Vintage Hunk: Jeff Bridges

By: Mike McCrann

At 62, Jeff Bridges is now a respected Academy Award winning actor with six nominations and one win to his credit. Bridges looks every day (and more) of his 62 years, so moviegoers sometimes forget that back in the 1970s and '80s he was a total hunk. Let's revisit that time for a moment.

Jeff Bridges was born in Los Angeles in 1949 and came from a major acting family. Maybe not as famous as the Redgraves in England, the Bridges are still pretty special. Father Lloyd was a really fine, continually working actor. He's perhaps best remembered by older readers for his 1950s TV show Sea Hunt, in which young Jeff Bridges appeared (see photo, below) and younger readers mostly recall his roles in the Airplane! movies and through countless TV appearances. Jeff's brother Beau preceded him in feature films like Gaily and The Landlord, and still appears in supporting roles, such as in last year's The Descendents.

Then came Jeff Bridges, who received his first Academy Award nomination in 1971 for The Last Picture Show. Made on a shoestring budget by director Peter Bogdanovich, The Last Picture Show is one of the great films of the 1970s. Based on Larry McMurtry's book, it starred Timothy Bottoms (left), Bridges (right) and Cybill Shepherd in her film debut. Bridge's performance as Duane opposite Shepherd is one of this special movie's treats; he was both sexy and endearing, she absolutely sublime.

From there Bridges made a number of wonderful films that gave him great roles, even if many of these movies were not box office hits; the best of them is the thriller Cutter's Way, which nobody saw, a 1981 masterpiece about finding the killer of a brutally murdered girl. Occasionally Bridges did have a commercial hit like Jagged Edge, and garnered cult movie honors with projects like Tron and The Big Lebowski, but most of his films came and went without much notice. The only constant was that Bridges' work remained diverse, unique and outstanding.

Bridges finally won his Oscar for Crazy Heart in 2009 playing a drunken country singer on the skids. Many critics thought that this Oscar was awarded for Bridges' fine body of work rather than this so-so film, but his performance in Crazy Heart was still wonderful.

One of Bridge's most fascinating failures was Against All Odds. The film itself was not that bad and Bridges showed plenty of skin, but it was a remake of the great Jane Greer and Robert Mitchum classic Out of the Past. The great connection between the two movies is that Greer appeared as Rachel Ward's mother in Against All Odds, and when Bridges told his mother she was in the film, Mom Bridges told him that this was the second time he and Greer had appeared together. Bridges told his mother he would not have forgotten such a luminous costar, but Mom then told him that Baby Jeff at 4 months old had appeared in Jane's 1950 film The Company She Keeps; in the last scene, Greer held baby Jeff in Los Angeles' Union Station. Now that is classic Hollywood passing the torch to the Hollywood of today.

Successes, failures, and Hollywood history aside, when I think of Bridges, I always recall the windy, dusty plains of west Texas in The Last Picture Show. No other film ever captured the feeling of small town life in mid-century America more than this elegiac classic. Watching Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges and Cybil Shepherd in their wondrous prime is almost as nostalgic as the film itself.

Sea Hunt (with father Lloyd) and in American Heart

Iron Man

Crazy Heart