Bruce Lee
“The first noteworthy treatment of its subject—and a definitive one at that...Fascinating narrative threads proliferate.” —The New York Times Book Review The most authoritative biography—featuring dozens of rarely seen photographs—of film legend Bruce Lee, who made martial arts a global phenomenon, bridged the divide between Eastern and Western cultures, and smashed long-held stereotypes of Asians and Asian-Americans.Forty-five years after Bruce Lee’s sudden death at age thirty-two, journalist and bestselling author Matthew Polly has written the definitive account of Lee’s life. It’s also one of the only accounts; incredibly, there has never been an authoritative biography of Lee. Following a decade of research that included conducting more than one hundred interviews with Lee’s family, friends, business associates, and even the actress in whose bed Lee died, Polly has constructed a complex, humane portrait of the icon.Polly explores Lee’s early years as a child star in Hong Kong cinema; his actor father’s struggles with opium addiction and how that turned Bruce into a troublemaking teenager who was kicked out of high school and eventually sent to America to shape up; his beginnings as a martial arts teacher, eventually becoming personal instructor to movie stars like James Coburn and Steve McQueen; his struggles as an Asian-American actor in Hollywood and frustration seeing role after role he auditioned for go to a white actors in eye makeup; his eventual triumph as a leading man; his challenges juggling a sky-rocketing career with his duties as a father and husband; and his shocking end that to this day is still shrouded in mystery.Polly breaks down the myths surrounding Bruce Lee and argues that, contrary to popular belief, he was an ambitious actor who was obsessed with the martial arts—not a kung-fu guru who just so happened to make a couple of movies. This is an honest, revealing look at an impressive yet imperfect man whose personal story was even more entertaining and inspiring than any fictional role he played onscreen.

Bruce Lee Details

TitleBruce Lee
Author
ReleaseJun 5th, 2018
PublisherSimon Schuster
ISBN-139781501187629
Rating
GenreBiography, Nonfiction, Combat, Martial Arts, Biography Memoir

Bruce Lee Review

  • Valerity (Val)
    January 1, 1970
    I remember the craze about kung fu movies when I was a young teen and then hearing about Bruce Lee’s passing and I didn’t understand a lot about it. The remedy for that was reading this book about Bruce Lee’s life. It was so engrossing for me that I read it quite quickly, although it was fairly long. I found it really well researched and thorough. Author Matthew Polly spent 6 years on it interviewing everyone around Lee who would talk, as he felt a definitive biography was long overdue. It tells I remember the craze about kung fu movies when I was a young teen and then hearing about Bruce Lee’s passing and I didn’t understand a lot about it. The remedy for that was reading this book about Bruce Lee’s life. It was so engrossing for me that I read it quite quickly, although it was fairly long. I found it really well researched and thorough. Author Matthew Polly spent 6 years on it interviewing everyone around Lee who would talk, as he felt a definitive biography was long overdue. It tells about the whole man, the actor, the martial artist, the husband and father, the businessman, the stressed guy who worried about ‘losing face’. There were so many facets to Bruce Lee, and this book was good at sharing many of those, which helped in a way to try to understand what he might have been like when he was alive. It creates an interest in wanting to see his movies after reading about him making them, especially his last one “Enter the Dragon”, that he was so consumed in the making of. He was very driven during that time, for sure, from the telling of it. The previous three movies he’d made were for Golden Harvest studio in Hong Kong, was “The Big Boss”, “Fists of Fury”, and “The Way of the Dragon”. I’d recommend this book for any fans of martial arts, Bruce Lee fans, biography fans, etc. An advance digital copy was provided by NetGalley, author Matthew Polly, and the publisher for my unbiased review.Publication: June 5, 2018Simon & Schuster
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  • Marie
    January 1, 1970
    Bruce Lee was a hero to many people of all cultures. He made his moves in the movies look effortless. He wanted to be known as an actor, not just someone who did "Kung Fu. He died at an early age due to cerebral edema. No one was sure how this came about. There were pictures of his family among others that I had never seen. There was gossip and innuendo about his personal life.. His wife Linda had no idea if he was unfaithful although it was alluded to. I found this to be an interesting story of Bruce Lee was a hero to many people of all cultures. He made his moves in the movies look effortless. He wanted to be known as an actor, not just someone who did "Kung Fu. He died at an early age due to cerebral edema. No one was sure how this came about. There were pictures of his family among others that I had never seen. There was gossip and innuendo about his personal life.. His wife Linda had no idea if he was unfaithful although it was alluded to. I found this to be an interesting story of a man who taught and befriended many movies stars despite cultural differences. I received this book from Net Galley for an honest review.
