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Made possible by the John H. Mitchell Television Programming Endowment

Bruce Lee: “The Way of the Intercepting Fist”

Bruce Lee
February 25, 2023 - 7:30 pm
Q&A with Shannon Lee, author, daughter of Bruce Lee.

Admission is free. No advance reservations. Free tickets must be obtained on a first come, first served basis at the box office, where seating will be assigned.

The profound legacy of Bruce Lee extends far beyond the immortal icon's seemingly unmatched physical talents. Globally admired for his incomparable martial arts skills earned through arduous study and training, Lee's advanced philosophies of self-actualization equally inspire the artist's legion of fans, further defining his lasting influence.

An avid reader with a personal library numbering thousands of volumes, Lee was a dedicated philosophy student in college (he attended the University of Washington, where he also studied drama) and was a prolific author. In his extensive writings, which include fighting manuals and poetry, Lee expressed his core philosophy as "using no way as way; having no limitation as limitation." Lee saw this tenet as having application not only to physical combat (where he railed against rigid forms of traditional martial arts) but in a humanist sense as to how one might approach overcoming life’s challenges to meet their full potential. The transformative martial arts Lee developed, which he called Jeet Kune Do (translated from Cantonese as "the way of the intercepting fist"), was the distillation of his beliefs, in which he stressed the honest self-expression of the individual over any organized style or way of thought.

As an actor, Lee's considerable artistic contributions to his screen projects led to the organic intertwining of his persona and philosophies with those of the fictional characters he portrayed. Among the most illustrative examples, the premiere episode of the ABC television series Longstreet (1971) co-stars Lee as a martial artist and life coach who mentors a blind detective (James Franciscus) in self-defense and the teachings of Jeet Kune Do. Likewise, the cult-classic feature film Enter the Dragon (1973) includes memorable quiet scenes that foreground Lee’s intellectual approach to conflict, which is central to the audience's understanding of his character. These small and big screen gems illuminate Lee's heft as a thinker and instructor, providing entertaining and evocative supplements to his philosophical writings, a number of which have been published posthumously since his tragic passing in 1973.

There will be a Q&A in-between screenings with Shannon Lee, author of Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee.

Special thanks to our community partners: The Bruce Lee Foundation, UCLA Asian American Studies Center.

Program notes by Mark Quigley, John H. Mitchell Television Curator.

Longstreet: “The Way of the Intercepting Fist”

U.S., 3/9/1972 (Rebroadcast of program originally aired on 9/16/1971)

Presented with original commercials!

Written by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Stirling Silliphant (In the Heat of the Night), this ABC-TV drama provided a primetime showcase for Bruce Lee and his philosophy of Jeet Kune Do. In his critical co-starring role in the series' debut episode, Lee exudes star power as an antique dealer that befriends a blind detective (James Franciscus) grappling with self-doubt. Series executive producer Silliphant and Lee were close friends, with the screenwriter previously having written a scene-stealing part for the martial artist alongside actor James Garner in the feature film Marlowe (1969).

DCP, color, 60 min. ABC. Production: Paramount in association Edling Productions and Corsican. Executive Producer: Stirling Silliphant. Producer: Joel Rogosin. Director: Don McDougall. Writer: Stirling Silliphant. With: James Franciscus, Bruce Lee, Marlyn Mason, Peter Mark Richman, Louis Gossett Jr.

Use of Longstreet courtesy of CBS Studios, special thanks to Peter Murrary, Patrick Scheg.

Enter the Dragon

U.S., 1973

Original 35mm Technicolor dye-transfer print from the Academy Film Archive!

A seminal ’70s cult film, Enter the Dragon remains eminently rewatchable due to Bruce Lee’s star charisma and the exquisite fight scenes he choreographed. Shot on location in Hong Kong, the action-packed film artfully combines elements of Bond and Blaxploitation (launching the cinema career of African American karate champion Jim Kelly). In between displays of martial arts amongst the most riveting ever captured on film, the epic features scenes that allow Lee to illuminate his beliefs as a teacher and philosopher. The title was named to the National Film Registry in 2004 as a culturally and historically significant work.

35mm, color, 102 min. Director: Robert Clouse. Screenwriter: Michael Allin. With: Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Jim Kelly.

Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive, special thanks to Edda Manriquez, Taylor Morales.