YMRT #25: The Short Lives of Bruce and Brandon Lee / by Karina Longworth

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A martial arts master on the verge of major movie stardom, Bruce Lee died suddenly in 1973, at the age of 33; the official cause was “death by misadventure.” Twenty years later, Bruce Lee's son, BrandonLee, died suddenly in an accidental shooting on the set of The Crow — the movie which was poised to turn Brandon into a major star. These parallel tragedies have led some to suggest that the Lee family have been the victims of a curse, or a conspiracy. In this episode, we’ll explore what really happened to Bruce and BrandonLee, and discuss what happened over several decades, so that an extraordinary talented artist who was essentially run out of town thanks to Hollywood’s racism came to be one of the industry’s biggest moneymakers long after his death. 

Show notes!

This episode marks a couple of different landmarks for You Must Remember This. It’s our 25th episode. It’s the last episode of our second season, which has been devoted to stories loosely or not-so loosely related to my book, Hollywood Frame by Frame — making this also the last time I’ll mention the book in or around the podcast (there are pictures from the set of The Crow in it and you can buy it here. </plug>.) And, it’s our final all-new episode of 2014. We will have a special not-all-new episode next week, then we’ll take a week off and be back with the first episode of a new season on January 6. 


There are a lot of books about Bruce Lee, and, honestly, I had trouble wading through them to figure out which were the most substantive/reliable. As I mention in the episode, the the demand for information about Lee after his death created a financial incentive to publish which didn’t necessarily support fact checking. I ended up putting more stock in newspaper/magazine articles written from the perspective of the future. Matthew Polly’s Playboy feature Chasing the Dragon was an important source for this episode, as were the LA Times and Entertainment Weekly’s extensive coverage of Brandon Lee’s death on the set of The Crow, particularly this story by Mark Harris. Also, I watched the documentary I Am Bruce Lee, as well as, um, this Unsolved Mysteries episode about the Lee deaths. 


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