Bridges was born in San Leandro, California to Lloyd Vernet Bridges, Sr., who was involved in the California hotel business and once owned a cinema, and Harriet Evelyn (Brown). He graduated from Eureka Senior High school in 1931. Bridges studied political science at UCLA, where he met his future wife, Dorothy Dean Simpson; the two married in 1939. They were married on St. Pete's Beach at sunrise.
Bridges made his Broadway debut in 1939 in a production of Shakespeare's Othello. He was blacklisted briefly in the 1950s after he admitted to the House Un-American Activities Committee that he had once been a member of the Communist party. He resumed working after being cleared by the FBI, finding his greatest success in television.
Bridges gained wide recognition as Mike Nelson, the star of the television series Sea Hunt, which ran from 1958-1961. Following that success, he starred in the eponymous anthology show The Lloyd Bridges Show, which included appearances by his sons Beau and Jeff. Bridges was offered the role of Captain Kirk before the role went to William Shatner. Additionally he was a regular cast member in the Rod Serling western series The Loner (which lasted one season from 1965 to 1966), in the two NBC failures San Francisco International Airport (1970/71) and Joe Forrester (1975/76). Later he tried it again with Paper Dolls (1984) and Capital News (1990), both for the ABC, and again with Harts of the West (1993), this time for the CBS. He played the role of Commander Cain in the Battlestar Galactica two-part episode "The Living Legend".
He played significant roles in several popular mini-series, including Roots, How the West Was Won, and The Blue and the Grey. For more than forty-five years, Bridges was a frequent guest star on television series. He earned two Emmy Award nominations four decades apart. The first came in 1957 for an episode of The Alcoa Hour. Then he was nominated again in 1998 for his role as Izzy Mandelbaum on Seinfeld.
Bridges appeared in more than 150 films. He started as a contract performer for Columbia Pictures, appearing in classics such as High Noon, Little Big Horn, and Sahara. By the end of his career, he was a staple of parody films such as Airplane!, Hot Shots!, and Jane Austen's Mafia!.
A world federalist, Bridges once said, "The devastation caused by war and the pollution of our environment knows no boundaries. Only an effective world government could provide sufficient law and have the power to control these destructive forces". He was also involved in several organizations including the American Oceans Campaign and Heal the Bay, a Los Angeles-based group. He died of natural causes on March 10, 1998. He was the father of actors Jeff Bridges and Beau Bridges and the grandfather of Jordan Bridges.
An episode of Seinfeld ("The Burning") is dedicated in memory of Lloyd Bridges. He played the character of Izzy Mandelbaum in the episodes "The English Patient" and "The Blood".
Sea Hunt (1957-1961)
The Lloyd Bridges Show (1962-1963)
The Loner (1965-1966)
A Case of Libel (1968)
Lost Flight (1969)
Silent Night, Lonely Night (1969)
The Silent Gun (1969)
The Love War (1970)
San Francisco International Airport (1970-1971)
Do You Take This Stranger? (1971)
A Tattered Web (1971)
Deadly Dream (1971)
Water World (1972-1975) (narrator)
Haunts of the Very Rich (1972)
Trouble Comes to Town (1973)
Crime Club (1973)
Death Race (1973)
Benjamin Franklin (1974) (miniseries)
The Whirlwind (1974)
Stowaway to the Moon (1975)
Cop on the Beat (1975)
Joe Forrester (1975-1976)
Force of Evil (1977)
Roots (1977) (miniseries)
Shimmering Light (1978)
Battlestar Galactica (1978 TV series) (Commander Cain)
Dress Gray (1986) (miniseries)
Seinfeld (1997) (Izzy Mandelbaum)