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Jim Kelly
Born James M. Kelly
May 5, 1946 (1946-05-05) (age 63)
Paris, Kentucky
Occupation Film, television actor
Years active 1972-present
Spouse(s) Marilyn Dishman (1967-1968) (divorced)

James M. "Jim" Kelly (born May 5, 1946) is an American athlete, actor, and martial artist who came to prominence in the early 1970s. He is best known from his performance as Williams in the Bruce Lee film Enter the Dragon.

Contents

Biography

Early life

Kelly was born in Paris, Kentucky. He began his athletic career in high school, competing successfully in basketball, football, and track and field. He attended the University of Louisville and left during his freshman year to begin studying Shorin-ryu karate. Additionally, he trained in Okinawa-te Karate under the direction of Shihan Gordon Doversola to win the Huntington Beach Classic and attributes Mr. Doversola for making him a world class fighter. During this time other notables as Joe Lewis would also train in the same Dojo. After winning the middle-weight title at the 1971 International Middleweight Karate Championship in Long Beach, he opened his own martial arts school. He taught karate to actor Calvin Lockhart for a role in a thriller "Melinda"; he ended up playing a martial arts instructor in the movie.

Acting career

As an actor, Kelly is best known for co-starring alongside Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. This appearance led to starring roles in a string of martial arts-themed Blaxploitation films, among them Melinda and Black Belt Jones. Most of Kelly's film roles played up the (then) novelty of an African-American martial arts master. After his appearance in 1982's One Down, Two to Go, Kelly appeared in movies only rarely. The role in "Enter the Dragon" was originally supposed to go to actor Rockne Tarkington, who unexpectedly dropped out days before shooting in Hong Kong. Producer Fred Weintraub heard about Jim Kelly's karate studion in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles, and went there to see him and was immediately impressed; the rest is history. Kelly plays as Williams, an inner-city karate instructor picked-on by white cops, made a good impression upon directors and African-American males with his cool-cat demeanor and large afro. He earned a three picture contract with Warner Brothers and made Three the Hard Way with Jim Brown and Fred Williamson, and Hot Potato, a movie in which he rescues a diplomat's daughter from the jungles of Thailand. After his contract ended with Warner Brothers, he starred in low-budget films Black Samurai, Death Dimension, and Tattoo Connection. He is still a popular draw as he appeared at Comic-Con International 2009 in San Diego.

Recent activities

He was a professional tennis player on the USTA Senior Men's Circuit.

In 2004, he appeared with NBA star LeBron James in the Nike commercial "Chamber of Fear", a spoof of Game of Death.

Kelly resides in Southern California and works as a professional tennis coach.

Filmography

Film

Television

External links

References

DVD set is devoted to '70s martial arts star Jim Kelly, by Steve Ryfle, Los Angeles Times, January 10, 2010.








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