Jim Kelly, Co-Star of Bruce Lee’s ‘Enter the Dragon,’ Dead at 67
Actor Jim Kelly, who played a glib American martial artist in “Enter the Dragon” with Bruce Lee, died June 29 in San Diego, Calif. He was 67 and died of cancer.
Sporting an Afro hairstyle and sideburns, Kelly made a splash with his one-liners and fight scenes in the 1973 martial arts classic. His later films included “Three the Hard Way,” ”Black Belt Jones” and “Black Samurai,” for which he also served as karate master. He also provided fight choreography for two other films in which he appeared, “Hot Potato” and “Golden Needles.” He also appeared in “The Tattoo Connection,” “Death Dimension” and had a guest appearance on TV series “Highway to Heaven.”
During a 2010 interview with Salon.com, Kelly said he started studying martial arts in 1964 in Kentucky and later moved to California. He ran a karate studio in Los Angeles, where he caught the eye of a casting director, and said the role in the Bruce Lee film came about when his agent called him. It was his second film role.
“It was one of the best experiences in my life,” he told Salon.com of working on “Enter the Dragon.” ”Bruce was just incredible, absolutely fantastic. I learned so much from working with him. I probably enjoyed working with Bruce more than anyone else I’d ever worked with in movies because we were both martial artists. And he was a great, great martial artist. It was very good.”
After largely retiring from acting in the late ’70s, he became a professional tennis player and tennis coach and appeared at Comic-Con and other conventions. He is survived by a daughter.