Actor & martial artist Bruce Lee was one of the biggest film stars of the twentieth century. Lee burst into the Hollywood mainstream in the 1970s. His films like Fist of Fury & Way of the Dragon are considered landmark martial arts movies. Bruce Lee wasn’t just a movie star. He’s considered a crucial figure in changing the representation of Asians in American cinema.
Bruce Lee is one of the only people with stars on both the Hollywood Walk of Fame & Hong Kong’s Avenue of Stars. He was also listed as one of Time’s 100 most important people of the 20th century. Lee was a highly ranked fighter & instructor in addition to being a magnetic on-screen presence. Bruce Lee’s fighting style has a huge influence on modern combat sports.
Part of what made Bruce Lee such an enduring figure in popular culture is that he died at such a young age. The Enter the Dragon star passed away on July 20th, 1973 at just thirty-two years old. Lee had been struggling with his health up until his death & was still in the process of making movies. Some wonder if a mysterious curse could have been the cause of his tragic demise.
Bruce Lee’s last day
Lee was recording an automated dialogue replacement for Enter the Dragon on May 10th, 1973. Shockingly, he collapsed during the session at Golden Harvest in Hong Kong. Bruce Lee was taken to Hong Kong Baptist Hospital while having seizures & headaches. Specialists found out that the actor & martial artist had suffered from cerebral edema.
Doctors were able to reduce the swelling & excess fluid with medication. However, they weren’t able to save Lee from any future cerebral edema complications. The following events occurred on the day of the movie star’s death. Bruce was scheduled to have dinner in Hong Kong with Australian actor George Lazenby. Producer Raymond Chow visited around 2:00 p.m. to review Game of Death.
Chow & Lee’s meeting went until four in the afternoon. The two then went to visit Taiwanese actress Betty Ting Pei at her home. Chow left after the three discussed a screenplay for some time. Lee told Ting that he was experiencing a headache later that evening. The actress then offered Bruce Equagesic, a painkiller that contains bot aspirin & a tranquilizer called meprobamate.
Bruce Lee decided to take a nap at about 7:30 p.m. George Lazenby became worried when Lee did not show up to their dinner meeting. Producer Chow came to Ting’s apartment to check on Lee. Chow requested a doctor when Lee wouldn’t wake from his nap. The doctor tried to revive Bruce, but it was too late. Lee was considered dead on arrival at Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Bruce Lee’s cause of death
What actually killed Bruce Lee has been the subject of much debate over the years. Doctors officially ruled Lee’s cause of death to be “death by misadventure.” This means that they believed Lee had died due to an adverse reaction to the drug Equagesic. This sentiment was echoed by Raymond Chow & the forensic scientist Donald Teare.
Teare was recommended by Scotland Yard to handle Bruce Lee’s autopsy. He’d performed more than 1,000 autopsies up to that point. Conventional wisdom said that meprobamate was the cause of Lee’s death. However, there were some people who thought that cannabis found in Bruce’s stomach could be partially responsible.
Donald Teare dismissed the claim that cannabis could have impacted Bruce Lee’s cause of death. Teare claimed it would “be both ‘irresponsible and irrational’ to say that [cannabis] might have triggered either the events of Bruce’s collapse on May 10 or his death on July 20.” Clinical pathologist Dr. R. R. Lycette also agreed that cannabis could not have caused the death.
Lee’s confidant Chuck Norris disclosed his opinion at the 1975 San Diego Comic-Con. Norris believed that Bruce had died due to an adverse reaction between a muscle relaxant & an antibiotic. Norris said Lee had been taking the muscle relaxant for a ruptured disc in his back. However, could Lee’s cause of death actually be attributed to a family curse?
Bruce Lee’s curse
Bruce Lee was given the name Sai-fon at birth, meaning “small phoenix.” This name is traditionally given to girls, as his mother had previously lost a son before Bruce. This was her attempt to ward off any evil spirits from her son. Many believe that this is where the “Lee family curse” originates. When Bruce moved back to Hong Kong with his family, he got wrapped up in trouble.
Street fighting was one of the ways Bruce Lee was able to hone his skills as a martial artist. One time Bruce severely injured the son of an organized crime syndicate boss. In order to avoid trouble with the law, Lee’s father sent him back to San Francisco. That’s where he met his wife Linda Emery. The couple had two kids, Brandon & Shannon.
Despite Lee’s death, his son Brandon carried on his legacy as an actor. However, it seems that the “Lee family curse” also befell Bruce’s son Brandon. Brandon Lee got his start on the TV show Kung Fu & in the movie Showdown in Little Tokyo. Brandon was set to appear in the film adaptation of the cult comic The Crow.
Brandon Lee tragically died in an on-set accident while filming The Crow. Some believe that the Hong Kong crime syndicate planned Bruce & Brandon’s deaths. There are similarities between their two final films Game of Death & The Crow. Coincidentally, both of their characters in these films die in tragic ways. These facts are what feed conspiracy theories about the curse.
Whether it was a curse or a freak occurrence, Bruce Lee’s demise is one of the most enigmatic celebrity deaths in history. What do you think of Bruce Lee’s passing? Let us know in the comment section!