Bruce Lee Story, the Complete Timeline
1940 – November 27 – San Francisco ~ In the The Year of the Dragon between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. (the hour of the dragon), Lee Jun Fan (Bruce Lee) is born at the Jackson Street Hospital in San Francisco Chinatown while his father and mother traveled to the U.S. Lee Hoi Chuen, Bruce’s father, was performing with the Cantonese Opera Company in America. At three months old, Bruce debuts in “Golden Gate Girl” in San Francisco, CA. In the story he plays role of a female baby, carried by his father.
China – Young Lee and his parents return to Kowloon, their family home. They move to into an apartment at 218 Nathan Road, Kowloon district. The apartment is located on the second story of a building which contained a store on the ground level.
1946 (6) ~ Hong Kong – Bruce makes his first major childhood movie in The Beginning of a Boy. Later this year, he performs in the story of The Birth of Mankind, and My Son, Ah Cheun. (During the later years of his childhood, Lee appears in 20 more films in Asia. In these films, Bruce’s vivid facial expressions begin to develop, and they foreshadow his future expressions in his famous Kung-Fu movies. Bruce becomes nearsighted and starts wearing glasses. (He will later start wearing contacts, suggested to him by a friend who is an optometrist.)
1952 (12) ~ Hong Kong – Bruce begins attending La Salle College.
1953 (13) ~ China – After being beaten up by a street gang, Bruce Lee begins to take Kung-Fu lessons, despite local laws, outlawing street fights. This is the first, and the last time Bruce loses a fight. He begins to train under Sifu Yip Man, a master of the Wing Chun system of Kung-Fu.
1954 (14) ~ Hong Kong – Bruce takes up cha-cha dancing.
1958 (18) ~ Hong Kong – Bruce wins the Crown Colony Cha-Cha Championship. Bruce has a leading role in the film The Orphan. This is the last movie Bruce makes as a child actor. This is the only movie where Bruce does not fight.
1958 (18) ~ Bruce enters the 1958 Boxing Championships and defeats the reigning champion, Gary Elms.
1959 (19) ~ China – Because of numerous street fighting, causing police involvement, Bruce’s father and mother decide that Bruce should take a three week voyage to the United States. The trip is a possible means to get him back on the right track. He return to his birth-place ~ San Francisco Chinatown. Time was also running out for him to claim his American Citizenship.
1959 (19) ~ San Francisco – Seattle – With $15 from his father, and $100 from his mother, Bruce arrives in the United States, living with an old friend of his father’s. He works odd jobs around the various Chinese communities. Later, he moves to Seattle to work for Ruby Chow, another friend of his father’s. He lives on the second story above her restaurant while working as a waiter downstairs. He eventually enrolls in Edison Technical School and earns his high school diploma. Bruce begins to teach his Martial Art skills in backyards and city parks.
1961 March (21) ~ Seattle- Bruce Lee enrolls at the University of Washington, studying Philosophy. He teaches Kung-Fu to students at school.
1963 Summer (23) ~ Hong Kong – Bruce proposes to Amy Sanbo but is turned down. Bruce returns to China with friend Doug Palmer for the first time since his arrival in the U.S. to visit family. He then returns to Seattle at the end of summer to continue his education.
1963 October 25 (23) ~ Seattle – Bruce takes out Linda Emery (his future wife) for their first date. They have dinner at the Space Needle. Bruce gives notice to Ruby Chow and leaves her restaurant. Sifu Lee then starts the first Jun Fan Kung-Fu Institute.
1963 Fall (23) ~ Seattle – Sifu Lee moves his Jun Fan Kung-Fu Institute into a building (4750 University Way) near the university campus. He teaches any person of any race. (most Asian Martial Arts schools would only teach people of their own race). At Garfield High School, Bruce demonstrates the “One-Inch Punch”. This is the punch he would later make famous at the 64′ Long Beach Internationals and which was developed by him and James DeMile in Seattle. Bruce would hold his arm straight out, and with a shrug of his shoulder, knock a man straight across the ground.
1964 (24) ~ Bruce meets Jhoon Rhee at the International Karate Championships. The two would remain good friends. (Jhoon Rhee will invite Bruce to Washington, D.C. to appear at tournaments.)
1964 June (24) ~ Bruce discusses with James Yimm Lee plans to open a second Jun Fan Kung-Fu Institute in Oakland, CA.
1964 Summer – Oakland (24) ~ Plans are finalized, and Bruce leaves Seattle to start a second Jun Fan Kung-Fu school in Oakland. His good friend, Taky Kimura, takes over as head instructor.
