Bruce Lee

Icons of the Century

Before Jackie Chan and Jet Li there was Bruce Lee, the rather mysterious but wildly popular action hero whose kung fu moves birthed the martial-arts genre in American film.

Like James Dean, Lee’s untimely death (he was 32) catapulted him to instant legend status.

And, like Dean, his screen presence is celluloid gold: the sinewy frame, the bone-crunching moves, the otherworldly shrieks acted like a drug to his legions of fans.

The films — “Fists of Fury,” “The Chinese Connection,” “Enter the Dragon” — are mere vehicles for Lee’s quicksilver action sequences, but he laid the groundwork for the worldwide explosion of Hong Kong cinema, and every actor who chopped and kicked his way to stardom owes a debt to Lee.

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