By Ray Bennett
LONDON – ‘Oh, you shouldn’t bother with Lloyd,’ said Dorothy Bridges, the actor’s wife of nearly forty years. ‘You need to talk to my boys, Jeff and Beau.’
It was 1976 and she had every reason to be proud of her sons as both had made a big impression in movies and went on to long careers. Lloyd Bridges, who was born on this day in 1913, was no slouch, however, with more than 210 screen credits over his lifetime.
Sadly, Beau and Jeff were not on hand with their parents when I met them. With a group of actors including Charlton Heston, Chad Everett, Chris Connelly, Rob Reiner and Desi Arnaz Jr., Bridges was playing in Detroit in a charity tennis tournament sponsored by Hiram Walker.
The Canadian liquor firm’s Lauder’s Scotch brand was a sponsor of the tournament and hosted a lunch at their expansive facility across the river in Windsor, Ontario. Afterwards, some of the group toured the place where Lloyd Bridges was the biggest hit with the women in the bottling plant.
Like many character actors, he was relazed about his relative fame and was approachable and charming. He was known then for TV series including ‘Sea Hunt’ (left), ‘The Lloyd Bridges Show’ and cop drama ‘Joe Forrester’ plus many screen roles in films such as ‘High Noon’.
Charlton Heston was busy complaining about the Soviet flag he saw flying on one of the flagpoles overlooking the Detroit River. The Oscar-winning star let it be known loudly that he did not want anything to do with some damned communist flag. The Hiram Walker people reminded Heston gently but firmly that he was in Canada and Canada did business with the Russians. Heston growled, ‘I hope the stars and stripes are flying too’ and he was assured that Old Glory was flying elsewhere on the grounds.
I strolled along with Rob Reiner (then of ‘All in the Family’ before his directing career) and Desi Arnaz Jr. as they chatted with staff and signed autographs. I was taken by surprise when a couple of girls in the bottling plant asked for my autograph.
‘No, no,’ I said. ‘I’m just with the paper.’ Reiner and Arnaz Jr. shook their heads. ‘We know,’ the girls said, ‘and we’d still like your autograph.’ I signed and Reiner, with a disgusted expression on his face, said to Arnaz Jr. ‘Makes you wonder what the fuck we’re doing here.’ When I met him many years later, he’d clearly grown out of his youthful boorishness.
Bridges, then 63, talked to everyone and later, despite his wife’s admonition, he sat down with me. He told me that he’d had 48-hours to learn how to scuba dive before he started playing a former navy diver in‘Sea Hunt’. His favourite for TV, he said, was ‘The Lloyd Bridges Show’, an anthology series that ran for one season in the early Sixties. His favourite film was the classic Gary Cooper western ‘High Noon’ (above left). His TV show ‘Joe Forrester’ had just been cancelled but he said he wasn’t worried because he could pick and choose. That’s why he took the role of the goofy air traffic controller in the ‘Airplane!’ movies (left with Robert Stack) and manic physical fitness fanatic Izzy Mandelbaum on ‘Seinfeld’, which is what most people know him from today.
Bridges died aged 85 in 1998.