IMPACT ON THE FILM INDUSTRY
Tom Laughlin was a unique talent who left a lasting impact on the film industry. It is with his portrayal of the iconic character, Billy Jack. He was one of the few Renaissance men to grace show business.
After a few small roles, Laughlin created the character of Billy Jack. It brought him to life in the 1971 film “Billy Jack”. The character resonated with audiences and became a cultural icon, leading to a series of successful sequels. His wife, Delores Taylor, was his co-star in the films and also had a great story herself.
But Laughlin was much more than just an actor. He was also a filmmaker, writer, and political activist, using his platform to address important social issues. Their story is a great inspiration to any of us who have big dreams.
Join FactsVerse to learn more about the tragic death of Tom Laughlin and his beloved wife…
Tom Laughlin was a multifaceted personality who led a fascinating life beyond his work in the Billy Jack films. He was born on August 10th, 1931, and grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he attended Washington High School. He later went to Marquette University on a football scholarship but was expelled in his sophomore year for fighting.
After leaving college, Laughlin went to Hollywood to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. He landed small roles in films such as “South Pacific” and “Gidget” among several others.” What made him stand out was the fact that he could create a character rather than just play one. While we might take this for granted now, we must remember that this was still rather rare back in the day. But we’ll get to that in a moment.
In 1963, Laughlin starred in the film “The Delinquents”, which he also produced and co-wrote. The film was a moderate success and helped establish him as a creative force in Hollywood. He began getting more roles in films and had the occasional role on television. While work was regular, however, he hadn’t made an impact that he wanted to.
Tom Laughlin’s career took a major turn in the 1970s when he created the character of Billy Jack. However, his work as an actor, writer, and producer extended beyond the iconic character. He wrote and directed the film “The Trial of Billy Jack” in 1974, which dealt with the issue of Native American rights. The film was a commercial success but was panned by critics – but let’s be real, their criticism didn’t have much of an impact, did they?
Tom Laughlin was also a political activist and ran for President of the United States in 1992 and 2004. His campaign focused on issues such as campaign finance reform, tax reform, and the war on drugs. Although he did not win either election, he used his platform to bring attention to these issues. He wasn’t afraid to speak against many of the issues of the day and didn’t hesitate to ruffle feathers.
A man this brave and talented, of course, had to have a great woman by his side.
Delores Taylor was an American actress, writer, and producer – who gained fame for her work in the a series of films that she acted, wrote, and produced along with her husband Tom Laughlin.
She was born in Winner, South Dakota, on September 27th, 1932, and she grew up near an Indian Reservation. Delores Taylor had a passion for acting from a young age and decided that she would eventually pursue it.
Her first love, however, was graphic design and this was the career she followed. However, at university she met Tom Laughlin and the two became a couple – and eventually they’d take their relationship on screen as well.
“THE BORN LOSERS”
In 1967, Taylor and Laughlin co-produced and starred in the film “The Born Losers.” Her role was small but she enjoyed working on the film and working with her husband. Afterward, she took the role of Jean Roberts in the Billy Jack film series. She appeared in all four films, including “Billy Jack,” “The Trial of Billy Jack,” “Billy Jack Goes to Washington,” and “The Return of Billy Jack.”
Taylor’s portrayal of Jean Roberts was groundbreaking for its time. She was a strong, independent woman who stood up for what she believed in and fought for justice alongside Billy Jack. The character was a reflection of Taylor’s own beliefs, and she used her platform to advocate for issues such as Native American rights, peace, and social justice.
Taylor’s work in the entertainment industry was recognized with several awards and nominations, including a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Drama for her role in “Billy Jack.” She was also inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 1996. She also co-produced the film “The Master Gunfighter.”
Taylor retired from acting in the 1980s to focus on her family and philanthropy. Her husband continued to act and appear in show business while she decided to step out of the limelight.
Now let’s look at the most famous series of films that Tom Laughlin and Delores Taylor helped create.
The Billy Jack series of films consists of four movies, all of which were directed by Tom Laughlin, who also starred as the titular character. Tom Laughlin became aware of Native American issues during his youth and his wife, Delores Taylor, grew up near an Indian Reservation and was also aware of their strife.
