POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, November 27, 2011 Share
As I write this, today is November 27, 2011, which means it is Bruce Lee’s birthday. All during Thanksgiving week, I was thinking about what to write about for a tribute to Bruce and I came up with a great solution. Back in 1950, Bruce Lee, at 10-years old, played in a movie with his father called The Kid. Numerous Bruce Lee documentaries have shown footage, but I had never seen the entire movie so that’s what I decided to do.
A little bit of setting up is need. Imagine a time before Bruce Lee was a legend. Long before The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, Way of the Dragon, Game of Death, and Enter the Dragon were even thought of. A time before Bruce even took martial arts lessons. For years, following his birth, the Lee family, particularly his father, wanted Bruce to follow the family tradition and become an actor. His father, Lee Hoi-chuen was a Hong Kong Opera singer and actor. Together father and son would appear on screen in a drama called The Kid. The Kid was based on a comic book by Yuen Po Wan that reminds me of the bratty kid from Japanese manga and anime, Crayon Shinchan. Both kids are rebellious and cause a lot of grief for their parents, yet they have hearts of gold and help out friends and family in need.
In The Kid, Bruce Lee plays a 10-year old boy called Kid Cheung, who hangs out on the street selling comic books, even though he reveals to a girl that he can’t read and doesn’t really care to learn. His parents have both died and he is looked after by his uncle. His situation is pretty bleak. Whatever knowledge he learns comes from the streets. He soon idolizes a gangster who is an expert knife thrower. Lee follows the gangster around the neighborhood and saves him from getting arrested by the police. The young boy is set up for a life of crime.
Meanwhile, Cheung’s uncle is not doing well. He has just got fired as a local schoolteacher and the family budget must be stretched even further. The uncle’s situation gets so desperate that despite his high morals and ethics, he is forced to take many that Kid Cheung gives him. The money came from pickpocketing that Cheung learned from his new gangster pals. The Uncle noticed a gold necklace in the family’s tiny apartment and beats the truth out of Cheung. The next day, Cheung and his uncle visit the wealthy man, Lee Hoi-chuen, whose daughter has had her necklace stolen. Cheung reluctantly gives back the necklace and the 10-year old daughter is happy. She is so happy that she demands that her deadbeat father reward both the uncle and his nephew. The uncle gets a job paying more money as the wealthy man’s secretary. Kid Cheung gets to go to school, which he has previously been unable to do.
The first day at school is a disaster, as Cheung is bullied being the new kid there. He gets into several fights and gets expelled. Please note that these fights contain no martial arts techniques at all. It is just boys pushing each other around at the playground. For Cheung, it is back on the streets until the wealthy man gives him a job at his factory. Just as at school, Cheung is bullied by a nasty foreman. The wealthy man’s son won’t leave alone one of the young girls who works sewing clothes at the factory. She takes a liking to Kid Cheung and helps him out of many bad situations. He inturn helps her when she is unjustly fired for not dating the arrogant owner’s son. Kid Cheung stands up for her and takes on the whole factory with his gangster friends. This is a key element that would later resurface in Lee’s martial arts movies. In The Big Boss , he stands up for his fellow Chinese brothers and sisters who are being exploited by Thais. In Fist of Fury he stands up to aggressive Japanese martial artists who want to shut down his teacher’s school. In Way of the Dragon, he stands up to the Italian mafia who is bullying a local Chinese restaurant. In Enter the Dragon he stands up to Ohara, who killed his sister and to Mr. Han who disrespected the Shaolin Temple and angered the Shaolin monks. Even in Game of Death, he takes a stand against traditional martial arts. Dan Inosanto represents the Filipino martial arts with his escrima sticks, while Ji Han-Jae represents the Korean grappling style, Hapkido. Lee beats both men by going against traditional martial arts with his own mixed martial art called Jeet Kune Do.
Throughout The Kid, some gestures and facial expressions would appear years later in the kung fu movies that made Lee an icon. In one scene in The Kid, Cheung is getting upset at another boy during a fight and he thumbs his nose. This thumbing of the nose can be seen in several Bruce Lee movies. His playful spirit as a boy running around, during cartwheels, can be seen in the opening of Enter the Dragon when Lee flips over monks and also the playful attitude of his character in Way of the Dragon. Even the way he holds a broom and strikes another boy mirrors the way he would later hold a staff in Way of the Dragon and Enter the Dragon.
So how well does The Kid hold up? It is a drama with Bruce providing comic relief as only an energetic 10-year boy can. It reminded me of past shows with young children such as The Little Rascals and Our Gang. There is a lot to see in The Kid that makes the later adult films more enjoyable. You can see all the energy and enthusiasm that Bruce brought to all his acting roles from TV to the big screen. He had all this potential inside and if he never got involved with martial arts, he could always have become a dramatic or comic actor.
Bruce Lee was a true natural talent who worked hard in whatever he did, whether is was martial arts, acting, photography, or exercising, he came his all in whatever he did and that was the real key to his success.
5 out of 5 Stars.
"The Asian Aperture" is ©2011 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2011 by Nolan B. Canova.
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