1964 August 17 (24) ~ Seattle – Bruce returns to Seattle to marry Linda. They soon move to Oakland.
1964 August 2 (24) ~ Long Beach, Ca – Ed Parker, known as the Father of American Karate (Kenpo), invites Bruce to give a demonstration. Bruce shows off his “one-inch punch,” and his two-finger push-ups, where he literally does “two” finger push-ups. At his first International Karate Championships, Jay Sebring, the hair stylist for Batman, William Dozier, a producer, who is looking to cast a part in a TV series he was developing. Sebring then gives a film of Bruce’s demo to Dozier who is impressed at Bruce’s super-human abilities. Bruce later flys down to Los Angeles for a screen test.
1964 August 4 (24) ~ Oakland – Bruce Lee leaves for Seattle. He will propose to Linda.
1965 (24) ~ Oakland – Several months after he begins teaching, so the story goes, he is challenged by Wong Jack Man, a leading Kung-Fu practitioner in the Chinatown Community. They agree: If Bruce looses, he will, either close his school, or stop teaching Caucasians; and if Jack looses, he will stop teaching. Jack Man Wong does not believe Bruce would actually fight, and tries to delay the match. Bruce becomes angered and insists that they not wait. Wong then tries to put limitations on techniques. Bruce refuses “rules”and the two go no holds barred. Bruce begins to pound his opponent in only a couple of seconds. As Bruce is winning, Wong attemps to flee, but is caught by Bruce. Bruce begins to beat him on the ground. Students of the other teacher attempted to step in and help their teacher, James Lee, Bruce’s good friend prevent this. Later he is bothered on why the fight took so long and begins to re-evaluate his style. He is determined that he is not in his top physical condiiton. Thus, the early concepts of Jeet Kune Do (JKD), “The art of the intercepting fist” is created. JKD is an art including techniques of all types of fighting. (i.e. American Boxing, Thai Kick Boxing, Japanese Karate, etc.) His style is no style.
Bruce is signed to a one-year option for the TV story of The Green Hornet. He is paid an $1800 retainer.
1965 February 1 (25) ~ Oakland, CA – Brandon Bruce Lee is born.
1965 February 8 (25) ~ Hong Kong – Bruce’s father passes away. Bruce returns to China for his fathers funeral. As tradition dictates, in order to obtain forgiveness for not being present when his father died, Bruce crawls on his knees across the floor of the funeral home towards the casket wailing loudly and crying.
1965 May (25) ~ Bruce uses the retainer money from the Green Hornet and flys himself, Linda, and Brandon back to China in order to settle his father’s estate affairs. While in China, Bruce takes Brandon to see Yip Man to persuade Yip to perform on tape. Bruce wants to take the footage back to Seattle and show his students what the man looks like in action. Yip modestly declines.
1965 September (25) ~ Seattle – Bruce, Linda, Brandon return to Seattle.
1966 (26) ~ Los Angeles – Bruce and family move to California to an apartment on Wilshire and Gayley in Westwood. This is where he begins working on a new TV story called The Green Hornet as Kato. The Green Hornet series starts filming and Bruce is Paid $400 per episode. Bruce buys a 1966 blue Chevy Nova. Bruce is later known to have gotten the part of Kato because he was the only person who could accurately pronounce the star’s name, Britt Reid. He later opens third branch of the Jun Fan Kung-Fu Institute in Los Angeles’ Chinatown.
1966 September 9 (26) ~ Hollywood – The Green Hornet series premiers.
1967-1971 (27-31) ~ Hollywood – During this time, Bruce lands bit parts in various films and T.V. series. He also gives private lessons for up to $250 an hour to personalities Steve McQueen, James Coburn, James Garner, Lee Marvin, Roman Polanski, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Bruce meets Chuck Norris in New York at the All American Karate Championships in Washington D.C. Chuck fights Joe Lewis and wins.
1967 (27) ~ Washington, D.C. – Bruce meets Joe Lewis at The Mayflower Hotel while both were guests at the 67′ National Karate Championships. Joe is competing in the tournament and Bruce is making special appearances as Kato.
1967 February (27) ~ Los Angeles – Bruce opens a 3rd school at 628 College Street, Los Angeles, CA. Dan Inosanto serves as assistant instructor.