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  • Ron S
    January 1, 1970
    A well researched, definitive, readable biography about the actor and martial arts star, separating fact from legend and myth.
  • Andrew
    January 1, 1970
    I thought I knew a lot about Bruce Lee but wow was I wrong. This biography of the martial arts great, film star and cult idol/icon is eye opening. Delving into all facets of Lee’s life, the good and the bad, this is just a fascinating portrait of a truly larger than life character and the times in which he lived. One of the best biographies I have ever read!
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  • Travis
    January 1, 1970
    In memory of the once fluid man, crammed and distorted by the classical mess. I've always been fascinated by Bruce Lee. I can't recall my first viewing of Enter the Dragon but I do know it has profoundly affected my entire life.And, yes, I was "that" guy with a Bruce Lee poster in my college dorm room:I have his "Be water, my friend" quote taped up in my work cubicle. I have the "Don't look at the finger" quote as my inter-office communicator profile. I have a cloth poster tacked up at the door In memory of the once fluid man, crammed and distorted by the classical mess. I've always been fascinated by Bruce Lee. I can't recall my first viewing of Enter the Dragon but I do know it has profoundly affected my entire life.And, yes, I was "that" guy with a Bruce Lee poster in my college dorm room:I have his "Be water, my friend" quote taped up in my work cubicle. I have the "Don't look at the finger" quote as my inter-office communicator profile. I have a cloth poster tacked up at the door to my work cubicle. My son is named "Bruce". Yeah, Bruce Lee has had an impact on my life.So, some readers might want to take my exuberance for Matthew Polly's Bruce Lee: A Life with some "fanboy" grains of salt.This biography does an excellent job shedding light on his short but active life. Polly doesn't shy away from offering his own opinions on controversial matters, especially Bruce's mysterious death. The best bits, for me at least, are the philosophical discussions of Bruce's martial arts and particularly Jeet Kune Do (JKD).His original inspiration for the seeds of JKD lay in his epiphany regarding water."Because water is the softest substance in the world but yet it can penetrate the hardest rock or anything, granite, you name it. Um, water also is insubstantial -- by that I mean you cannot grasp hold of it; you cannot punch it or hurt it. So every gung fu man is trying to do that: be soft like water and flexible and adapt itself to the opponent."Unbeknownst to me, my love for Bruce's quotes about being water and not looking at the moon was actually my introduction to Taoism. Actually reading Tao Te Ching in 2017 profoundly altered my mind while providing the words for my own personal philosophy all along.I was still impressed by how much philosophy Bruce wanted to include in his movies."What I want to show is the necessity to adapt one's self to changing circumstance. The inability to adapt bring destruction. As the film opens, the audience sees a wide expanse of snow. Then the camera closes in on a clump of trees while the sound of a strong gale fills the screen. There is a huge tree in the center of the screen, and it is all covered with thick snow. Suddenly there is a loud snap, and a huge branch of the tree falls to the ground. It cannot yield to the force of the snow so it breaks. Then the camera move to a willow tree, which is bending with the wind. Because it adapts itself to the environment, the willow survives. It is the sort of symbolism, which I think Chinese action films should seek to have. In this way I hope to broaden the scope of action films."I've never personally practiced martial arts. I briefly took some casual Taekwondo lessons but felt it was not worth my injury prone knees. I also had other unvoiced concerns about martial arts, which I only later found proper words from Bruce Lee. It's a point I've debated with several friends. That is, the "point" of martial arts, how you should approach a fight. My opinion has evolved to greatly favor the self-defense aspect, as voiced by Bruce:"If someone confronts you, first you stun him with a shot. Boom! Now, if he comes at you again, then you cripple him by breaking his kneecaps. If he still continues, then you go for the throat and kill him. So you