The series began with “The Born Losers” in 1967, followed by “Billy Jack” in 1971, “The Trial of Billy Jack” in 1974, and “Billy Jack Goes to Washington” in 1977. The films were known for their controversial and politically charged themes, as well as their depiction of Native American culture and social justice issues.
“The Born Losers” introduced the character of Billy Jack, a half-Navajo ex-Green Beret who defends a group of young women from a gang of bikers led by Danny Carmody (Jeremy Slate). Billy Jack is arrested and jailed for his violent actions, but when Danny and his gang are released on bail and continue to harass the town, Billy Jack is forced to take matters into his own hands. The film was a low-budget production that gained a cult following and led to the creation of the Billy Jack character.
MOST FAMOUS FILM
“Billy Jack” is considered the most famous film in the series and this is the film when the character was fully realized. It’s in this film that Delores went to a bigger role – playing his lover Jean – having previously only played a pedestrian in the previous film.
The film centers around the conflict between Billy Jack and the wealthy townspeople of a small Arizona town who are abusing Native American children. Billy Jack becomes a protector of the children and leads a violent confrontation against the corrupt authorities.
“The Trial of Billy Jack” was released in 1974 and was a more ambitious production than the previous films. It dealt with themes of peace, social justice, and Native American rights. The film centers around the trial of Billy Jack, who is charged with the murder of a police officer. The trial becomes a media sensation and leads to a larger examination of the state of the country and its social issues.
The final film in the series, “Billy Jack Goes to Washington,” was released in 1977 and was an adaptation of the classic film film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” – directed by Frank Capra, one of Tom Laughlin’s influences.
AFTER THE DEATH OF A SENATOR
In the film, Billy Jack is appointed to the United States Senate after the death of a senator. He quickly discovers the corruption and greed of the political system and fights against it with his trademark mix of martial arts and non-violence.
The Billy Jack films were known for their use of non-professional actors, naturalistic dialogue, and gritty cinematography. They also dealt with controversial themes such as racism, police brutality, and political corruption. The films were popular with counterculture audiences and inspired a generation of socially conscious filmmakers.
The films were also notable for their portrayal of Native American culture and their advocacy for Native American rights. Billy Jack’s heritage as a half-Navajo character was a significant part of his identity and informed his actions throughout the series.
The films depicted the struggles and injustices faced by Native Americans, such as forced assimilation, land theft, and discrimination. The films also highlighted the richness and beauty of Native American culture and traditions.
The Billy Jack films were not without their controversies, however. The films’ depiction of violence, particularly in “Billy Jack,” was criticized by some for being too excessive and glorifying vigilantism. The films were also accused of inaccurate cultural depictions and simplifying complex social issues.
Despite these criticisms, the Billy Jack series of films remains a significant part of American film history. They were groundbreaking in their depictions of social issues and Native American culture and continue to inspire and provoke audiences today.
THE TRAGIC DEATH OF TOM LAUGHLIN AND HIS BELOVED LIFE
Tom Laughlin died on December 12, 2013, at the age of 82. He had been in poor health for several years prior to his death, suffering from complications related to pneumonia. Laughlin’s daughter confirmed his passing and praised her father as a “true American maverick.”
Delores Taylor, Laughlin’s wife and frequent collaborator, passed away on March 23, 2018, at the age of 85. She had been battling dementia in the years leading up to her death.
They are both survived by their 3 children and a small but powerful library of films as well as a legacy of activism and standing up for what’s right.
END OF ERA
The deaths of Tom Laughlin and Delores Taylor marked the end of an era in American film history. The Billy Jack films, with their themes of social justice and Native American culture, continue to inspire and provoke audiences today. We can only hope we’ll see filmmakers who actually want to discuss these issues.
Are you a fan of Tom Laughlin? What do you think about his incredible life and career and his Billy Jack series?
In fact, here’s what we’d like to hear from you:
Do you think that there’s a contemporary actor today who also has succeeded in creating their own character?
Or do today’s actors not have the creativity to create original actors?