An actor known for his role in a movie that marked a seminal moment in the evolution of martial arts cinema has died. CNN reports that Jim Kelly, who made his mark in the Bruce Lee film "Enter the Dragon," died Saturday of cancer at 67.
"Kelly worked as a martial arts instructor in Los Angeles when he was tapped for his first role in the action movie, ‘Melinda. But he is best known for his work in the 1973 Bruce Lee film ‘Enter the Dragon,’" the story reports. "Kelly’s appearance in the movie was brief — fans lamented he was offed too soon — but his electrifying Afro, lanky 6-foot-2 frame and his wisecracks left an impression."
The piece notes that after "Enter the Dragon," Kelly was in demand: "He capitalized on the attention by taking on the title role in ‘Black Belt Jones’ the following year. A spate of other roles followed throughout the ’70s, most notably ‘Three the Hard Way,’ but then dried up.
"In later years Kelly took up tennis professionally, becoming a ranked player on the USTA senior circuit."
Kelly said in a 2010 interview with the Los Angeles Times: "I never left the movie business. It’s just that after a certain point, I didn’t get the type of projects that I wanted to do."
CNN adds: "In 2004, he starred with basketball star LeBron James in a Nike commercial that spoofed another Bruce Lee film, ‘Game of Death.’ And he sometimes appeared at comic book conventions, much to the delight of his lasting fans."
"Enter the Dragon," the first Chinese martial arts film produced by a major Hollywood studio, was released by Warner Bros. six days after the death of its star, Bruce Lee. The film was selected in 2004 for preservation in the National Film Registry because of its cultural significance.