Tom Laughlin is not as well known as Peter O’Toole, certainly, but Laughlin made his own mark on the movie business. He died today at 82.
Laughlin was probably best known for creating the character of Billy Jack, a pacifist who unleashed his deadly martial arts moves when he was pushed … too … far.
Laughlin played Billy Jack in four movies: “The Born Losers” in 1967, “Billy Jack” in 1971, “The Trial of Billy Jack” in 1974 and “Billy Jack Goes to Washington” in 1977. He was ultra-recognizable with his close-cropped hair and blue jean jacket. He was also the guy usually laying waste to a bunch of heavies.
Although the movies were pretty straightforward vigilante fantasies, Laughlin, who also directed, was credited with pioneering modern-day marketing techniques and releasing some of his films himself when big studios spurned them.
Laughlin ran for president – yes, president – in 1992, 2004 and 2008.
Last year I wrote about going to see “The Born Losers” at the drive-in. Here’s that entry.