Delores Taylor, who starred with her husband, Tom Laughlin, in his productions of the “Billy Jack” films, died March 23 at a retirement home for actors near Los Angeles. She was 85.
The cause was complications from dementia, said her daughter Teresa Laughlin.
Ms. Taylor was born in Winner, S.D., on Sept. 27, 1932. She grew up near the Rosebud Indian Reservation, an experience that she drew from when creating the namesake character of the “Billy Jack” films in the 1970s.
Ms. Taylor starred in three of the four “Billy Jack” films, in which she played a teacher whose progressive school is defended by Billy Jack — a half-white, half-Native American Vietnam veteran who had come to hate war. The films became counterculture favorites.
Billy Jack was first seen in the 1967 biker movie “The Born Losers,” and the character became widely known after “Billy Jack,” the second of four films Laughlin made about him (only three made it to theaters).
“Billy Jack” was released in 1971 after a long struggle by Laughlin to gain control of the low-budget, self-financed movie, a model for guerrilla filmmaking. The film became a surprise hit and the theme song, “One Tin Soldier,” was a hit single for the rock group Coven.
Her daughter said Ms. Taylor was a “reluctant” celebrity and preferred her roles of wife, mother and grandmother. “She loved performing but didn’t enjoy the Hollywood trappings,” Teresa Laughlin said.
She was married to Tom Laughlin from 1954 until his death in 2013. Survivors include three children, two sisters and five grandchildren.