Although Tom Laughlin was one of the most financially successful independent filmmakers of his era, his low-budget, drive-in morality tales did not endear him to critics, and his eccentric behavior turned him into even more of a fringe character. Born in Minneapolis in 1931, Laughlin moved to Hollywood in the 1950s and became a fixture in B-movies and live teleplays. He occasionally landed small roles in higher-profile fare like Vincente Minnelli's film of the Broadway hit "Tea and Sympathy" (1956), the lavish musical "South Pacific" (1958) and the teen hit "Gidget" (1959). Laughlin began writing and directing his own films with the independent dramas "The Proper Time" (1962) and "Like Father, Like Son" (1965), but garnered his first success with the action drama "The Born Losers" (1967), in which he played a part-American Indian pacifist and karate expert named Billy Jack. The sequel "Billy Jack" (1971), which he wrote, directed, produced and starred in, cost $800,000 to produce and grossed approximately $65 million, with a sequel, "The Trial of Billy Jack" (1974), earning over $80 million. Laughlin attempted to build a fully-fledged media empire on the strength of the "Billy Jack" phenomenon, but by the time "Billy Jack Goes To Washington" (1977) was released, his audience had moved on. Laughlin attempted to revive the series throughout the rest of his life, going so far as to begin shooting a fifth Billy Jack film in 1985, which he had to abandon after suffering an injury while performing a stunt. Laughlin also launched three quixotic bids for President of the United States, running as a Democrat in 1992 and 2008 and a Republican in 2004. In his later years, he wrote several self-published books on psychology and health. Laughlin died on December 12, 2013, survived by his wife of 59 years, actress Delores Taylor.