|Jim Kelly as Williams in Enter The Dragon, with Kein Shih as Mr Han.|
"Man, you come straight out of a comic book!" That is Jim Kelly's famous line from the Bruce Lee film, Enter The Dragon I sought him out in the course of making my documentary film,The Search for Count Dante. It was that line he said to Mr Han, who was played by Kien Shih. I was curious about whether the line had anything to do with the Count Dante comic book adverts, I was curious if it was part of thescript or if he had ad-libbed it. I follow crazy leads and yes, it would have been great to have him as an interview in my film.
I first saw Jim Kelly in the film MELINDA with Calvin Lockhart in 1972. This was the year Five Fingers of Death hit the screens. MELINDA was a very impressive debut for Kelly. Melinda was directed by former sound man Hugh Robertson, one of the first people I ever met in LA during my 1971 debacle of a trip at 17 to sell a screenplay. Hugh was nominated for an Academy Award in 1969 for Best Editing on Midnight Cowboy. Hugh had also worked on my surrealistic film noir favorite, Mickey One and Shirley' Clarke's Cool World. Back then I remembered everything, not so much now. He was impressed I knew either of those films.
I think it was my source, Bob Wall who got me Kelly's phone number. Bob Wall, played the heavy in Enter The Dragon. You remember him, the guy with the scarface that Bruce serves up his special dish to? Well Bob runs WorldBlackBelt.com and knows everybody and is a wonderful human being. He has been very helpful like that.
Jim and I talked on the phone before I went to Comic Con in 2009. I asked him for an interview. I was told he had been in Chicago. He worked for Delta Airlines. He worked the ticket counter at Merchandise Mart. He came here to study martial arts he said, but he never met Count Dante. He started studying martial arts when he was in college with Parker Shelton, he then quit school to come to Chicago to really focus on martial arts. He told me
he studied with some people on Mannheim Rd near O'Hare Airport.
|Bob "Scarface" Wall with Bruce Lee|
He was a bit guarded. He told me he would not be very useful to me as an interview. I let it go at that. But he called me back about 20 minutes later, we talked almost an hour about martial arts in general but not very much more about himself in Chicago studying martial arts. We met up at Comic Con when I got there, still no interview. He was sharing a booth with the Eric "Lionman" O'Neal of the Lionman Foundation. I never did figure out why he ran so hot and cold at the subject of Chicago and his time here.
|The role Bruce Lee was supposed to get, |
Kwai Chang Caine, in the
KUNG FU TV series.
I did not get to know Jim well in those brief phone calls and the two times I tried to coax him into an interview at Comic Con, but I appreciated his honesty. There are a of bullshitters out here.
|Nganga Tolo-naa aka|
Ray "The Chicago Tiger" C00per
In the end we were all laughing. All macho bravado. Mr O'neal is too young to know who those names were, but Kelly did.
It is a shame he did not want to sit down with me and recount his history in martial arts. It would have been invaluable.
Good journey Mr Kelly.