The son of actor Lloyd Bridges, Jeff Bridges made his screen bow as a petulant infant in the arms of his real-life mother, Dorothy, in the 1950 Jane Greer melodrama The Company She Keeps; his troublesome older brother in that film was played by his real older brother Beau. The younger Bridges made a more formal debut before the cameras at age eight, in an episode of his dad's TV series Sea Hunt.
After serving in the Coast Guard reserve, the budding actor studied acting at the Herbert Berghof school. While older brother Beau was developing into a character player, Bridges, thanks in equal parts to his ability and ruggedly handsome looks, became a bona fide leading man. He had his first major success with a leading role in Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show (1971), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award. Two years later, he won yet another Oscar nomination, this time for Best Supporting Actor in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974). Bridges worked steadily throughout the rest of the 1970s, starring in a number of films, including Hearts of the West (1975) and Stay Hungry (1976). The 1980s brought further triumph, despite starting out inauspiciously with a part in the notoriously ill-fated Heaven's Gate (1981). In 1984, Bridges won yet another Oscar nomination for his leading role in Starman and continued to find acclaim for his work, in such movies as The Morning After (1986) and The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989). The latter featured Bridges and brother Beau as struggling musicians, as well as Michelle Pfeiffer in a performance marked by both the actress' own talent and her ability to roll around on a piano wearing a figure-hugging red velvet dress.