How 'Sea Hunt' Star Lloyd Bridges Got Funny In 'Airplane!'

By | March 1, 2019

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Lloyd Bridges in his 'Sea Hunt' days, and the role that reignited his career, Steve McCroskey in 'Airplane!.' Source: IMDB

A generation got to know Lloyd Bridges from Airplane!, the 1980 comedy film in which he played Steve McCroskey. But the generation before that already knew him from Sea Hunt and numerous dramatic films in which he was a leading man. Bridges (like his Airplane! co-star Leslie Nielsen) pulled off a remarkable transformation late in his career, becoming a mainstay of '80s screwball comedies just as he had been a reliable presence in military dramas and westerns in the '60s and '70s. 

Over the decades, the medium of TV and movies has changed, and the best actors have been able to change with it. When Lloyd Bridges co-starred in the ultra-serious 1943 WWII drama Sahara alongside Humphrey Bogart, he could hardly have envisioned a movie like Airplane! or Hot Shots!, in which every line is a gag. Through his career in films, TV movies and TV shows such as Sea Hunt (1958-61), The Lloyd Bridges Show (1962-63), The Loner (1965-66), and Joe Forrester (1975-76), Bridges was a mastering "serious" acting chops he would later subvert in popular parody movies.

In recent decades, brothers Jeff and Beau Bridges have achieved stardom, as has Beau’s son, Jordan Bridges. In fact, their success may have overshadowed the enormous acting career of the Bridges’ family patriarch, Lloyd Bridges, who passed away in 1998. During his show business career, which spanned from the late 1950s through the late 1990s, Lloyd Bridges, the father of Jeff and Beau, appeared in more than 150 movies and numerous television shows. As a dad and an actor, Lloyd Bridges was dedicated and talented. Let’s look at the life and career of the head of the Bridges acting dynasty. 

Bridges Was A Hollywood Leading Man

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Lloyd Bridges in the 1950s. Source: (

Lloyd Bridges' career as a professional actor goes back to at least 1937, when he made his Broadway debut in the cast of Othello. He became a contract performer for Columbia Pictures, playing small parts in anything the studio gave him. He described the early '40s as "tough sledding," remarking that he would be in two or three pictures a week, and even did a Three Stooges short. But there were great successes in supporting roles in memorable films -- war movies Sahara and A Walk In The Sun (1945), and westerns Little Big Horn (1951) and High Noon (1952). Bridges put his career on hold for a time during World War II to serve in the Coast Guard, an experience that would later lend authority to his Sea Hunt character.

In the early 1950s, Lloyd Bridges had lead roles in numerous films, though you're not likely to run across them as you channel-surf today. They included including Rocketship X-M (1950), Three Steps North (1951), The Tall Texan (1953), The Limping Man (1953), and The Deadly Game (1954)