|Marilyn Mason and Franciscus.|
|James Franciscus and Bruce Lee.|
As with many of Silliphant's Route 66 episodes, the plot is secondary to the characters. It affords Lee the opportunity to describe jeet kune do, his "system" of martial arts and philosophy. In 1973's Enter the Dragon, Lee describes it succinctly as "the art of fighting without fighting." Still, it's this episode of Longstreet that includes perhaps Lee's best analogy: "Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water. Now, if you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. Put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow, or creep or drip or crash. Be water, my friend."
|Lee in Marlowe (1969).|
Lee earned strong reviews for his guest appearance on Longstreet and reprised his role in three more episodes. Yet, despite a likable cast and interesting setting (though the show was not shot on location like Route 66), Longstreet only lasted one season. Television audiences just didn't seem that interested in insurance investigators. (Despite that, George Peppard played one the following year in Banacek, though it only lasted for two seasons totaling 17 episodes.)
Meanwhile, Bruce Lee--who had previously rejected offers to make Asian "kung fu" movies--signed a contract with Raymond Chow to make two films. The first one, The Big Boss (aka Fists of Fury), was released the same year as his Longstreet appearances. It became an unexpected worldwide smash and made Bruce Lee an international star.
James Franciscus starred in two subsequent short-lived TV series: Doc Elliot (1973-74) and Hunter (1976-77). Interestingly, he later played a crooked politician in Good Guys Wear Black (1978), one of Chuck Norris' first martial arts films. Franciscus worked steadily in film and television until his death in 1991 at age 57 due to emphysema.