Despite the fact that you could probably find more than a dozen books about Bruce Lee in bookstores, what makes Matthew Polly’s Bruce Lee: A Life the best biography on the late legendary kung-fu master is the years of extensive, detailed research that goes into it.
Bruce Lee: A Life begins with a brief prologue on Lee’s funeral which took place in Hong Kong, 5 days after his unfortunate death on 20 July 1973 with a private funeral held in Seattle subsequently.
It’s definitely a breezy and captivating read right from the start as Polly next begins his story of how an opera performer, Li Hoi Chuen and an Eurasian socialite, Grace Ho met and gave the world a five eighths Han Chinese, one quarter English and one eight Dutch-Jewish boy named Li Jun Fan, Bruce.
The young Bruce Lee was never an easy kid to handle. Secretly learning Wing Chun from Ip Man, hyperactive, frequently getting himself into fights and never into studies, Lee was packed by his father at the age of 19 to San Francisco hoping a change in environment might do him good. That turned out to be the best decision ever as Bruce gained admission to the University of Washington and that’s where he started to explore the spiritual nature of kung fu and the beginning of his modest martial-arts classes.
The mid-portion of Polly’s book is devoted to Lee’s time in the States from covering his marriage to Linda, his appearance in the short-lived The Green Hornet and teaching kung fu to stars liked the late Steve McQueen, James Coburn and Roman Polanski. Polly gave readers lots of insights to the mindset of Lee from interviews and quotes from people liked Linda, his students Taky Kimura, Dan Inosato and many others who have trained with him, Chuck Norris for example.
Personally, coming from a movie fan’s point of view, Act III is the most interesting read of all with Polly spending an immensely amount of coverage on how Bruce Lee painstakingly dreams of juggling his Hollywood career (which was pretty much stalled at that point in time) with his Asia one. The stories that involved Lee clashing over filming and production details with the boss of Golden Harvest, Raymond Chow and director Lo Wei are far entertaining than the actual movies.
Though Lee will forever be remembered as a kung fu legend and superstar, the book has no qualms painting Lee as a perfectionist who had his fair share of questionable morals and thinking. Though Lee was married to Linda till his death, there are more than a couple of what he coined as “flings”. Most notably, his affair with Taiwanese actress Betty Ting Pei which leds to why he was found unresponsive on her bed. Another peculiar belief of him is in order to have inner happiness and peace, one must first attain rich wealth.
However, the most heartbreaking fact remained is that how tragic his death was. Speculated causes for years include the Lee family curse, swelling in the brain, his use of cannabis to being assassinated by ninjas though Polly with the inclusion of new scientific facts, reasoned that Lee’s death was likely due to heatstroke which is something not discussed during that time.
To most of his fans worldwide, the phenomenal Bruce Lee only made four complete movies (excluding being a child actor in classic HK movies, minor Hollywood walk-on roles and an incomplete Game of Death) in his brief 32 years on earth. Still, Bruce Lee left behind a long-lasting legacy including his own brand of kung fu- Jeet Kune Do, his philosophies on life (Be water, my friend) and martial-arts and being one of the most famous if not the first Chinese actor that transcend racial colors and languages.
Matthew Polly’s Bruce Lee: A Life is an amazing biography on Bruce Lee, the best in the market as at now. Get this if you are a lifelong fan of the little dragon!
Review by Linus Tee
I'LL HAVE WHAT SHE'S HAVING: HOW NORA EPHRON'S THREE ICONIC FILMS SAVED THE ROMANTIC COMEDY Book Review
GEORGE LUCAS: A LIFE Book Review
WONDER WOMAN: THE ART AND MAKING OF THE FILM Book Review
THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE: THE MAKING OF THE MOVIE Book Review
THE GIRL WITH THE LOWER BACK TATTOO Book Review
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE: THE MAKING OF THE MOVIE Book Review
GHOSTBUSTERS: THE ULTIMATE VISUAL HISTORY Book Review
MICHAEL KLASTORIN and RANDAL ATAMANIUK'S BACK TO THE FUTURE: THE ULTIMATE VISUAL HISTORY
MATT ZOLLER SEITZ'S THE WES ANDERSON COLLECTION: THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL Book Review
LYNDA OBST'S "SLEEPLESS IN HOLLYWOOD: TALES FROM THE NEW ABNORMAL IN THE MOVIE BUSINESS" Book Review
RAMIN ZAHED'S "THE ART OF DREAMWORKS ANIMATION Book Review
JACKIE CHAN: NEVER GROW UP, ONLY GET OLDER Book Review
SEAN HOWE'S "MARVEL COMICS: THE UNTOLD STORY" Book Review
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER "TOTAL RECALL: MY UNBELIEVABLY TRUE LIFE STORY" Book Review
JODY DUNCAN JESSER'S "THE ART AND MAKING OF THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY" Book Review
RICHARD SCHICKEL'S "STEVEN SPIELBERG: A RETROSPECTIVE" Book Review
GARRY MARSHALL'S "MY HAPPY DAYS IN HOLLYWOOD: A MEMOIR" Book Review
PAMELA GLINTENKAMP'S "INDUSTRIAL LIGHT & MAGIC: THE ART OF INNOVATION" Book Review
VIC ARMSTRONG'S "THE TRUE ADVENTURES OF THE WORLD'S GREATEST STUNTMAN" Book Review
TINA FEY'S "BOSSYPANTS" Book Review
SIMON PEGG'S "NERD DO WELL" Book Review