Birthday: September 27, 1932
Died At Age: 85
Sun Sign: Libra
Also Known As: Delores Judith Taylor
Born Country: United States
Born in: Winner, South Dakota, United States
Famous as: Actress
Spouse/Ex-: Tom Laughlin (m. 1954–2013)
father: Harry Taylor
mother: Ann Nelson
children: Christina Laughlin, Frank Laughlin, Teresa Kelly
Died on: March 23, 2018
U.S. State: South Dakota
Diseases & Disabilities: Dementia
education: University of South Dakota
Who was Delores Taylor?
Delores Taylor was an American actress, producer, writer, and an equal rights activist for Native Americans. She gained fame for her portrayal of Jean Roberts in the ‘Billy Jack’ film series. She was considered to be one of the finest actresses of her generation who never starred in movies for major studios. This was largely due to her reluctance to step into fame and glory. Added to that, she didn’t want to act for anyone but her actor-director husband. In spite of that, Delores Taylor delivered critically acclaimed performances in ‘Billy Jack’, ‘The Trial of Billy Jack’, and ‘Billy Jack Goes to Washington’. Added to that, she executive-produced movies like ‘The Born Losers’ and ‘The Master Gunfighter’ etc. Perhaps what makes her stand apart is her lifelong dedication to expose the exploitation of Native Americans in USA. Highlighting controversial themes like child abuse, religious persecution, and racism, she has cemented her legacy as an independent filmmaker.
Gifted with a soulful voice, Delores Taylor often participated in singing contests as a child. She initially worked as a graphic artist, but got into scriptwriting, producing, and acting after meeting her husband Tom Laughlin. She even worked backstage in the costume department for the movie ‘Like Father, Like Son’ (1961). She was first seen as an actress in an uncredited role in ‘The Born Losers’ (1967). She was also an executive producer for the movie. It introduced the character of half-Native American Green Beret Vietnam veteran, Billy Jack. The character was played by her husband Tom. The movie was a hit, making more than US $36 million.
It also helped Laughlin garner required finances for his directorial venture, ‘Billy Jack’ (1971). Delores Taylor wrote the screenplay under the name Tessa Christina. She also portrayed Jean Roberts, a liberal school director. It was her first major role as a leading character. Tom reprised his role of Billy Jack. The movies ran into several filming and distributing difficulties. Laughlin finally distributed the movie himself. On its release in 1971, it went on to become one of the most successful independent movies of all time. It has since made more than US $50 million in profits against a budget of US $360k. The role of Jean Roberts also earned Delores her ‘Golden Globe’ (1972) nomination in the ‘Most Promising Newcomer – Female’ category.
Delores Taylor reprised her role of Jean Roberts in ‘The Trial of Billy Jack’ (1974). The movie was a commercial success making more than US $89 million. However, the length and the themes of the movie received negative reviews from critics. In 1975, Delores worked as an executive producer for ‘The Master Gunfighter’. Taylor then went on to play Jean Roberts again in ‘Billy Jack Goes to Washington’ (1977). She was also the executive producer of the film. The movie was a flop. It was followed by ‘The Return of Billy Jack’, filmed in 1985 and 1986. The movie remained unfinished and was never released due to lack of funding. It was also her last role in the movie industry.
You May Like
Continue Reading Below
As An Activist
As a child, Delores grew up near the ‘American Indian reservation’ in South Dakota. She witnessed the discrimination against and exploitation of the ‘Sioux’ first hand. When Delores Taylor was in third grade, she noticed that the Native American children were being barred from her public school. She decided to stay out of school in protest and her father spoke to the school authorities who relented. However, she was punished by being forced to repeat the third grade.
Later as a young adult, Taylor saw White Americans cut open flour bags provided for the needy ‘Sioux’ by the state. These racist Americans would then pour the flour on the Sioux declaring “Now you’re white”. These early exposures to discrimination set the tone for her entire life as a producer, actor, writer, and activist. She also made unsuccessful presidential nomination bids in several states in 1992, 2004, and 2008.
Family & Personal Life
Delores Judith Taylor was born in Winner, South Dakota, USA, on September 27, 1932. Her father, Harry Taylor, was the local postmaster general. Her mother was Ann Nelson. She graduated from the University of South Dakota. In 1953, while studying at the university, she met Tom Laughlin. They got married on October 15, 1954, and remained lovingly married until his death on December 12, 2013. They have three children, son Frank, and daughters, Teresa Kelly and Christina Laughlin.
Delores passed away on March 23, 2018, in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, after suffering from Dementia.