Celebrating B Movies, Cult Films, and Indie Classics.

RIP: Jim Kelly 1946-2013

by  |  July 16th, 2013  |  News

It is true that over here at ABM, we do celebrate B Movies, exploitation films and their like… But another side of ABM, something that is a little lesser known, is that we celebrate the lives of the masters that craft these truly, ‘AwesomeBMovies’ together, the ones that are still alive, as well as the ones that have passed away…

With that in mind, it is with great sadness to report on the passing of B Movie actor and blaxploitation film legend, ‘Jim Kelly’!

Iconic blaxploitation film star Jim Kelly passed away from cancer at the age of 67.

Like a lot of actors first getting their start in the industry, Jim Kelly got his start in the industry with a small role playing, ‘Charles Atkins’ in the 1972 blaxploitation movie, ‘Melinda’.

But it wasn’t until his second role that his career really started to take off! You see, at the time there was a martial arts movie that would later become one of the biggest martial arts movies of all time called, Enter The Dragon (1973), in which Jim Kelly would star with such screen legends as, Bruce Lee (Fists Of Fury), John Saxon (Battle Beyond The Stars), to name a few…

But you see Mr. Kelly almost missed out on this opportunity due to the fact that the role of, ‘Williams’ which was the role that Jim Kelly would ultimately go on to play had actually originally been intended for, Rockne Tarkington (Black Samson) but in the end, Mr. Tarkington ended up dropping out of the project and the role was given to Jim Kelly after the producer saw the work that he was doing at his L.A. inner city karate studio!

Jim Kelly with John Saxon in a scene from, ‘Enter The Dragon’ (1973)

This role would help to cement his position as one of the greats in the martial arts film market, but not only that, it also led to him being one of the biggest blaxploitation martial artists of all time!

You see, after, Enter The Dragon, Jim Kelly would go on to star in a series of classic blaxploitation movies that included, Black Belt Jones (1974), One Down Two To Go (1976) & Black Samurai (1976)!

Sadly though, after the 1970s Mr. Kelly would rarely be seen on screen in much of anything (after the 1970s he would only be seen in 4 other movies,  culminating with his final role in the low budget action video, Afro Ninja (2009)!)

In the end, this amazing talent, who besides being a great B Movie actor and martial artist, was also a good athlete, having played tennis for the, ‘USTA’ and even appeared in a 2004 commercial with basketball great, LeBron James.

Besides being a famous martial artist and movie star, Jim Kelly was also a professional tennis player, (a career that carry him for the rest of his life.)

This prolific 70s B Movie exploitation actor will be missed, but not forgotten in the hearts and minds of his friends, his family as well as the legions of fans that to this day still love the work that he did on the big screen!

For more information on Jim Kelly and his amazing career, please enjoy this cross section of his career:

A classic scene between Han (played by: Shih Kien) and Williams, (played by: Jim Kelly) from Enter The Dragon (1973):

A classic fight between Black Belt Jones (played by: Jim Kelly) and some thugs in Black Belt Jones (1974):

A great fight scene between, ‘Mister Keyes’ (played by: Jim Kelly) against a group of crooked cops, in, Three The Hard Way (1974):



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