Bruce Lee’s First Hollywood Role Explained (Not Enter The Dragon)

Enter the Dragon actually wasn’t Bruce Lee’s first experience in a Hollywood film. He actually appeared in a different American movie first.

Bruce Lee’s first Hollywood movie role was actually Marlowe, not Enter the Dragon. Enter the Dragon is renowned as the movie that turned the Hong Kong star into an international icon. And while that certainly was the film that earned him that reputation, it wasn’t his first experience with a Hollywood production.

Between 1964 and 1971, Lee lobbied for roles in Hollywood movies and American TV shows while living in the United States. He co-starred in ABC The Green Hornet’s show in the mid-1960s, but the series only lasted one season and did little to boost his profile. It wasn’t until Lee was making movies in Hong Kong that American movie studios finally began to take notice of his talents. After starring in three Hong Kong martial arts movies, Lee was brought back to Hollywood by Warner Bros. to make Enter the Dragon. The movie became Lee’s first and last lead role in a Hollywood film, as Lee died in July 1973, one month before the movie’s theatrical release.


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Bruce Lee’s Role In Marlowe Explained

Bruce Lee’s First Hollywood Role Explained (Not Enter The Dragon)

A few years before Enter the Dragon, Lee made an appearance in a different American movie. In 1969, Lee was offered the part of Winslow Wong in Marlowe, a detective story starring James Garner as the titular hero and pulp novel icon. The role called for Lee to appear in two scenes. In addition to playing Wong, he also served as the movie’s action director, meaning that he coordinated the fight scenes in the film. He held the same job in both 1970’s A Walk In The Spring Rain and 1968’s The Wrecking Crew, but only Marlowe gave him an acting role.

What stands out about Lee’s involvement with Marlowe is that it was the only time in his career where he played a villain. In Marlowe, Lee’s Winslow Wong was depicted as a hired thug sent to cause trouble for James Garner’s character. In a scene where Wong trashes Marlowe’s office, Lee was able to show off his speed and kicking ability. Later in the story, Wong met his end when he challenged Marlowe on a rooftop. Bruce Lee’s character fell to his death when Marlowe dodged a jump kick.

What Bruce Lee Did After Making Marlowe

Bruce Lee’s First Hollywood Role Explained (Not Enter The Dragon)

While Marlowe was a chance for Lee to showcase his kung fu talents on the big screen, it did little to change the trajectory of his career. His search for work continued after Marlowe and led to the actor getting a four-episode stint on Longstreet. During this time, Lee made efforts to get a script he wrote or a kung fu movie titled The Silent Flute into production, but it was to no avail and the project was scrapped. Unable to find the success in Hollywood he wanted, Bruce Lee wound up accepting a deal from Hong Kong studio Golden Harvest to appear in The Big Boss, thus setting the stage for him to become the biggest star in the martial arts genre.

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