Lloyd Bridges, 1913-1998

Remembering Lloyd Bridges

Lloyd Bridges was that rare Hollywood star more famous for being himself than for any of the roles he played. With a sandpapery voice and eyebrows the size of tumbleweeds, the California-born actor squinted his way through a 60-year career that took him from ’40s B movies to Blown Away, from Blondie Goes to College to Battlestar Galactica, from Sea Hunt to Seinfeld. With nearly 150 movie and TV parts to his credit, he was one of the most prolific performers around.

It didn’t seem to matter that Bridges’ most successful role — as an ex-Navy frogman on the 1957-61 TV series Sea Hunt — became the butt of jokes by Johnny Carson for years. Or that his most memorable movie lines were delivered as a boozing air-traffic controller in the Airplane! spoof-athons (”Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue!”). When Bridges, 85, died March 10 at his Los Angeles home, his lovably salty persona seemed to outweigh the cop, cowboy, and jilted suitor parts he played over the years.

That’s not to say Bridges didn’t have some memorable screen moments. In the 1952 classic High Noon, he shone as the calculating deputy who refuses to aid Gary Cooper. And he was potent as one of Katharine Hepburn’s brothers in 1956’s The Rainmaker. But it was Bridges’ charming brusqueness, which he frequently tweaked later in his career, that audiences came to relish most.

Bridges was also admired for being the patriarch of the most appealing and shockingly normal acting clan in Hollywood. Sons Beau, 56, and Jeff, 48, acted on Sea Hunt when they were boys, and the three continued working together — Lloyd completed the upcoming film Meeting Daddy with Beau right before he died. Bridges will also be seen in this summer’s Jane Austen’s Mafia, directed by Jim Abrahams. Abrahams, who also directed Bridges in Hot Shots! Part Deux, will remember the actor’s energy. ”He insisted on doing a stunt on his 80th birthday,” recalls Abrahams. ”He had to drop down 20 feet on a rope in front of a fireplace. He simply insisted on doing it, and he felt good about it, too!” — (additional reporting by Judy Brennan)