Sadly, we only have a handful of TV shows and films by which to remember him. Of course, it's well known that he appeared as Kato on the Green Hornet TV series (a role he reportedly hated). But he really came into his own in his films. His characters were all very similar. He was typically motivated out of a desire to find justice -although often it seemed more like vengeance! He also seemed fearless, even when facing guys much bigger than himself (remember how he demolished Bob Wall in Enter the Dragon?). His incredible speed and skills are still thrilling to watch -no camera tricks or CGI there! But much of the reason for Lee's success was due to his winning personality. Even in a fight scene, his emotions flash across his face and are easily read. His steely stare is classic. He was also a strikingly good-looking man. Lee's charisma and outstanding athleticism made him a universally acclaimed hero.
But Lee was a cool cat in his real life as well. Always an iconoclast, he rebelled against Chinese traditionalists by welcoming non-Chinese into his schools. He studied boxing, judo, and every form of martial art to develop his fighting skills, never locking himself into any dogma. While many martial artists eschewed weight lifting, Lee decided to pursue it. He did everything his way, even creating his own form of martial art called Jeet Kune Do.
His untimely death in 1973 robbed us of a great talent, but created a legend. Without Lee, it's doubtful that martial arts would have achieved such tremendous popularity in the western world. It seemed like every kid had a home-made pair of nunchaku in the 70s -and the self-inflicted injuries that went with them! And how many people started taking kung fu lessons after seeing Enter the Dragon? Nowadays it's pretty much impossible to see an action film that doesn't have some martial arts fighting in it. Lee was the herald of a new way of filming fights. He influenced other media too, not the least of which was comics. Shang Chi could be Bruce Lee's twin!
So here's to Bruce Lee: gone, but never ever to be forgotten.