stun, you cripple, and then you kill."Because of this, I was unknowingly disillusioned with any formal training: "In traditional karate dojos, students would spar bare-fisted and stop their punches an inch before making contact. Bruce believed 'touch sparring' was unrealistic, calling it "swimming on dry land," and insisted on full contact." During my few sparring matches in Taekwondo, I was befuddled by all the rules and restrictions, similar to Bruce's frustrations: "While Bruce would have continued to fight in the streets and rooftops of Hong Kong, this was the first and last officially organized sports combat tournament he would ever participate in. He didn't like the way the rules constrained the effectiveness of his techniques. As he grew older and better as a martial artist, he studiously avoided boxing and point karate tournaments."More than just JKD and martial arts, I found something interesting on nearly every page.For instance, I had no idea Bruce enjoyed dancing so much:As a teenager, Bruce's obsession with kung fu was rivaled only by his love of dancing.Of all his youthful accomplishments - the boxing match, the challenge fights, the starring movie roles - he was most proud of being, as he bragged to all his friends for the rest of his life, "the Cha-Cha champion of Hong Kong."I also had no idea inter-racial marriages were illegal in many states until 1967! That simple fact ties in perfectly with the biography's closing point about Bruce Lee's contribution to post-racial unity."We will always be Muslims, Serbs, or Croats," said Veslin Gatalo of the youth group Urban Movement Mostar. "But one thing we all have in common is Bruce Lee."My only real disappointment was discovering the "Be water, my friend" quote is actually a line from an episode of the TV series Longstreet. This only slightly breaks the mystique that Bruce was "a Zen mystic and not an actor quoting a line written by an Oscar-winning screenwriter."Bruce Lee: A Life will be considered the definitive biography of a cultural icon who is unlikely to ever be overtaken in his lasting impact in multiple arenas.
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  • Kevin
    January 1, 1970
    Matthew Polly's BRUCE LEE: A LIFE is the definitive and authoritative biography fans of the Little Dragon have been waiting to read for more than four decades. This mammoth, 650-page book about the martial arts film superstar who died at age 32 is packed with new information and, like its subject, moves with lightning speed and grace.The quick-tempered but philosophical Chinese American actor is a fascinating study in contrasts. As Polly (American Shaolin and Tapped Out) writes, Lee's "internal Matthew Polly's BRUCE LEE: A LIFE is the definitive and authoritative biography fans of the Little Dragon have been waiting to read for more than four decades. This mammoth, 650-page book about the martial arts film superstar who died at age 32 is packed with new information and, like its subject, moves with lightning speed and grace.The quick-tempered but philosophical Chinese American actor is a fascinating study in contrasts. As Polly (American Shaolin and Tapped Out) writes, Lee's "internal dichotomy and conflict between his punkish personality and monkish insights would define his adult life." As a juvenile, Lee made 19 films in China. But when he moved to the U.S., he found Hollywood difficult to navigate. While waiting for his big break, Lee taught martial arts, wrote a book and founded the martial arts form Jeet Kune Do. Hong Kong producer Raymond Chow rescued him from supporting roles, offering him leading roles in THE BIG BOSS and FIST OF FURY, and a chance to star in, direct and write THE WAY OF THE DRAGON. The international success of these three films led to Lee starring in the first-ever Hong Kong-American co-production, ENTER THE DRAGON. Before that film's premiere in 1973, Lee died from a cerebral edema (brought on by heat stroke, Polly persuasively argues). Chow's stage-managed cover-up (obscuring that Lee died at his mistress's apartment) fueled decades of conspiracy rumors.Polly's meticulously researched and superbly written biography is a delight. (Even his 100 pages of footnotes are pithy and revelatory.) BRUCE LEE: A LIFE is a spectacularly entertaining and candid biography that separates the myth and the man. Matthew Polly's definitive biography of Bruce Lee is enormous in size, scope and entertainment value.
