It was my great pleasure to have my old friend John Little (or, as his wife calls him, little John) over to my Saturday night open house dinner chez Logan.
For those not in the know, John was, for several years, chief archivist for the Bruce Lee Estate, and both authored and edited a series of books about The Little Dragon (still available at a book store near you!). John was in town to produce a new documentary focussing on the surviving local locations from Lee's films, and I was happy to offer whatever help and advice I could. I even hooked him up with a capable local line producer, the ever charming Cynthia Ho.
John shared with me the reasons why he and the Estate parted company. Though I won't go into them here, I will go on record saying that dispensing with Little's services was a major disservice to the Lee fans. I appreciate that you have to have a changing of the guard sometimes, but, if you're
not going to have John writing books, collating data, producing documentaries, then don't you need to replace him with someone who
does do that work? Well, you should do if you've been left the legacy of one of the 20th century's most potent icons...
The torch was picked up by another good friend of mine, Steve Kerridge, who is based in the UK, and put out two wonderful, long overdue books focussing on Lee's Hong Kong movie work, Legends of the Dragon. I provided a cover blurb for the 3rd, long delayed book. It looks like he might focus on the US market now, which will be good news for Lee's many fans there. In case Volume 3 doesn't get a UK release, here, for posterity, is the back cover text, including my comments on Steve:
**"Since Bruce Lee’s passing in 1973, there have been many publications covering the
life and times of ‘The Little Dragon’. Some books have covered his films, when oth
ers have covered his martial arts and philosophy. For the first time ever in print, this
three volume series examines the creative genius of Bruce Lee in true timeline form. From the conception of Concord productions
to the movie locations of Rome and Hong Kong, Legends of the Dragon follows Bruce Lee from being the number one Mandarin
box office sensation, to the verge of international superstardom with Hollywood at his door. For the first time ever, you will see in
how Bruce Lee created his masterpiece The Way of the Dragon through the notes, drawings, and stills that lay within this book se
ries, and you will hear from the co-stars and the ones who knew him best. Legends of the Dragon covers the period April through to
August 1972 when Bruce Lee for the first time could express himself through his writing, producing, acting and directorial debut on
the big screen. Soon he would become a household name, a name that would echo worldwide and start a new genre of action movie.**
**“ These are the books that I and every other die hard Bruce Lee fan have waited thirty years for.
The contents are invaluable, but the real treasure here is Steve Kerridge,
whose talent and energies have offered fresh illumination of
the Little Dragon’s legend and legacy ”**
BEY LOGAN - writer, producer and Hong Kong action cinema expert "
I was one of the interviewees for a History Channel documentary : 'How Bruce Lee Changed The World', for which I devoted four hours of my time, my protege, Nick Eriksson (as their assistant director) and about a fifth of my lung capacity, choking on the fumes in Man Mo Temple. Still, it was cool to throw in my ten cents alongside LL Cool J, Sugar Ray Leonard, my old friends Brett Ratner and Donnie Yen, plus Stan Lee (yes,
Lee!!!). (The documentary is available on DVD at HMV if you want to check it out.)
Working on the project was a great experience, but I was sad that I didn't get to meet Shannon Lee while I was here. This is probably going to sound like sour grapes, but it seems that the Lee Estate has tended to turn its back on the genuine Lee enthusiasts and historians.
When Shannon visited her old home in Cumberland Road (on which, more later), she was accompanied by a third rate would-be producer and an arrogant British lawyer. I don't think Bruce would have stood in the same room as these people if he were alive. I guess these guys tell the Lee Estate what they want to hear, but, in the meantime, the legacy of Lee is diminished.
Case in point: that ghastly, Estate-approved CCTV Bruce Lee series. The high point of the Changed The World documentary is Shannon watching scenes from the show at a gathering of Hong Kong's Bruce Lee Club. The producers had to adjust the sound when they edited the film so you couldn't hear the fans jeering at this travesty to their idol's memory. Those 1970s Bruce Lee exploitation films were more entertaining (especially Clones of Bruce Lee, don't miss that one...)
One bright spot on the horizon is the plan to restore Lee's home to its former glory, and turn it into a Little Dragon museum. Its kind of amazing that there isn't one already! I had the nearest thing, back when Jon Benn and I ran the Bruce Lee Cafe on Robinson Road. (The sign is still visible around the back if you want to take a look.) There is a Lee museum in his family's ancestral home town of Shunde, a place with which Bruce had a tenuous connection at best.
Given that its cinema industry is the most internationally acclaimed aspect of Hong Kong, I think local action movies should be better celebrated locally. There should be a Bruce Lee museum, and a Jackie Chan one, and one focussing on Chinese martial arts... I'd be happier to see my taxes spent on celebrating our proud heritage rather than the usual government practice of buggering the city up to make it as featureless and unliveable as possible. (End of political rant...)
After his passing, Lee's former home was used as a location for several Golden Harvest and Shaw Bros films of these era, and, in a later blog, I'll talk about some of them. The scenes shot in Bruce's abode, as it had been during his lifetime, might be of use to those charged with restoring it now.