1967 July 14 (27) ~ Los Angeles – The last episode of The Green Hornet Series shows. The movie is later said to have failed because Bruce, a minor role in the story became more popular than the main character.
1969 April 19 (29) ~ Santa Monica, CA Shannon Lee is born.
1969 (29) ~ A scriptwriter is hired and paid $12K by Stirling Silliphant and James Coburn to write a script for the Silent Flute. The story produced is unacceptable, and no other scriptwriter could seem to do the job. They then decide to write the story themselves.
1970 (30) ~ Los Angeles – Bruce injures his sacral nerve and experiences severe muscle spasms in his back while training. Doctors told him that he would never kick again. During the months of recovery he starts to document his training methods and his philosophy of Jeet Kune Do. Later after his death, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do is published by his wife in memory of Bruce Lee.
1970 (30) ~ Hong Kong – Bruce and Brandon fly to China and are welcomed by fans of The Green Hornet Show.
Bruce sends Unicorn to talk to Run Run Shaw on his behalf and inform Shaw that he would be willing to do a movie for him for $10K. Shaw makes counter-offer of a seven year contract and $2K per film which Bruce declines.
1971 February (31) ~ India – Bruce, James Coburn, Stirling Silliphant fly to India to scout locations for The Silent Flute story. They spend one month searching but are forced to call off the search as Coburn backs out of the project. This trip gives Bruce the idea for Game of Death, where a fighter, mastering in several techniques, will go from one story to the next in a temple: the first story (the level of weaponry), the second story (the level of the nine degree black belt), and the third story (“The level of the unknown.”)
1971 (31) ~ Hong Kong. – Bruce Lee takes a short trip back to China to arrange for his mother to live in the U.S. Unknowingly to him, he had become a superstar for The Green Hornet was one of the most popular TV shows in China. Later, he is approached by Raymond Chow, owner of a new production company, and offered the lead role in a new film called The Big Boss. Bruce accepts.
Bruce is supplied with small furnished apartment at 2 Man Wan Road – Kowloon, HK. Wu Ngan, moves in with Bruce and Linda. Later Wu Ngan marries and his new wife moves in as well. Brandon attends La Salle College. The same school Bruce attended only 15 years before. Bruce is inteviewed by Canadian talk show host, Pierre Berton, for a tv program. This is the only on film said to be in existance.
1971 July (31) ~ Thailand – Filming begins for The Big Boss Story (released in the U.S. as Fists of Fury). The Big Boss opens in China to great reviews and mobs of fans. Proceeds to gross more than $3.5 million in little than three weeks.
1971 December 7 (31) ~ Hong Kong – Bruce receives telegram, notifying him that he had not been chosen fo the part in the upcoming story, The Warrior. This series was later released as Kung-Fu, staring David Carradine, who doesn’t know martial arts. (The show aired as ABC-TVs Movie of the Week on February 21, 1972.)
1972 (32) ~ Hong Kong – Fist of Fury (released in the U.S. as The Chinese Connection) is released. It grosses more than The Big Boss and further establishes Bruce as a Chinese superstar. Bruce gets a larger budget, a larger salary, and more power of directing in this film. Bruce begins work on Game of Death and films several fight scenes including Danny Inosanto and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
1972 (32) ~ Rome, Italy – Location shots are made for Bruce’s third film The Way of the Dragon (released in the U.S. as The Return of the Dragon). This time Bruce gets almost complete control the story, which he writes, directs, and stars in. Chuck Norris is Bruce’s adversary in the final fight scene. Again, this film surpasses all records set by his previous two films.
1972 December 28 (32) ~ Oakland Bruce’s brother, James, dies of “Black Lung.”
1973 February (33) ~ Hong Kong – Bruce gets his chance at American stardom as filming of Enter the Dragon begins while Game of Death is put on hold. It is the first-ever production between the U.S. and Chinese film industries.
On February 20, Bruce is guest of honor at St. Francis Xavier’s school for Sports Day ceremonies.
1973 (33) ~ Los Angeles – Grace Lee, Bruce’s sister, sees Bruce in Los Angeles, CA. Bruce tells her that he does not expect to live much longer and that she is not to worry about finances as he will make sure she is provided for. She rebukes him for talking that way.
