozier, who was soon to be the executive producer on "The Green Hornet" TV show. After filming a screen test in Los Angeles, Bruce signed a one-year option in 1965 to play Kato in the show.

Bruce insisted that he “wanted to make sure before I signed that there wouldn’t be any ‘ah-so’s’ and ‘chop-chops’ in the dialogue and that I would not be required to go bouncing around with a pigtail”

Overlooked
During the late 60's and early 70's Bruce created two, now infamously remembered, projects "The Silent Flute" and "The Warrior". Whilst "The Silent Flute" (pictured: James Coburn & Bruce location scouting in India) never eventuated, Warner Bros. liked "The Warrior" enough conceptually to develop the "Kung Fu" TV show from Bruce's original treatment. However, Bruce was overlooked for the "Kung Fu" lead role for a more bankable, caucasian, actor. 

Pictured: Bruce Lee and James Coburn in India, location scouting for "The Silent Flute", a project that never saw the light of day.

Linda Lee Cadwell discusses the prejudice Bruce faced in Hollywood, and what it was like to be in an interracial marriage in the US for her. Courtesy of the Bruce Lee Podcast, episode 13.
Interracial Marriage
Both Bruce and Linda faced racial discrimination during their time together. Bruce in the United States, specifically when trying to further his acting career, and Linda, in Hong Kong as the caucasian wife of an Asian man. Although Linda's parents were initially against her daughter entering into an interracial marriage, they grew to love and admire Bruce for the care, dedication, support and honor he showed towards his young family. Bruce and Linda are pictured here in Hong Kong with son Brandon, and daughter, Shannon. 

The "Pierre Berton Show" (1971): Bruce discusses being a Chinese hero in a US TV show, & if the political landscape at the time helped his chances of success, and the ability to share Chinese culture with Western audiences.

The Underdog
In his films, Bruce portrayed the underdog, overcoming seemingly impossible obstacles and discrimination. His philosophy, as well as his strikingly unique abilities, spoke to marginalized minorities around the world. He was, and still is, a cultural hero. These same ideals speak to audiences to this day. (pictured: Bruce Lee in "Fist of Fury")

"No Dogs and Chinese Allowed." Scenes from Fist of Fury, 1972 - arguably Bruce's most politically charged film.

An Asian-American Lead 
Bruce Lee in his blistering and trailblazing final on-screen performance in "Enter The Dragon". The film was the first ever Hollywood produced movie featuring an Asian-American in a lead role. Bruce's own company, Concord Production Inc. co-produced the film with Warner Bros. - another industry first. 
Global Icon For The Marginalized
Bruce Lee represented the crushing of a long standing stereotype of the Chinese man, and gave hope to all minorities around the globe. This is evident here by the crowds gathering in Hong Kong to watch his funeral procession, after Bruce's sudden passing in July, 1973. 
Journalist, Alex Ben Block, famously conducted a phone interview with Bruce Lee while he was on the set of "Enter The Dragon". In this clip, Alex talks to Bruce Lee researcher, John Little about what Bruce means to marginalized minorities around the world.
Symbol Of Solidarity
In 2005, a statue of Bruce Lee was unveiled in the small town of Mostar, in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Bruce was chosen over other nominees, including the Pope and Gandhi, after a residents poll revealed that Bruce Lee was the only name respected by both sides as a 'symbol of solidarity'. Mostar was the scene of some of the most vicious fighting in the Bosnian civil war and has been extensively rebuilt.
NPR's "All Things Considered" Show talks with the President of Urban Development in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Beacon Of Positivity
In 2013, a seven foot bronze statue of Bruce Lee was erected in Chinatown, Los Angeles, a short walk from the former location of his Los Angeles martial arts school on College Street. The statue is an increasingly popular landmark for locals and tourists alike, and a beacon of positivity for the Chinatown community as a whole.

"Click and Drag" on the street view image to take a look around the Los Angeles Chinatown central plaza area.

The Bruce Lee statue located in the Garden of Stars near Hong Kong harbour. The Bruce Lee fan club in Hong Kong was a driving force in having this statue erected; celebrating their home town hero.

An Inspiration
Bruce Lee's barrier breaking legacy lives on at the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle, USA. Read this note from museum visitor "Christine" as she describes the effect Bruce's life example has had on her own life. 
Californian Legend
In 2015, Bruce was inducted into the California Museum's Hall of Fame, alongside artist Charles M. Schulz, news anchor Lester Holt, astronaut Ellen Ochoa and others. Bruce was recognized for embodying California's innovative spirit and making his mark on history. California Governor Jerry Brown (pictured) was master of ceremonies, with Shannon Lee accepting the induction on behalf of her father. 
Let The Record Show
"Bruce had, and continues to have, an immeasurable impact on American and global popular culture through the important role he played in creating a bridge between cultures." On July 18th, 2012, the United States House of Representatives made an official congressional record as a tribute to Bruce Lee, in Washington DC. Take a few minutes to read through the meaningful tribute, penned by the Hon. Michael Honda of California. 
Bridging The Gap
“He was the first Asian superstar to bridge the chasm between East and West, to contradict the outrageous stereotypes represented on film and TV by such “Chinese” figures as Charlie Chan and Dr. Fu Manchu...And it is a measure of what Bruce achieved that he managed to destroy that ancient and prejudiced image, and, instead, ultimately projected an image of a Chinese, who, for once, was not only a hero, but one with whom Western audiences could identify. He stood at the helm and not only made the whole world conscious of his beloved art of Gung Fu, but at the same time raised the status of his own people.” Linda Lee Cadwell. 

The "Pierre Berton Show" (1971): In response to Pierre's question on how Bruce Lee see's himself, Bruce delivers one of his most famous lines of all time.

Credits: Story

(C) 2017 Bruce Lee Enterprise, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Created by the Bruce Lee Foundation. Thank you to all our donors and supporters. Without you, this exhibit would not be possible.

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BRUCE LEE® and the Bruce Lee signature are registered trademarks of Bruce Lee Enterprises, LLC.  The Bruce Lee name, image, likeness and all related indicia are intellectual property of Bruce Lee Enterprises, LLC. All Rights Reserved.  www.brucelee.com.

Footage courtesy of Bruce Lee Enterprises, Golden Harvest, Fortune Star Media, Miramax.

Ted Thomas and Alex Ben Block interview audio provided by Bruce Lee Enterprise, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Linda Lee Cadwell interview audio provided by the "Bruce Lee Podcast". For complete episodes visit www.brucelee.com/podcast.

Mostar Statue interview audio provided courtesy of NPR "All Things Considered". Listen to the full show here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4845621

Wing Luke Museum "Do You Know Bruce" exhibit image supplied courtesy of the Wing Luke Museum. www.wingluke.org/brucelee

Some imagery supplied courtesy of Google Images.

Reference Material: "Bruce Lee: Evolution of a Martial Artist" by Tommy Gong.

Questions? Email - info@bruceleefoundation.org.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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