Variety a hallmark of Lloyd Bridges' career
Actor dies at 85
March 11, 1998
Web posted at: 1:35 p.m. EST (1835 GMT)
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- An actress who once starred with Lloyd
Bridges described him Wednesday as a "gentleman," and said he
will be missed. Bridges -- the patriarch of a three-
generation family of actors -- died of natural causes Tuesday
at his home.
His wife Dorothy, son Beau and daughter Cindy were at his
side. The 85-year-old actor had suffered from a heart
condition since 1992.
"We all feel really blessed to have been with my dad for
these 85 years," Beau Bridges said outside the home. "If dad
could speak to those people who are thinking about him right
now, he would want you to all think about family."
Although Bridges was perhaps best known to audiences as Mike
Nelson in the 1950s TV series "Sea Hunt," the California
native was trained as a classical actor, making his Broadway
debut in the 1930s in a modern-dress version of "Othello."
Career halted briefly
A candle is placed near Bridges' Hollywood star
From Broadway, he went to Hollywood, where -- starting in
1941 -- he became a fixture in western films. Later, he did
science fiction and action movies. The craggy-faced Bridges
was known as one of Hollywood's hardest-working actors: He
did dozens of films during his career.
One of his best-known performances was as Gary Cooper's
vengeful deputy in "High Noon" in 1952. Other important
roles followed, until he was caught in Hollywood's Red purge.
During the 1940s, Bridges briefly was a member of the Actors'
Lab, a radical theater group with ties to the Communist Party
that staged plays in Hollywood. At the height of McCarthyism
in the 1950s, Bridges' name was added to the show business
His name was later cleared after he cooperated as a witness
before the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was
probing communist influence in the film industry.
'Sea Hunt' nearly sunk
Bridges in "Sea Hunt"
In 1957, Bridges took the role that changed his career: Mike
Nelson, a Navy frogman-turned-undersea investigator in "Sea
Hunt." The networks turned down the series as being too
limited in scope, so producer Ivan Tors offered it in
syndication a year later. Soon it drew bigger ratings than
the network shows and lasted for 156 episodes.
Bridges also starred in "The Lloyd Bridges Show" and in the
miniseries "The Blue and the Gray," "Roots," "East of Eden"
and "George Washington."
When possible, he worked with his family. Sons Beau and Jeff
started acting as youngsters on "Sea Hunt" and became stars
in their own right. In 1988, Bridges appeared with Jeff in
"Tucker: The Man and His Dream," and had a recurring role on
Beau's 1993 television series "Harts of the West."
And he appeared with grandson Dylan Bridges in a 1995 episode
of "The Outer Limits."
A knack for comedy
It was late in life when he discovered his knack for comedy,
playing a drug-addled air traffic controller in "Airplane!"
He later appeared in its sequel and in the military spoofs
"Hot Shots!" and "Hot Shots! Part Deux," and had a recurring
spot as the zany Izzy Mandelbaum in "Seinfeld."
Actress Shirley Jones, a longtime friend who played Bridges'
girlfriend in the 1969 made-for-TV movie "Silent Night,
Lonely Night," said he stood out for his kindness and
integrity, as well as his acting.
"He could combine comedy and drama and play a villain. He
was a wonderful villain and a western star," she said. "He
was such a fine actor, a giving actor and a gentleman -- and
a lot of actors aren't. I miss him dearly."
Strong sense of family
Bridges and his wife Dorothy
But Bridges credited his wife of more than 55 years, actress
Dorothy Simpson, with helping him build one of Hollywood's
In a 1994 interview with the Los Angeles Times, he said, "My
career, what there is, didn't happen that easy. Thought I'd
never get in the door. But I married someone who had faith
in me. It helped. That's where a good marriage comes in."
He also said that the best lesson he could teach his sons was
that if you're doing something you really love, you can do it
"I really exist when I'm working as an actor, and next to my
family, that's my greatest joy in life," he said.
The family planned a private service. In lieu of flowers,
they asked that people donate to Bridges' favorite projects:
the American Oceans Campaign, Whales Alive, Heal the Bay and
the Earth Trust.
Correspondent Cynthia Tornquist and Reuters contributed to
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