This is the next entry in a Theatre… a Movie… and a Time, a series that was begun here. There are a scant number of films I’ve seen both first-run and at revival theaters, plus owned every version on VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray. Tonight I’ll be a attending a special event at The Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater for just such a one. A 40th year anniversary screening with co-stars John Saxon, Bob Wall, film crew, and the lead’s daughter Shannon in attendance. All for a movie that showcased the skill and talent of someone who meant surprisingly much to me growing up, and who left this mortal coil far too soon.
“Boards don’t hit back.”
“Having a childhood that stretched through the 60′s, I don’t think I could have avoided not being exposed to this man’s talent and drive while growing up. Ask anyone near my age when they first noticed this charismatic and mesmerizing figure, and dollars to donuts they’d mention it was when they watched The Green Hornet on television.“
Through junior and senior high, there was always at least one person around who you could chat up about Bruce. My fascination with the martial arts began right then, and continued because of him.
“He attracted the attention of everyone. He cut across all ethnic lines at a time when cultural barriers were only beginning to be breached.“
By 12th grade, when he made appearances on the short-lived Longstreet TV program, conversations about the martial artist revved once more.
So when Bruce Lee began to make his mark on Hong Kong cinema in the early 70s, reverberating all the way back to this shore, just about everyone I knew as a high school senior and later in my college freshman year caught the fever. His early work, mis-titled in the U.S. as Fist of Fury and The Chinese Connection, had the buzz of promise both for this phenomenal individual and the new decade among my peers.
Then the 70s kicked in with a vengeance and proceeded to wipe the smiles off all of our faces.
July 20, 1973 still has bitter taste decades later. Like everyone else, learned of his passing through local TV newscasts. I remember driving over to a friend’s house that very evening and sit on their front step. Hoping it was merely rumor as we talked through the shocking revelation. Literally beyond belief since we all knew Enter the Dragon was coming out the very next month. Its celebrated Los Angeles film première occurred at the famed Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. A strange mix of cultural irony not lost on his fans.
I’d do the pilgrimage there within days of that, and left to wonder at what might have been.