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  • Trung Nguyen Dang
    January 1, 1970
    This is the newest (released only 15 days ago) and is the definitive biography on Bruce Lee. The martial artist is the first movie star I got to know when I grew up and thus I'm quite interested in getting to know him and his life better. The book is super well-researched, with lots of intimate details, and is also based on lots of other biography by Bruce Lee's wife and others. The story-telling ability of the author is also good. And Bruce Lee is, of cos, amazing: extremely strong, rebellious, This is the newest (released only 15 days ago) and is the definitive biography on Bruce Lee. The martial artist is the first movie star I got to know when I grew up and thus I'm quite interested in getting to know him and his life better. The book is super well-researched, with lots of intimate details, and is also based on lots of other biography by Bruce Lee's wife and others. The story-telling ability of the author is also good. And Bruce Lee is, of cos, amazing: extremely strong, rebellious, obsessive, ambitious, and charismatic. And it's great to learn about the struggles he faced, and the impacts he had on the film industry and on the cultures around the world. What a pity he died so young (only 32 years old). Although I have not read other biographies on Bruce Lee, I recommend this is the biography to read as it probably contains all the important details from other biographies. I also have another biography (I have not read) on Bruce Lee which is less than half the length of this book. Despite the length, the book is very easy to read because it's captivating.
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  • Phoebe
    January 1, 1970
    A skinny, frail Chinese kid determinedly self-invents to become one of the most influential celebrities ever: the father of mixed martial arts, the man who changed the image of the Chinese male, and whose "shredded" physique changed the ideal male body--and who died tragically young at the age of 32. Polly offers the first definitive biography of Lee, though he does admit it is unauthorized. The further along the book goes, the more astonishing it is, for the layer upon layer of cultural influen A skinny, frail Chinese kid determinedly self-invents to become one of the most influential celebrities ever: the father of mixed martial arts, the man who changed the image of the Chinese male, and whose "shredded" physique changed the ideal male body--and who died tragically young at the age of 32. Polly offers the first definitive biography of Lee, though he does admit it is unauthorized. The further along the book goes, the more astonishing it is, for the layer upon layer of cultural influence Lee can claim responsibility for. Polly offers fascinating details about how hard Lee worked, how obsessively he trained, even while driving his car--friends and associates describe the power and skill behind his kicks and punches--and finally addresses the controversy surrounding his sudden death in 1973. Libraries should own this book, which given the scarcity of biographies on Lee, will now be a core title. Adult.
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  • Steve
    January 1, 1970
    A great book and very interesting. Bruce Lee was an icon in the martial arts world and is remembered as the pioneer who brought his own culture and his own style of martial arts into the United States. This book is complete and very detailed into his childhood and his troubled teen years in Hong Kong until he moved to the United States and faced struggles in getting acting jobs, but broke down barriers not only in acting, but in martial arts. It even mentions about his tragic death at the age of A great book and very interesting. Bruce Lee was an icon in the martial arts world and is remembered as the pioneer who brought his own culture and his own style of martial arts into the United States. This book is complete and very detailed into his childhood and his troubled teen years in Hong Kong until he moved to the United States and faced struggles in getting acting jobs, but broke down barriers not only in acting, but in martial arts. It even mentions about his tragic death at the age of 32, which still to this day remains a mystery.
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  • Jason Weber
    January 1, 1970
    Being involved in Martial Arts for almost 25 years, I am a fan of Bruce Lee. I read all the books and watched all the movies, and then I saw this book at Barnes and Noble. I read a lot and I don’t give out 5 stars that often. I wish I could give this one more. If you are a martial Artist this book is a MUST read!That’s is, just read it!
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  • Angelo
    January 1, 1970
    Fantastic biography of the great Bruce Lee with (no pun intended), no punches pulled. You definitely get to see the other side of the movie star and all the dirty laundry but you also see who he was in his private life. This was a long book but it went really quickly because it was so well put together.
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  • Micky Lee
    January 1, 1970
    a great book about an extraordinary person a must read
  • Tim McLean
    January 1, 1970
    This was - absolutely - an outstanding read! Although I new quite a bit about Bruce Lee, being a lifetime fan of his work, there was a lot that I didn’t know that this book revealed. I now appreciate the man, as well the legacy he left behind, so much more. This book will definitely remain a permanent fixture in my personal library.
