Jul 20, 2022 - News

Today in history: Bruce Lee's sudden death

An image of a shirtless Bruce Lee in a martial arts pose.
Bruce Lee's suddent death sent shockwaves worldwide. Newspaper image: The San Francisco Examiner; Photo: Getty Archive Images

On this day in 1973, martial arts icon Bruce Lee fell into a coma at a friend's apartment in Hong Kong and was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

  • The sudden death of the 32-year-old actor — in the prime of his life and career — sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry and beyond.

What happened: After complaining of a headache, Lee took pain medication, fell into a coma and never regained consciousness, per history.com.

  • A coroner's jury later ruled Lee's death accidental due to brain edema — internal swelling caused by excessive fluid, per wire reports.

Background: He was born Lee Jun Fan in San Francisco in 1940, the son of a Hong Kong opera singer on tour.

  • He learned kung fu and started acting at age 13.
  • Lee catapulted to fame behind roles on TV ("The Green Hornet,") and movies ("Fist of Fury").
  • At the time of his death, Lee was "the biggest box office hit in kung fu … movies," per his obituary in The San Francisco Examiner.

Yes, but: Before he shot to superstardom, he spent 4½ years in Seattle, initially struggling as a philosophy student at the University of Washington and later opening a kung fu studio in Seattle's Chinatown/International District, per a recent exhibit at the Wing Luke Museum.

The intrigue: More than 12,000 "screaming fans" attended Lee's memorial services in Hong Kong, per a United Press International report.

  • His wife and two children later returned to Seattle with his body in a $33,173 coffin.

State of play: Lee is buried in Lakeview Cemetery on Capitol Hill, next to his son, action movie star Brandon Lee, who was killed accidentally in 1993 on the set of the movie, "The Crow."

  • Their gravesites draw hordes of visitors each year.

Of note: The Seattle Bruce Lee Fan Club plans to commemorate Lee's death at his gravesite at 5pm.

Picture of the gravesites of Bruce and Brandon Lee.
The Lees' gravesites draw crowds. Photo: Lewis Kamb/Axios
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