Jim Kelly, Co-Star of Bruce Lee’s ‘Enter the Dragon,’ Dead at 67

Jim Kelly, Co-Star of Bruce Lee's

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.

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  1. Dari Bates says:


    You lived your life.
    I lived my life.
    Like two ships we passed somewhere in time.
    You touched my life,
    Enriched my life.
    And, for one brief moment we shared paradise.
    Know that … someone loves you here.

    You went your way.
    I went mine.
    But we shared special moments that stayed.
    So many stayed.
    I hope that you know and knew
    Know that … someone loves you here.

    No words can ever say.
    No thought can ever imagine
    Just how much you’ve meant, and mean, to me.
    Thank you for the memories, the warmth, the passion.
    Thank you for so many things you never thought would matter.
    Thank you for the lessons learned,
    And, all the good you have done.
    I’m so thankful that you were born.

    When I’m feeling sad.
    When I’m feeling blue.
    I’ll just close my eyes and think of you.
    With love, peace, and, happiness,
    I’ll remember you.
    Know that … someone loves you here.

    You, my experience, you transcended time.
    You transcend all of time.
    Know that … someone here loves you.
    Someone will always love you.
    Know that … someone loves you here.

    © 2009

  2. I had the pleasure to meet Jim kelly in England in the late 1990s. What a guy, a real gentleman and a wonderful yet very underrated martial artist. We hear of him as a co star of Enter The Dragon and never the fact that he was a Karate world champion before co staring with Bruce Lee. In the 1980s and 1990s it was some what naff to be a Bruce Lee fan, as his movies seemed some what dated to many, these day of course Bruce Lee is cool again and a huge icon and rightly so, however I feel its thanks to people like Jim Kelly who helped keep Lees name fresh in peoples minds and when ever ask questions like, how good was Bruce Lee? Could he really fight? would always speak highly of Lee as both a man and martial artist and as he once told me, ‘ I dont know if Bruce was the greatest fighter ever but I have yet to see anyone better’ True praise indeed from a true 70s icon and inspiration to so many young martial artists, both black and white. I bet he’s’ ” Still too busy lookin good”
    Rest in peace Jim.

  3. Andray Johnson says:

    One of my most childhood memories was that of meeting and taking a photo with you when you came to Chicago in 1975 to promote one of your movies. RIP. you will be missed!

  4. Harvey McDaniel says:

    God is Blessing you and your family now. You are a big part of my memories. Back in the day… Rest in Peace.

  5. Al Muhammad says:

    R.I.P. my Brother! You were an inspiration to us all back in the day and you will surely be missed, but, not forgotten! Much respect! Bro. Al Muhammad

  6. Tony says:

    JIm Kelly, rest in peace; you were an inspiration to all of us.

  7. Felipe R Valera says:

    Jim was a Great man, , great artist, great sportman, Bruce and him were an inspiration for many of my generation, i remember him since i watched his films in Cuba in the 80s
    , i did not know he bacame a tennis player and coach, i play tennis now.

    I remenber him forever, condolence for his family.

    Felipe R Valera
    Miami, 2013

  8. Gregory King says:

    i remember him very well, as a kid he inspiered me to practice. then after i had gottin better at martial arts, and when i was older and inlisted in the Army, hand to hand combat was a piece of cake, Thank you Mister Kelly, and God has blessed You and you have passed it on to me. Thank you Thank You Thank You, Look Down and See your blessing you left here on this earth.

  9. Clement Manda says:

    R.I.P Jim,we will remember you.

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