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Sad News: ‘Enter the Dragon’ Actor Jim Kelly Dies at 67

Jim Kelly, 67,  the famed martial artist who turned his craft into a cult-worthy yet brief acting career has died. According to the actor’s ex-wife Marilyn Dishman, he died of cancer on Saturday.

A representative for Jim Kelly’s Facebook posted the sad message for his fans.

“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.”

Kelly was a dedicated martial artist who owned a karate studio in Los Angeles, but yearned to share his craft with others through movies.  In a 2010 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Kelly said:

“My ultimate goals were to get into the movie business, to become famous, to make a lot of money and motivate and inspire young people, people of all nationalities and colors. But I didn’t know anything about acting. And there weren’t a lot of black heroes in the movies at that time. I felt that with the martial arts, I could offer Hollywood something different. So my goal was to become a world champion martial artist and try to get noticed.”

Kelly would land his first role in the action movie “Melinda” but his fame came after starring alongside famed martial artist Bruce Lee in “Enter the Dragon.”

In another 2010 interview with Salon, Kelly remembered his experience with Lee.

“It was one of the best experiences in my life. Bruce was just incredible, absolutely fantastic. I learned so much from working with him.”

Following “Enter the Dragon,” Kelly left his mark a on few more films including “Black Samuri,” “Black Belt Jones” and “Three the Hard Way.” The roles began to taper off after the ’70s but despite a waning film career, the beloved actor revealed he was still working.

“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,” he said in the Times interview.

Kelly will be remembered as one of the first black martial artists to star in films, helping to break down the color barrier for future artists.

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