Yes sexy *ss 70’s martial arts actor James Milton Kelly, also known as Jim Kelly has died a few days ago at the age of 67. Yup, it’s true. Many of you who are hardcore martial arts, and or blaxploitation fans should be familiar with Jim Kelly already. I didn’t even realize he died until a friend told me. Sigh. Not only did I think he was really handsome growing up; I also admired him because he was the only person of color (that I’ve seen/can remember) doing serious martial arts on film as part of his career. Well, at least as close to martial arts as he’d get. His style of fighting on film was more like, “trying not to get bruised for the ladies” type of fighting. However, I heard he used to like to do his own stunts, and film directors would normally cringe at the thought of a lead actor doing his or her stunts. I guess at the suggestions of most directors, the result of avoiding these stunts, gave Jim the appearance that he didn’t want to really fight in many of the films he made. Unfortunately, this was especially true for blaxploitation film makers at the time. Although blaxploitation was huge in the 70’s, it wasn’t big enough to cover all the liability costs that can incur. Because Kelly performed most of his martial arts in blaxploitation movies, it kinda left many fans to interpret some of his acting as, pretty boy; yet masculine; karate/street fighter mixed; don’t want to injure himself type of fight.
Many of you also may remember him from his VERY short appearance in “Enter The Dragon (1973)”. I gotta say, I was disappointed when they killed him off so quickly in the movie, but then again, Bruce Lee was the star of the movie 🙂 . Then again, even Angela Mao had such a small part in the movie too, I didn’t even know she was in it, until one day I saw the cast names, and I had to watch the movie again. Now, you guys know how much I love Angela Mao, she had to have had a REALLY small part for me to watch the movie again. LOL. John Saxon was also a big name in the movie, you may remember him from a couple of appearances on “The Bionic Woman”. “Enter The Dragon” is one of THE classic movies of all times, I think. But I do think it would have been an even bigger hit, if Bruce would have let Jim, Angela, and John fight just as hard as he did in the movie. In retrospect, I now think Bruce was only using their names to draw people to see the movie, just thought he made a big mistake by not capitalizing on their martial arts skills. Granted, Jim Kelly was no were near as good as Bruce, in terms of martial arts ability, but it would have made the movie all the more exciting 🙂 .
From what I’ve read, Jim Kelly’s wife said that the cause of his death was cancer, however, she did not get in to more detail than that. Although Jim did not have a long filmography, he did make big contributions (along with many others) to the martial arts film community, and helped make martial arts the popular art form it is today. Jim Kelly is also best known for “The Tattoo Connection (1978)”, “Black Belt Jones (1974)”, and “Black Samurai(1977)”. He will be missed.
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