“I broke down the color barrier---I was the first black martial artist to become a movie star.”
In the wake of the 'Rocket's red glare', there is yet another saddening loss in the annals of Hollywood. To PLANET GRIFFIN and many other web outlets, the loss of Martial Arts Actor, JIM KELLY, was a sobering kick to the face and a huge loss for an industry that many feel should've been recognized a lot more than he was.
The first commercially recognized Black Martial Artist, Jim's afro-flash swagger made heads turn upon his first appearance in ENTER THE DRAGON; shortly after winning the Middleweight Division Title in Long Beach, Cali. Kelly's role, though second only to Bruce Lee, made a lasting impact on the film, even upstaging the legend himself with quotable dialogue that's lasted almost 40 years later. It was obvious that Kelly was 'too busy looking good' on film, and it showed... Thus setting the stage for his next biggest hit.
Hollywood in the 70's, during the rise of the Grindhouse era, made quick use of Kelly in 1974 with the release of BLACK BELT JONES--- a film that stradled the line between Kung Fu flick and Blaxploitation--- and became as big a success as ETD; as well as THREE THE HARD WAY and BLACK SAMURAI.
Kelly was only 67 when he succumbed to cancer. Even decades later and among the countless public appearances, Kelly's legion of fans would most likely tell you that he was STILL looking too good to notice the end.
PLANET GRIFFIN fully agrees with that assessment. He will be greatly, and we do mean GREATLY, missed.