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Musings from the Edge of Forever

Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with RONIN ON EMPTY.

Bruce Lee vs. Philip Marlowe!

Winslow Wong

I don’t think it’s any secret that I’m a fan of Bruce Lee. After all, I’ve reviewed all his major films for this website, came up with a short bio for his People Page, wrote a little article about some film and TV projects of his that never came to pass, and even penned a long-winded blog post about his transnational appeal.

But if my love for man known as “The Little Dragon” has fairly been obvious, I doubt many readers are aware of another “idol” of mine — Philip Marlowe.  Not only is Raymond Chandler’s hardboiled private eye my favorite character in literature, but Chandler’s penultimate novel in the Marlowe series, The Long Goodbye, is perhaps my favorite novel ever written. First appearing in Chandler’s The Big Sleep, Philip Marlowe has gone on to be played on both the big and small screens by actors like Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, Elliott Gould, Dick Powell, Powers Boothe, and James Caan, among others. Most, but not all, of these films and TV shows have made it to DVD, albeit with one glaring exception — a 1969 adaptation of the novel, The Little Sister, entitled Marlowe.

One of my favorite actors, Oklahoma native James Garner — star of TV’s Maverick, The Rockford Files, and (for you young ‘uns) The Notebook — plays Marlowe, so I’ve been dying to see the film. And as it so happens, while scanning an Asian toyshop (of all the places in the world) on Clement St, I was able to pick up a copy and watch the film for the very first time.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “What in the hell does all this have to do with Bruce Lee and/or Hong Kong cinema?” Well, I’ll tell ya.  Marlowe marks Bruce Lee’s American acting debut in a full-length feature film. Scripted by one of Lee’s students, Sterling Silliphant, Marlowe features Lee in a bit part, playing a menacing thug named Winslow Wong (who, by the way, doesn’t appear in the Chandler book at all).

Marlowe Meets Winslow

When Marlowe Met Winslow

To be honest, Marlowe is no great shakes — sure, Garner is likable, and Rita Moreno is attractive as hell (her striptease that concludes the film is surprisingly risque in a mainstream flick of its day), so it’s a shame that they didn’t get much screen time together — but the film itself is fairly dull and unnecessarily convoluted. I mean, Marlowe himself doesn’t seem to know what the hell’s going on even when he “solves” the case. That’s a definite no-no. However, I think both Chandler and Bruce Lee fans can agree that the scenes with Lee and Garner crackle with an energy that’s missing throughout much of the film. If you’ve seen Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey, you might be familiar with this sequence:



Pretty amusing, eh? Lee appears again in the film, but I won’t link to a clip of his final appearance, so as not to spoil the experience if you’re so inclined to catch Marlowe on TV, VHS, or “On Demand” someday. Lee fans might feel a little insulted by what happens, but I found the outcome of the fight to be pretty amusing, considering how invincible Lee’s characters tended to be in his own martial arts films. The way things go down, you might be tempted to read this as Lee making fun of his image. Too bad he didn’t have an “image” to poke fun at — The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, Way of the Dragon, and Enter the Dragon hadn’t happened yet!

3 Responses to “Bruce Lee vs. Philip Marlowe!”

  1. Diana Says:

    I would love to see this.

    I am actually old enough to remember watching the tv series “Longstreet” when Bruce gave self-defense lessons and advice to the blind detective. Needless to say, he made an impression.

  2. Wongsaurus Says:

    Hi Sanjuro! No doubt you have discovered the H-Club and met Robin Kwok & his ultimate wing-chun/bruce lee collection. Did you check out Green Apple Books and the other Asia Star location too? I don’t blame RK for not permitting photos in his shop — too many gawkers who come in and don’t buy anything. Talk to you again soon.

  3. Sanjuro Says:

    Diana — I’ve really wanted to see his stint on “Longstreet.” I’m surprised nobody tried to buy the rights and use the footage to revamp GAME OF DEATH.

    Wongsaurus — Hey! It was indeed at the Heroes Club where I purchased MARLOWE. And I’ve browsed Green Apple, and bought a couple flicks at Asia Star. Might check out their other locations, too. I’m a San Franciscan now, so look me up and let me know how you’re doing!

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