|Subject: Archive: Lloyd Bridges, Mar. 10, 1998
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Date Posted: Saturday, March 10, 05:47:12pm
Lloyd Bridges Is Dead at 85; Actor Starred in 'Sea Hunt'
By RICHARD SEVERO
MARCH 11, 1998
Lloyd Bridges, whose acting career spanned more than five decades and whose sons, Jeff and Beau, also became well-known actors, died yesterday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 85.
Although he had suffered from minor illnesses in the last year, he continued to work and had recently completed two feature films, ''Jane Austen's Mafia'' and ''Meeting Daddy,'' the latter with his son Beau.
In June of 1992, Mr. Bridges underwent open-heart surgery to clear blockages in his coronary arteries. Within six weeks, he exhibited his customary robustness, said he had never felt better and went to work on another film.
Tall, blond and craggy-faced, Mr. Bridges played a wide variety of roles in everything from summer stock to Hollywood films to television series. He achieved wide renown as Mike Nelson, the former Navy frogman who was the mainstay of ''Sea Hunt,'' an underwater adventure series that ran for 156 episodes from 1957 to 1961.
Late-night comedians, especially Johnny Carson, used to tell jokes derived from the frequency with which Mr. Bridges, always fit and trim and looking forever like a slightly aging quarterback, was seen daring the fates underwater or emerging from the sea unscathed despite sharks, shipwrecks and assorted malefactors. TV Guide described the show as ''an epic so watery that Lloyd Bridges's colleagues tell him they have to drain their TV sets after watching his show.''
The show did not end for lack of viewer interest, but because Mr. Bridges felt hemmed in by the format, which his producers refused to change. ''They wanted more cops and robbers,'' Mr. Bridges said. ''I wanted to look at the real villains of the sea, like the oil companies.''
Before ''Sea Hunt,'' Mr. Bridges was a familiar face, not just in forgettable formula Hollywood films like ''Rocketship XM'' (1950), but also in memorable television dramas like ''Rise Up and Walk'' (1952), which dealt with the ordeal of polio.
Although he appeared in many undistinguished Hollywood films, a few of his movies were well received by the critics, and his work was praised. Among these were ''A Walk in the Sun'' (1945), about a World War II skirmish in Italy, and ''High Noon,'' the 1952 Western classic, in which he played Gary Cooper's brash young deputy, withholding his aid from Cooper because of anger at not having been given the sheriff's job.
Lloyd Vernet Bridges Jr. was born on Jan. 13, 1913, in San Leandro, Calif., the son of Lloyd and Harriet Brown Bridges. His father managed a nickelodeon in San Francisco, and the family tree included jugglers and entertainers. But the elder Bridges did not want his son to become an actor and encouraged him study law.
''I took legal courses at U.C.L.A. and was fully prepared to go all the way until I took constitutional law,'' Mr. Bridges later recalled. ''And that did me in. I decided maybe law wasn't for me.''
Acting, it seemed, was for him. After earning his bachelor's degree, Mr. Bridges went east, worked in stock companies and, at one point in the late 1930's, directed a modern-dress version of ''Othello'' in which he played Iago. To earn some money, he and his wife, Dorothy, taught drama at the Cherry Lawn School in Darien, Conn.
But in 1941, a producer for Columbia Pictures saw him act and signed him to a studio contract. What followed were many supporting roles in films in which it would have been hard for any actor to shine.
Only occasionally did pictures come along that attracted any attention. Among them were ''Sahara'' (1943), in which he was part of a small cast supporting Humphrey Bogart; ''Canyon Passage'' (1946), a modest but well-received Western that was mostly a vehicle for Dana Andrews, and ''Plymouth Adventure'' (1952), a story of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts, which was dominated by Spencer Tracy.
Other movies in which he starred or appeared during this period included ''Colt 45'' (1950), ''Little Big Horn'' (1951), ''The Tall Texan'' (1953) and ''The Rainmaker'' (1956).
His contribution to the success of the acclaimed ''Home of the Brave'' (1949) was more conspicuous, as were his roles in ''High Noon'' and ''A Walk in the Sun.'' But when television started offering him work, he quickly accepted it, leaving his ambition to do serious acting on the big screen largely unfulfilled. He also turned to producing television shows.
In the late 1950's, he said in an interview that he thought he could play Hamlet better than Richard Burton and Othello better than Jose Ferrer, but by then he thought that he was typecast by the success of ''Sea Hunt.''
''The public seemed to think of me as being underwater,'' he said. ''It's not what I think an actor should do, but maybe I should accept it.'' On another occasion, growing tired of ''Sea Hunt,'' he told an interviewer, ''If we could just get some way to do 'Hamlet' underwater, I'd be happy.''
His association with television continued for the rest of his career. And even though he had left the part of Mike Nelson behind him, it stalked him. In 1969, for example, he made a television movie called ''Daring Game,'' an underwater adventure.
Among the other television series in which he starred were ''The Lloyd Bridges Show'' in the early 1960's, in which he played a journalist; ''The Loner,'' also in the 1960's, a short-lived western written by Rod Serling; ''Joe Forrester'' (1976), in which he played a police officer, and ''Paper Dolls'' (1984), in which he played the head of a conglomerate.
Mr. Bridges displayed a deft comedic touch in the 1980 parody ''Airplane,'' in which he played an incompetent plane dispatcher. In 1988 he received praise for his appearance in the film ''Tucker: The Man and His Dream,'' in which his son, Jeff, played Preston Tucker, the beleaguered postwar automobile designer. Mr. Bridges played a senator trying to force Tucker out of business.
In addition to his acting, Mr. Bridges maintained a strong interest in a variety of social causes, especially world hunger. In 1988, he was head of a mission for CARE, investigating hunger in sub-Saharan Africa. He also appeared as a television spokesman for People for the American Way, a liberal group founded by the television producer Norman Lear. And he made many public-service announcements about the need to protect the environment.
Mr. Bridges and his wife, the former Dorothy Simpson, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1989. Besides his wife, Mr. Bridges leaves his two sons; a daughter, Cindy, and 11 grandchildren.
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