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‘Enter the Dragon’ actor Jim Kelly dies

Journal Staff Report | 7/1/2013, 3:50 p.m.
Actor Jim Kelly, who played an American martial artist in the classic Bruce Lee film “Enter the Dragon,” has died. ...

Actor Jim Kelly, who played an American martial artist in the classic Bruce Lee film “Enter the Dragon,” has died. He was 67.

Kelly died Saturday, June 29 of cancer at his home in California, said his ex-wife Marilyn Dishman.

With his Afro hairstyle, sideburns and glib one-liners, Kelly rose to fame in the 1973 martial arts classic.

During a 2010 interview with Salon.com, Kelly said he started studying martial arts in 1964 in Kentucky and later moved to California. He said his role in “Enter the Dragon,” had a major impact on his life.

“It was one of the best experiences in my life,” he told Salon.com of working on the film. “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 went on to star in several other action films, including “Three the Hard Way,” “Black Belt Jones” and “Black Samurai.”

His success helped open the doors 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.”