Actor Jim Kelly, who garnered a cult following with his afro and snappy one-liners in Bruce Lee’s “Enter The Dragon”, has died from complications relating to cancer. He was 67.
Kelly, who trained in martial arts in Kentucky in the ’60s before moving to California, says he discovered a passion for acting through the discipline. At the time, Bruce Lee was making a big name for himself in the industry on television shows like “The Green Hornet” and “Ironside”; it was the perfect time to parlay his skills to the big screen. Eventually, he got the role of a lifetime when he was tapped to star opposite Lee in “Enter The Dragon”. Although his screen time wasn’t nearly long enough for fans, Kelly once said he wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“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.”
Though Kelly only had a handful of roles after “Enter The Dragon”, he says he never wanted to leave show business.
“I never left the movie business,” Kelly told The Los Angeles Times in 2010. “It’s just that after a certain point, I didn’t get the type of projects that I wanted to do.”
An update on Kelly’s Facebook page announced his passing; fans and friends have responded with posts lamenting their loss.
“It is with sadness and regret that we must announce the passing of a great man and legend Jim Kelly,” the announcement reads. “He will be deeply missed by all. Jim had great love for his family, friends, tennis and martial arts. We are devastated by Jim’s passing but through faith and support from family, friends and fans-we are comforted, blessed and will remain strong. He was survived by his lifetime partner of 33 years and wife.”