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  • Alan Canvan
    January 1, 1970
    I've been a Bruce Lee scholar as far back as I can remember. At various points in my life, he's played different roles: Childhood Hero, Martial Guru, Zen Mystic, Punk Rock Non Conformist, American Icon. As a child of the 70's/80's whose sole interests were Comic Books, Star Wars, Rocky Balboa and Bruce Lee, I have a deep reverence for mythology. As a martial practitioner of 33 years who's studied a fair amount of combative sciences, I have an equal need to rationalize and demythologize. These tw I've been a Bruce Lee scholar as far back as I can remember. At various points in my life, he's played different roles: Childhood Hero, Martial Guru, Zen Mystic, Punk Rock Non Conformist, American Icon. As a child of the 70's/80's whose sole interests were Comic Books, Star Wars, Rocky Balboa and Bruce Lee, I have a deep reverence for mythology. As a martial practitioner of 33 years who's studied a fair amount of combative sciences, I have an equal need to rationalize and demythologize. These two approaches have governed my philosophy and views on nearly everything that grabs my attention.My initial introduction to Lee at the tender age of 6, was through a movie still. Captivated by his image, I sought out as many photos and stories as I could, getting my fix mostly through magazines and campfire lore. I would not actually see him in action til' a year later, in Game of Death 1978 (the opening 4 minutes and final 11 minutes of this film's effect on me is comparable to Saul's conversion to Paul). My lack of access to his movies at that time ( this was pre home cinema and smart phones), to me, reinforced his mythical status. Looking back, I'm inclined to believe that this was the genesis of my obsessive life long search for him. In the ensuing years, in addition to viewing his adult filmography repeatedly (with near religious fervor), I read every biography, watched every documentary and meticulously dissected whatever I could find on the man. Initially, I took pride in the 'facts' I'd gleaned, content in the basic beats of his story as well as what I discovered 'off script'. But following the honeymoon period(admittedly, a long one), stagnation set in, and I grew a bit disillusioned. What bothered me in particular was this: Bruce Lee's story, to me, had become, to quote Tarantino, "a game of show and tell. You're showing me everything, but telling me nothing". Paradoxically, the more I discovered, the less I felt I knew.One of the residual benefits of being a seeker, is the compulsive need to fill in gaps. To that end, I made the beat between the beats the focus of my Lee studies. Who was the man? What kept him up at night? What drove his insatiable need to be regarded as the best? Who were his heroes? How did he handle embarrassing moments in his life? Etc., etc. Some of those questions I found answers to. Some I'll never know. Upon reflection though, this quest to understand my idol was equally driven by the need to understand aspects of myself and, ultimately, liberate me from the grips of hero worship. Essentially, it was a gateway for me to come into my own. In my heart of hearts, my need to understand Bruce Lee was transformative. That's how much of an impact he had on me. I often mused about writing and producing a 'definitive' bio that presented him as a three dimensional human being - not the superhuman comic book character resurrected from the ashes, ipso facto. To be fair, I had spent a helluva lot of time with that dude, and, while I was grateful for his inspiration and indebted to him for starting me on my martial path, I needed time with the other guy (or the dude pretending to be the other dude). Enter Matthew Polly. Full disclosure: I had reached out to Matt a couple of years prior to the release of his book. My intent, at the time, was to qualify him as a biographer. What was his focus going to be? What was the tone was he going for? How granular was he going to get? Was it going to be a regurgitation of the same ol', same ol'? Ever the gentleman, he replied back and stated his intention in no unclear terms: his goal was to write the most complete biography on Bruce Lee, and hoped to present the man, as is, warts and all. I had heard this kind o' stuff before. And I was skeptical.Two years and 650 pages (actually 2,000+ which he whittled down) later, I'm thrilled to say that Matthew Polly has done the impossible. That is, he's chronicled and captured the intricacies of a complex man who's been deified in all things martial and worshipped by many as a superhuman force that's beyond understanding. It's difficult to overstate how difficult Matt's journey must have been wading through 45 years of mist