Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

James Bridges

Arkansas native James Bridges (1936-1993) was an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and film director who got his start as a writer for the television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. One episode, An Unlocked Window (1966), won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America.

Bridges went on to write and direct a number of feature films, including The Baby Maker (1970), The Paper Chase (1973), September 30, 1955 (1977), The China Syndrome (1979), Urban Cowboy (1980), Mike’s Murder (1984), Perfect (1985), and Bright Lights, Big City (1988).

For a number of years he was a mentor to actress Debra Winger. In fact, Bridges nearly quit the production of Urban Cowboy, because Paramount didn't want Debra Winger to play the role of John Travolta's love interest, the independent cowgirl Sissy.

From 1958 until his death in 1993, he was life partner to actor Jack Larson (b. 1928, photo at right), best known for his portrayal of Jimmy Olsen in the TV series Adventures of Superman. Prior to his commitment to Bridges, Larson had been in a relationship with actor Montgomery Clift.

Bridges and Larson shared the historical Frank Lloyd Wright-designed “George Sturges” house (1939) in Brentwood Heights, CA, where Larson still resides. It is the only southern California example of the modest modern style house called "Usonian" by Wright (photo below). This example boasts extreme cantilevers to deal with the steeply  sloped lot, and it has been impeccably maintained by Larson.

In a feature article published in the Los Angeles Times, Larson revealed that Bridges made only eight feature films because he wouldn't compromise. "There were many films that he didn't do if the situation was going to be bad, because he didn't want to go through that. He would not argue with people. He was Southern and polite, but he was very tough..."

Larson (top) with Bridges (right) and their dog Max.

Actor Larson, forever typecast as Jimmy Olson, found later success as a playwright and opera librettist (Larson wrote the libretto to the opera Lord Byron, with music by Virgil Thomson). After Bridges' career took off, they formed a production company, with Larson producing several of his partner’s films. Said Olson, "It was obvious to anyone that since we lived together we were partners. We always went places together. We never pretended (otherwise).”

Bridges died of cancer in Los Angeles, California, at age 57. The James Bridges Theater at  UCLA was named in his honor in November, 1999. Bridges had once been a faculty member there. Every year the Bridges/Larson Foundation issues the James Bridges Award in Film Directing at UCLA, USC, Columbia University and the American Film Institute.

Peter Tonguette's book, The Films of James Bridges (2011) is the first substantive volume on Bridges, and Jack Larson gives the publication his whole-hearted approval.

In  this filmed interview, Jack Larson reminisces about his life partnership with James Bridges:


  1. I always love Jack Larson better know as Jimmy Olsen, and he played a great a role in the Superman films, I've watching Superman all my days and it's still good when it comes on tv. I'm sorry of the passing of Jack Lard, Jimmy Olsen may god bless his sole

  2. Whole-Heartedly agree with Anonymous!!