Bruce Lee, born Lee Jun Fan on the 27th of November 1940, was a martial artist, as well as an actor, film director and screenwriter. He is considered to be one of the most influential martial artists of the 20th century and is also considered to be a cultural icon. He is credited as the person responsible for elevating the status of Hong Kong martial arts films. On the 20th of July 1973, he was found unconscious in his room and was rushed to the hospital. He did not make it.
Lee’s death is a very mysterious one. It was ruled “death by misadventure” by the doctors. Several weeks prior to Lee’s death, he had collapsed while working on the movie “Enter the Dragon”. He suffered from seizures and headaches and was diagnosed with cerebral edema. Apparently, excess water had accumulated in the extracellular spaces of his brain causing it to swell. The doctors were able to reduce the swelling through the administration of drugs.
A few weeks later on the eve of Lee’s death, he was due to meet George Lazenby to discuss plans on a new movie they wanted to work together on. When Lee failed to attend the dinner, producer Raymond Chow came to his apartment and discovered that he was unconscious. He was rushed to the hospital after a doctor failed to revive him after ten minutes.
According to autopsy reports, at the time of Lee’s death his brain had swollen to up to 13% in size. Traces of Equagesic, a painkiller, were also found in his blood. It was both an aspirin and a muscle relaxant. Some doctors believed that the swelling of his brain could have been induced by oversensitivity to the chemical compounds contained by the drug. Controversy sparked however when Don Langford, the doctor who treated Lee at the time of his first collapse, stated that the painkiller that supposedly caused Lee’s death was absent at the time of the first collapse.
Different rumors also started to arise as to the reason of Lee’s death. One of the most prevalent theories was that the actor might have received a Dim-Mak, or a “Touch of Death”, weeks prior to Lee’s death. Dim-Mak was supposedly, according to oral tradition, a martial arts technique that can kill using seemingly less than lethal force by attacking focal pressure points of the body. Another rumor was that Lee was murdered by the triads. Cannabis or Marijuana was also believed to have been involved in Lee’s death.
Bruce Lee’s untimely demise was a huge loss for the film industry, especially that of the martial arts scene. He was regarded by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. At such a young age, he was able to contribute so much – who knows what else he could have done if he were given a much longer life?