and mire to reach the man behind the curtain. In doing so, he doesn't just write the definitive Bruce Lee biography, rather, he creates a work of intimate beauty truly worthy of it's subject matter. Equal parts character study, adventure story and forensic dissection, Polly's tome is a meditation on our very own 20th century Dorian Gray. With that, he succeeds in demythologizing the god, and celebrating the legend. Where to begin? The sheer wealth of information this opus has to offer (most of which I'm completely comfortable saying will be unknown to even the most die hard of fans) is only half of what truly makes it the monumental achievement it is. Equally as important are the revelations gleaned from the connective tissue that Polly seamlessly weaves into stories and anecdotes that most fans are familiar with, providing a broader perspective to those tales and giving them their proper context. Indeed, many folks will be surprised by the pieces missing from the stories they thought they knew. Additionally, the first 80 pages spend a significant amount of time tracing Lee's lineage and exploring his adolescent film career and life in Hong Kong (the first piece of writing to accurately do so) prior to coming back to the US in 1959. Moreover, we're given a historical overview of Hong Kong itself and the social environment that the young Bruce Lee came up in (the information here is paramount to understanding his 'origin'). For those who've heard the Frank Sinatra/Vic Damone rumor of Lee's impromptu Gung Fu demonstration on their bodyguards --the true story is finally revealed. Later, Polly gives us the first real information on Lee's little known "Northern Leg, Southern Fist" script treatment. Most fans know that Lee was a pretty good pencil artist, but are they aware of what specific art he admired and may have harbored a desire to pursue himself? Yet another: what was the timeline of July 20th, 1973 and what were the contributing factors that led to Lee's death? The answers are all laid out, hour by hour, and supported by those involved in distinctly quantifiable ways. All this and much more is relayed to the reader in a deeply resonant and visceral way that defies category. Indeed, the emotional connection is so riveting that, when reading each page, one feels they are there, alongside Lee, in his head, experiencing his very thoughts and emotions. It's a level of intimacy rarely achieved in writing, let alone a bio.There's a distinct difference between a subject matter expert and a substance matter expert. Subject matter experts memorize other people's information, while substance matter experts understand the skeleton and mechanics of the subject and impart what they learned, not what they memorized. With this work of art, Matt Polly proves himself to be a true substance matter expert whose keen attention to detail reveals exactly how much of a labor of love this project was to him. Like many of us, Matt's life was forever changed by Bruce Lee. On more than one occasion, he's intimated that writing this book was his way of paying back that debt to his childhood idol. He fucking succeeded. Thank you Matt, for giving us this much needed, long overdue gift. In a very real way, you've produced the book I wish I'd written.
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  • John Spiller
    January 1, 1970
    Bruce Lee is one of those iconic figures who most people instantly recognize but know little about. He's like Che Guevara in that regard -- he's an image that connotes some form of cool, though most couldn't tell you why. Matthew Polly's "Bruce Lee" makes a compelling case that Bruce Lee is a consequential historical figure whose influence continues today, nearly 45 years after his death. Before Bruce Lee, martial arts was a fringe activity; Hong Kong's movie industry was on par with Nigeria's, Bruce Lee is one of those iconic figures who most people instantly recognize but know little about. He's like Che Guevara in that regard -- he's an image that connotes some form of cool, though most couldn't tell you why. Matthew Polly's "Bruce Lee" makes a compelling case that Bruce Lee is a consequential historical figure whose influence continues today, nearly 45 years after his death. Before Bruce Lee, martial arts was a fringe activity; Hong Kong's movie industry was on par with Nigeria's, and Asian actors were seen as supporting characters with no box office potential beyond serving as foils for Anglo stars. A multi-billion dollar industry based on mixed martial fighting? Unthinkable before Bruce Lee. Polly spent six years researching and writing this book, and it shows. I got the sense that he felt comfortable enough with Lee as a subject that he could alternate between respectful and mordant