'Enter The Dragon' Star Jim Kelly Dies At 67
Jim Kelly, the impressively tall martial artist who co-starred with Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon, has died at age 67.
Kelly's former wife Marilyn Dishman told CNN that the actor died Saturday of cancer. She also posted about his passing on her Facebook page. A message on his official Facebook page said, "He will be deeply missed by all."
Kelly worked as a martial arts instructor in Los Angeles when he was cast in the action movie Melinda, but he is best known for his too-brief appearance in the 1973 Bruce Lee classic Enter the Dragon.
He went on to star in several other 1970s action and blaxploitation flims, including Black Belt Jones, Three the Hard Way and Black Samurai.
He was proud that his success helped open the door for others. "I broke down the color barrier—I was the first black martial artist to become a movie star," Kelly said in a 2010 interview with the Los Angeles Times. "It's amazing to see how many people still remember that, because I haven't really done much, in terms of movies, in a long time."
David Walker, co-author of Reflections on Blaxploitation, told the Times, "When Kelly appeared at Comic-Con International in San Diego [in 2009], everybody went nuts when they found out he was there because he's a true living legend, and there's still a mystique about him."
Film and television director Reginald Hudlin said of him, "The iconography that Jim Kelly established as the cool martial artist with the giant 'fro resonates to this day. If within only a few films you can create an image that lasts over 30 years, you must have done something really right. And he did."
"I never left the movie business," Kelly told the Times when a DVD set of his movies came out in 2010. "It's just that after a certain point, I didn't get the type of projects that I wanted to do."
In 2004, he starred with Lebron James in a Nike commercial that spoofed another Bruce Lee film, Game of Death. His last role was a cameo in the 2009 straight-to-video action comedy Afro Ninja.