1973 April (33) ~ Hong Kong – Filming of Enter the Dragon is completed.
Bruce is at Golden Harvest Studios dubbing his voice for “Enter The Dragon”. The air conditioners had been turned off, so the microphones won’t pick them up. The temperature soared. Bruce takes a break looping lines to go to the bathroom and splash water on his face. In he bathroom, he passes out on the bathroom floor. He revives twenty minutes later just as an assistant sent to find out what was keeping him walks in and discovers him on the ground. He tries to conceal his collapse by acting as though he has dropped his glasses on the floor and is searching for them and is helped up by the assistant. As they are walking back to the dubbing room, Bruce collapses again and is rushed to a nearby hospital.
1973 July 10 (33) ~ Hong Kong – Bruce Lee is walking through the Golden Harvest Studios and overhears Lo Wei in a nearby room bad mouthing him. He confronts Lo Wei who retreats and summons the local police. When the police arrive Lo Wei falsely accuses Bruce of threatening him with a knife concealed in his belt buckle. He further insists that Bruce sign a statement that he will not harm him. Bruce signs the statement to get Lo Wei off his back although Lo Wei lied to the police and Bruce never had a knife nor threatened to kill him.
That same day, Bruce appears on the TV show, Enjoy Yourself Tonight with host Ho Sho Shin. Bruce alludes to his problems with director Lo Wei, but does not mention him by name. Bruce is asked to display his physical prowess and demonstrates his abilities. Bruce demonstrates a technique and Shin is hurled across the stage. The show of power causes the press to indite Bruce in the paper and accuse him of bullying the talk show host though this was not the case.
1973 July 16 (33) ~ Hong Kong – Heavy rains fall caused by a typhoon off the coast of China. Bruce makes a $200 phone call to speak to Unicorn in his hotel room, who is filming a movie in Manila. Bruce tells Unicorn that he is worried about the many headaches he is experiencing.
1973 July 18 (33) ~ Hong Kong – A bad Feng Shui deflector, placed on the roof of Bruce’s Cumberland Road home is blown off the roof by heavy rain and winds. The deflector had been placed on the house to protect Bruce and family from bad Feng Shui; previous owners had all been plagued by financial disaster and it was believed that this was because of the incorrect positioning of the house. The deflector was to ward off evil spirits.
1973 July 20 (33): ~ Hong Kong – Early in the morning Bruce types a letter to his attorney, Adrian Marshall, detailing business ventures he wants to discuss on his upcoming trip to Los Angeles. Bruce had tickets already set to return to the US for a publicity tour and was scheduled to appear on the Johnny Carson show. Raymond Chow goes by Bruce’s house and the two discuss plans for their upcoming movie Game of Death. Linda kisses Bruce goodbye and says she is going out to run some errands and will see him later that night. Raymond and Bruce visit Betty Ting Pei at her apartment to discuss her role in Game of Death. That evening plans had been made for them all to meet George Lazenby over dinner and enlist him for a part. Bruce explains that he has a headache, takes a prescription pain killer offered by Betty, and lies down on her bed to rest prior to dinner. Raymond Chow departs and says that he will meet them later. Raymond Chow and George Lazenby meet at a restaurant and await Bruce and Betty’s arrival, but the two never show up. At 9:00 p.m. Chow receives a call from Betty; she said that she has tried to wake Bruce up but he won’t come to.
Betty summons her personal physician who fails to revive Bruce and who has Bruce taken to the hospital. Bruce does not revive and is pronounced dead. The doctor’s are surprised that he had lasted as long as he did that night but unfortunately Betty did not get him help as soon as she could have.
Bruce Lee dies of an apparent cerebral edema (swelling of the brain). After much confusion and debate, doctors declared the death of Bruce Lee as “death by misadventure.” Enter the Dragon was delayed from its initial premieres a four days later because of the actors death.
1973 July 25 (33) ~ Hong Kong – A funeral ceremony is held for friends and fans consisting of over 25,000 people. Bruce is dressed in the Chinese outfit he wore in Enter the Dragon.
1973 July 30 (33) ~ Seattle – After a smaller second ceremony in Seattle, Washington at Butterworth Funeral Home on East Pine Street, Bruce Lee is buried at Lake View Cemetery. His pallbearers included Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Danny Inosanto, Taky Kimura, Peter Chin, and his brother, Robert Lee.
1973 August 24 ~ Hollywood – Enter The Dragon premiers at Graumann’s Chinese Theater. The movie is a success, and Bruce Lee achieves world-wide fame.
This page has been about the Bruce Lee story.