where appropriate. He adds little details that can transform a biography from workmanlike to sublime. For example, Bruce Lee had a conflicted relationship with Steve McQueen. He admired McQueen; he copped behavioral tics from McQueen, but he wanted to beat McQueen at his own game,the movies. McQueen for his part respected Lee, but liked to remind Lee where he stood in the pecking order. When Lee was winning great acclaim, McQueen sent him an autographed picture inscribed, "To Bruce Lee, My Biggest Fan." (Side note, "Enter The Dragon" crushed McQueen's "The Getaway" at the box office.)Polly provides a fairly in-depth examination of Lee's interesting upbringing. His father was a well-known Cantonese Opera performer, which allowed Lee's family to escape some of the harshest privations of the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during Wold War II. His dad was also an opium addict. Growing up, Bruce Lee was a child actor of some renown in HK, but his acting career was placed on hiatus because he was a poor student with a tendency to stir up trouble in school. After getting expelled from a prestigious private school -- Polly drills down into the different accounts of what led to his expulsion -- Lee attends a reform school of sorts, where he becomes obsessed with a form of martial arts taught by Ip Man (himself a subject of several movies). We also learn that Bruce Lee was a very good cha-cha dancer.One of the trickier aspects of biographies is avoiding the sense of inevitability -- well, duh, of course Bruce Lee became a big star because he was Bruce Lee. Polly shows us that success was not a foregone conclusion for Lee. In the 1960's, there was no market in the US for martial arts movies and no real need for Asian actors. Although Lee did have some fortunate breaks along the way, you get the sense from Polly that Bruce Lee became an international star by sheer force of talent, charisma, and will. I don't think you need to be a fan of martial arts or martial arts movies to enjoy this book, though I think it helps. If you are a fan of martial arts, martial arts movies, MMA, or the like, "Bruce Lee" is a must-read.
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  • Charlie
    January 1, 1970
    A big bite of Bruce Lee... There are great swathes of information in this book that have already been presented throughout the general catalogue of Bruce Lee documentaries, and a lot of the details may not strike a devout fan as revelatory. However, "Bruce Lee: A Life" still succeeds for it is highly readable, with yet a number of interesting features that give it a freshness beyond those usual volumes of generic celebration for such a remarkable figure as Lee. Not least is a very plausible case A big bite of Bruce Lee... There are great swathes of information in this book that have already been presented throughout the general catalogue of Bruce Lee documentaries, and a lot of the details may not strike a devout fan as revelatory. However, "Bruce Lee: A Life" still succeeds for it is highly readable, with yet a number of interesting features that give it a freshness beyond those usual volumes of generic celebration for such a remarkable figure as Lee. Not least is a very plausible case for Lee's death as a result of heat stroke... It is a case that Polly presents at an appropriate juncture in the chronology of his story telling, supported by contemporary parallels and the benefit of present day understanding regarding this deadly condition: hyperthermia. Coupled with such extenuating circumstances as environmental factors; hyper activity; and lifestyle choices (including the removal of Lee's sweat glands), the author manages to demystify the Bruce Lee tragedy with a most reasonable argument. This alone will hopefully appease the bewildered and curious punters who still relish the sport of speculating on the ghost of Little Dragon... Matthew Polly has put together a definitive biography here, traversing with deftness through those facets of Bruce Lee's life that are personal, public, trans-cultural, inter-generational, and dazzling in their contrasts, with an extensive note section - enough to impress the most ardent of bookworms. Above all else, one comes away from this reading with a sense of wonder and a wave of awe that has inevitably touched you in the same fashion that Bruce Lee's spectacular movie scenes or quintessential philosophising might, and it inspires the same sincere question that apparently everybody asks after a Bruce Lee encounter: "How does he do that?.." To have so much wattage and pop, and to have harnessed and expressed it all in such a short life...Lee's magnanimous battle cry still rings in the ether where possibility and potential may yet lay in wait for us all.
