Over the past few weeks, when I’ve been able to grab a short break from blogging about pandemic influenza (see Avian Flu Diary) I’ve been spending time with an old friend.
Without any notion of establishing a theme, in the past month I’ve watched two of his old (pre-Sea Hunt) movies - The Limping Man and Rocketship XM (Starring Lloyd Bridges, Osa Massen, John Emery, Noah Beery, Jr., and Hugh O'Brien), along with at least a dozen episodes from his classic underwater TV show.
(click for The Limping Man)
Bridges, who a whole new generation knows as a comedic actor in movie parodies like Airplane!, Hot Shots!, and Jane Austen's Mafia! and from appearances on Seinfeld, became a successful actor playing straight dramatic roles.
His earliest movie roles came in the mid-1930’s, uncredited in movies like Freshman Love (1936) and Dancing Feet (1936). He would sign with Columbia in 1941, and make small appearances in 15 films that year.
He worked steadily, albeit mostly in `B’ movies, throughout the 1940’s. During the early 1950’s, his career was nearly derailed by allegations that he was a communist sympathizer, but an FBI clearance helped push those concerns to the side.
Bridges worked in early TV, and in the movies, but did not become a star until he was tapped by Producer Ivan Tors to star in his underwater adventure SEA HUNT.
The concept for the show was turned down by all 3 networks (yes, there were only 3 back then). So Tors went the syndication route, and SEA HUNT become the most successfully syndicated show up until that time.
As Mike Nelson, ex-navy frogman and freelance skin diver, Bridges depended heavily on stunt divers in the beginning (with Courtney Brown appearing has his `double’) in most of the underwater sequences during the early episodes.
Bridges, however, became an expert diver and over the 4 year run of the show, ended up doing many of the later diving scenes.
The shows are compact stories, with little time (or need) for character development. Nelson either stumbles upon, or is brought in to solve, some underwater crisis – which he does in just over 26 minutes.
His Navy frogman training gives him the ability to disarm WWII mines with just his diving knife, or to take on speargun armed divers (who inexplicably always seem to aim at his steel tanks).
Ok, this was the 1950’s. Life, and TV, was simpler then. That’s why we love it.
The theme music, which is well remembered, was written by David Rose (Red Skelton’s Musical Director) under the pseudonym of Ray Llewellyn.
So far, there are 5 episodes available on Youtube.
Check back, though, and they will probably add more over time.
1001 Sixty Feet Below
1002 Flooded Mine
1003 Rapture of the Deep
1004 Mark of the Octopus
1005 The Sea Sled