Thursday, November 15, 2012

everybody was kung fu fighting


I was all about Kung Fu (1972-1975) when I was a kid.  No, I didn't know kung fu, I watched it on television. I had a friend recently tell me that the concept for the television show was originally an idea that the late great Bruce Lee pitched to Warner Brothers and Paramount.  Bruce said that he wanted to bring martial arts to the old West.  At the time the television executives didn't think a real China man should play one on television.  Execs didn't think it would go over.  They felt that people would be turned off by a Chinese leading man.   It would've been great if television would've opened it's mind to the a different kind of hero.  The kids back in those days loved Bruce Lee as Cato in The Green Hornet.  I don't think it would've been a hard sell.  There's a dispute about who's concept was who's, but for sure, Bruce had been a contender for the leading roll.  When he lost the part, he went back to China and made a name for himself there...as well as the rest of the world.

Warner Brothers eventually produced a series with the same basic concept, only with the American actor David Carradine.  David is the son of well known character actor John Carradine.  By the time Kung Fu was half way through it's first season, David Carradine had managed to become even more famous than his father.  John by the way, was featured in three of Kung Fu episodes.  The show was very unique, an Eastern Shaolin monk fugitive who escaped to the American wild West. Kwai Chang Caine was a very peaceful fellow who by the end of each episode had to open a can of whoop-ass on some bad guys.

David shaved his head only once for Kung Fu.  The viewer was always seeing flashbacks from show to show...a lot of David's bald dome.  You can tell how far into the series you might be watching by the length of his hair.  Kwai Chang Caine got really hippie looking by the third year.  Most folks know that David was into martial arts.  He started the show out only as a dancer, not with any martial arts training.  He started getting into it by the third and final season of the show, doing much of his own fighting/stunts by that time.

Television westerns were fading in the seventies.  Kung Fu came along and offered something completely different to the audience.


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