Life goes by entirely too fast. Jim Kelly, the martial artist and actor who played a memorable role in the film “Enter the Dragon,” has died at the age of 67. Kelly died of cancer at his home in San Diego, according to his wife, Marilyn Dishman.
Kelly was super cool, with lightning fast moves and a stylish afro that helped to make Bruce Lee’s films huge hits within the United States. He was in three other popular films, “Three the Hard Way,” ‘’Black Belt Jones” and “Black Samurai.” He served as the inspiration for the black samurai character in the tv show, “The Boondocks.”
Kelly began studying karate in Kentucky in 1964 and eventually moved to California. Up until his death, he spoke highly of his experience working with Bruce Lee.
“It was one of the best experiences in my life,” he told salon.com. ‘’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.”
Kelly’s first action role was in the film, “Melinda.” He did “Enter the Dragon” in 1973 as his second project. His role was short, but his style and body type enamored Hollywood into giving him more chances. Later, when acting opportunities started to disappear, Kelly actually became a ranked tennis player in the USTA senior circuit.
“I never left the movie business,” Kelly told The Los Angeles Times. “It’s just that after a certain point, I didn’t get the type of projects that I wanted to do.”
You also may not know this about Kelly. He actually starred in a 2004 Nike commercial with LeBron James, spoofing a Bruce Lee film, “Game of Death.”
He was married to his wife for 33 years. May he rest in peace.