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  • Brian
    January 1, 1970
    Learn about the man, not the myth This is an excellent and extremely well researched biography. It sifts through all the hype, legends and stories that have surrounded Bruce Lee since his untimely death. The author really depicts Bruce as a driven, charismatic, volatile and very human young man that was just on the front end of the wave of super-stardom. Bruce Lee’s story is important and compelling enough, without the glorification. Well-written - I finished in a couple days. If you’re looking Learn about the man, not the myth This is an excellent and extremely well researched biography. It sifts through all the hype, legends and stories that have surrounded Bruce Lee since his untimely death. The author really depicts Bruce as a driven, charismatic, volatile and very human young man that was just on the front end of the wave of super-stardom. Bruce Lee’s story is important and compelling enough, without the glorification. Well-written - I finished in a couple days. If you’re looking for insight into Bruce’s Taoist theology or deeper beliefs, you may want to look elsewhere. This really is a fact-driven biography, which is what I wanted and appreciated. Bruce’s quotes and teachings are all here but I inferred that the author may have questioned Lee’s sincerity and believed that at least some of it was for public consumption as opposed to a way of life. In my opinion, Bruce’s application of these themes through his physical expression of his martial art clearly demonstrates his sincerity. Anyways, other books analyze or portray Bruce’s philosophies. If you want to understand how a Chinese-American martial artist found a way to rock the world in the late 60’s and early 70’s, I highly recommend this book.
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  • David
    January 1, 1970
    “Develop the tools, refine the tools, then dissolve the tools.”Rating:5/5“The martial arts are used as a tool to portray the self-evolution of man.”“Teachers should never impose their favorite patterns on their students. They should be finding out what works for them, and what does not work for them. The individual is more important than the style.”“You have to go outside your environment to achieve something better”“It is always more rewarding to be a participant instead of an observer.”“If you “Develop the tools, refine the tools, then dissolve the tools.”Rating:5/5“The martial arts are used as a tool to portray the self-evolution of man.”“Teachers should never impose their favorite patterns on their students. They should be finding out what works for them, and what does not work for them. The individual is more important than the style.”“You have to go outside your environment to achieve something better”“It is always more rewarding to be a participant instead of an observer.”“If you try to remember you will lose. Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup; put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or creep or drip or CRASH! Be water, my friend.”“Like everyone else you want to learn the way to win but never to accept the way to lose. To accept defeat, to learn to die is to be liberated from it. So when tomorrow comes you must free your ambitious mind and learn the art of dying.""Empty [your] mind of past knowledge and old habits so that [you] will be open to new learning."
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  • Kristine
    January 1, 1970
    Bruce Lee: A Life by Matthew Polly is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early June.With a loose sense of chronology, exuberant narration, and the last 40% of the book devoted to an inquest on Lee's death, the future of jeet kune do, and the career of Brandon Lee, this biography was slightly above-average. I enjoyed learning about Lee's dual citizenship in a time of harsh/stringent repatriation, his keen interest in dancing, antics on the Green Hornet set, training with Ip Man, and intense fa Bruce Lee: A Life by Matthew Polly is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early June.With a loose sense of chronology, exuberant narration, and the last 40% of the book devoted to an inquest on Lee's death, the future of jeet kune do, and the career of Brandon Lee, this biography was slightly above-average. I enjoyed learning about Lee's dual citizenship in a time of harsh/stringent repatriation, his keen interest in dancing, antics on the Green Hornet set, training with Ip Man, and intense fame in Hong Kong prior to his passing.
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  • John
    January 1, 1970
    After watching the movies over the years and reading poor biographies (including his widow's book(s)); finally refreshing to have a definite biography that is honest, well researched and factual (Especially when it come the numerous cause of death theories). If enjoy the Kung-Fu movies and want to know more about the man started the genre and indeed the genre's history. Begin here...
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  • Piper Winchester
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed this biography.it was very well documented and detailed.of course I had to unknowingly finish on the 45th anniversary of his passing. the pictures were nice inside.there will NEVER be another one like Bruce Lee. I didn't know how much of the world he helped shaped.
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  • John
    January 1, 1970
    Finally, a Bruce Lee biography worth reading. My only quibble is the anachronistic use of the phrase "McDojo." Didn't exist until the 90s and likely did not apply to any karate school in the 1960s.
  • Eowyn
    January 1, 1970
    Exceptional! A thorough telling of Bruce Lee’s starting with mini-bios of his parents before his birth, his birth and life, and then his legacy after his death.
  • John Allen
    January 1, 1970
    Bruce Lee died of heatstroke.
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