Actor Jim Kelly, who played a glib American martial artist in "Enter the Dragon" with Bruce Lee, has died. He was 67.
Marilyn Dishman, Kelly's ex-wife, said he died Saturday of cancer at his home in San Diego.
A post on Kelly's Facebook page on Sunday noted: "It is with sadness and regret that we must announce the passing of a great man and legend Jim Kelly. 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."
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."
During a 2010 interview with Salon.com, Kelly said he started studying martial arts in 1964 in Kentucky and later moved to California where he earned a black belt in karate. He said he set his sights on becoming an actor after winning karate tournaments. He also played college football.
The role in the Bruce Lee film was his second. He had about a dozen film roles in the 1970s before his acting work tapered off. He later played tennis, competing in the USTA senior circuit. In recent years, he drew lines of autograph seekers at comic book conventions. In 2004, Kelly appeared alongside basketball player Lebron James in a Nike commercial that spoofed the Bruce Lee film, "Game of Death."
"It was one of the best experiences in my life," Kelly told Salon.com of working on "Enter the Dragon" with Lee. "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."
"Enter the Dragon" wasn't just a memorable movie for Kelly. Jackie Chan, who had a small part in the 1973 film, recently recalled one of his "best stories" in aIn the segment, Chan talks about how excited he was to work with Lee in the film, but things didn't exactly go as planned. Chan goes on to explain how Lee accidentally hit him in the head during the shoot. As a result, Chan got to spend more time with Lee -- his idol; Lee kept checking up to see how Chan was feeling the rest of the day on the set.