American film and television actor Lloyd Bridges was best known for the role of underwater investigator Mike Nelson in the TV series ‘Sea Hunt.’
Born on January 15, 1913, in San Leandro, California, Lloyd Bridges began his film career in B movies during the 1940s. After being blacklisted for Communist ties, he landed his signature role as Mike Nelson in the late-1950s TV series Sea Hunt. Bridges later became known for his comedic roles in such spoofs as Airplane! (1980), and worked regularly until his death on March 10, 1998, in Los Angeles.
Early Years and Stage Career
Lloyd Vernet Bridges Jr. was born on January 15, 1913, in San Leandro, California. Lloyd Sr., who managed a nickelodeon in San Francisco, encouraged his son to study law, but Bridges turned to acting after legal classes at UCLA failed to hold his interest.
FUN FACT: Lloyd Bridges was declared the winner of a fat baby contest in 1914 by President William Howard Taft.
After graduation, Bridges moved east to pursue a career in theater. He directed and starred as Iago in a modern-dress production of Shakespeare's Othello on Broadway, and taught drama with his wife, Dorothy, at the Cherry Lawn School in Darien, Connecticut.
Successes and Troubles
Bridges was spotted by a Columbia Pictures producer in 1941 and signed a contract with the studio. He toiled in B movies for the majority of the decade, occasionally appearing in bigger features such as the 1943 Humphrey Bogart vehicle Sahara (1943). In one of his celebrated early roles, he played the bitter Deputy Marshall Harvey Pell alongside Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly in the 1952 western High Noon.
Bridges's career was interrupted in the 1950s due to his earlier association with the Actors' Lab, a radical theater group that had ties to the Communist Party. He was blacklisted by the FBI during Hollywood's infamous "Red Purge," but eventually had his name cleared.
Underwater Adventure to Slapstick
Beginning in 1958, Bridges starred as underwater investigator Mike Nelson in the adventure series Sea Hunt. With his athletic body and craggy features, he was a natural fit for the role, and he worried about being typecast after the show's four-year run ended.
After Sea Hunt, Bridges starred in the short-lived television programs The Lloyd Bridges Show and The Loner, reverting to type for the underwater adventure movie Daring Game (1968). The veteran actor mainly found himself in unheralded TV movies in subsequent years, but he became known to a new generation of fans for his hilarious characters in the spoofs Airplane! (1980) and Hot Shots! (1988).
Late Career, Personal Life and Death
A family man who remained married to his wife for 60 years, Bridges fathered two sons, Beau and Jeff, who went on to successful acting careers themselves after early appearances in Sea Hunt. Bridges had a small part alongside Jeff in the 1988 film Tucker: The Man and His Dream, and enjoyed a recurring role on Beau's television series Harts of the West, which ran from 1993-94.
In addition to acting, Bridges was invested in a variety of social causes. He served as head of a mission for the humanitarian organization CARE in 1988, and delivered several public-service announcements about the importance of protecting the environment.
Bridges underwent open-heart surgery to clear blockages in his coronary arteries in June 1992, but he was back to work within a few weeks. After two memorable appearances as the hyper-competitive Izzy Mandelbaum on the popular sitcom Seinfeld in 1997, the 85-year-old actor died of natural causes at his Los Angeles home on March 10, 1998.