Lloyd Vernet Bridges, Jr. (January 15, 1913 – March 10, 1998) was an American actor who starred in a number of television series and appeared in more than 150 feature films. Bridges is best known for his role of Mike Nelson in Sea Hunt, the most popular syndicated American TV series in 1958. He was the father of actors Beau Bridges and Jeff Bridges.
Bridges was born in San Leandro, California, the son of Harriet Evelyn (née Brown) (1893-1950) and Lloyd Vernet Bridges, Sr. (1887-1962), who was involved in the California hotel business and once owned a movie theater. His parents were both natives of Kansas, and had English ancestry. Bridges graduated from Petaluma High School in 1931. He studied political science at UCLA, where he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilonfraternity.
Bridges made his Broadway debut in 1939 in a production of Shakespeare's Othello. In 1941, he joined the stock company at Columbia Pictures, where he played small roles in features and short subjects. (In Here Comes Mr. Jordan Bridges is the pilot of the plane in the "heaven" scene.) He left Columbia to enlist in the U.S. Coast Guard. Following World War II, he returned to film acting. He was blacklisted briefly in the 1950s after he admitted to the House Un-American Activities Committee that he had once been a member of the Actors' Lab, a group with links to the Communist Party. He resumed working after being cleared by the FBI, finding his greatest success in television.
Bridges garnered press in 1956 for his emotional performance on live anthology program The Alcoa Hour, in an episode titled "Tragedy in a Temporary Town", directed by Sidney Lumet. During the performance, Bridges inadvertently used profanity while ad-libbing. Although the slip of the tongue generated hundreds of complaints, the episode won a Robert E. Sherwood Television Award, with Bridges's slip being defended even by some members of the clergy. Bridges received an Emmy Award nomination for the role.
Bridges at the
61st Academy Awards
Bridges gained wide recognition as Mike Nelson, the main character in the television series Sea Hunt, created by Ivan Tors, which ran in syndication from 1958–1961. Following that success, he starred in the eponymous CBS anthology series The Lloyd Bridges Show (1962–1963, produced by Aaron Spelling), which included appearances by his sons Beauand Jeff. Producer Gene Roddenberry, who worked with Bridges on "Sea Hunt", reportedly offered Bridges the role ofCaptain Kirk on Star Trek before the part went to William Shatner. In addition, he was a regular cast member in the Rod Serling western series The Loner (which lasted one season from 1965 to 1966; Bridges pulled out in disagreement over the violent content of the show), and in the two NBC failures San Francisco International Airport (1970/71) and a Police Story spin-off Joe Forrester (1975–76). Later, he appeared in Paper Dolls (1984) and Capital News (1990), both for ABC, and again with Harts of the West (1993–1994), this time for CBS, a comedy/western set on a dude ranch in Nevada. Son Beau Bridges co-starred, along with Harley Jane Kozakas Beau's wife, Alison Hart, and Sean Murray as the oldest Hart son, Zane Grey Hart.
Bridges played significant roles in several mini-series, including Roots, How the West Was Won, The Blue and the Gray and Battlestar Galactica. For more than forty-five years, Bridges was a frequent guest star on television series. He received a second Emmy Award nomination four decades after the first when he was nominated in 1998 for his role as Izzy Mandelbaum on Seinfeld.
He started as a contract performer for Columbia Pictures, appearing in classics such as A Walk In The Sun, High Noon, Little Big Horn, and Sahara. By the end of his career, he had re-invented himself and demonstrated a gifted comedic talent in such parody films as Airplane!, Hot Shots!, and Jane Austen's Mafia!. He acted in the role of "The President" in the movie Hot Shots! Part Deux.
Bridges and his son
at the 44th Emmy Awards, August 30, 1992
Bridges met his wife, Dorothy Bridges (née Simpson) in his fraternity; they married in 1938 in New York City. They had four children: the actors Beau Bridges (born in 1941) and Jeff Bridges (born in 1949); a daughter, Lucinda Louise Bridges (born in October 1953); and another son, Garrett Myles Bridges, who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome on August 3, 1948. The actor Jordan Bridges is Beau's son and Lloyd's grandson.
A world federalist, Bridges once said, "The devastation caused by war and the pollution of our environment knows no boundaries. Only an effective world government could provide sufficient law and have the power to control these destructive forces." He was also involved in several organizations, including the American Oceans Campaign and Heal the Bay, a Los Angeles-based group.
On March 10, 1998, Bridges died of natural causes at the age of 85. He was married to Dorothy Bridges (née Simpson; 1915–2009), from 1938 until his death.
An episode ("The Burning") in the final Seinfeld season (1998) was dedicated to the memory of Lloyd Bridges. He had played the character of Izzy Mandelbaum in the episodes "The English Patient" in 1997 and "The Blood" in 1998.
Bridges's last film, Jane Austen's Mafia!, was dedicated to him.