Few directors experienced the career highs and lows like filmmaker John G. Avildsen, whose résumé included two of the most popular films ever made - 1976's "Rocky" and 1984's "The Karate Kid" - as well as scores of misfires and abject failures. A former advertising manager, he entered film through the independent route in the early 1960s before making his first big splash with 1970's controversial "Joe." Subsequent efforts stumbled until he took on "Save the Tiger" (1973), a bleak look at the collapse of a businessman's life and self-esteem. Its Oscar win for star Jack Lemmon brought Avildsen to the attention of Hollywood, but it took the low-budget boxing drama "Rocky" to earn him an Oscar and industry respect. Unfortunately, he found it difficult to find worthy material in its wake; his few subsequent hits were cast in the mold of the Sylvester Stallone film, like "Karate Kid." However, the enduring popularity of both movies preserved Avildsen in the history books as a director with a unique skill for inspiring audiences through the triumphs of his underdog characters.