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. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant