Writer/director James Bridges made his name in the 1970s with such socially aware, character-driven films as The Paper Chase (1973), but his unassuming style and non-blockbuster mentality slowed his career in the 1980s. Bridges died of cancer in 1993, though he lived to see one of his '70s scripts finally produced as White Hunter, Black Heart (1990). Raised in Paris, AR, Bridges attended Arkansas State where he majored in theater. Inspired by ephemeral supernova James Dean, Bridges left Arkansas for Hollywood in 1956, where he acted in numerous TV shows, including Dragnet, and several movies. Realizing his talent lay elsewhere, Bridges became the stage manager for producer John Houseman's Professional Theater Group at U.C.L.A. Through Houseman, Bridges met producer/actor Norman Lloyd, who enlisted Bridges as a writer for TV's The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. During the early '60s, Bridges penned 18 episodes, earning an Emmy nomination for 1963's "The Jar." Bridges moved to directing theater in 1966; he notched his first produced movie screenplay that same year with the Marlon Brando Western The Appaloosa (1966). Though Bridges wanted to try movie directing, he also remained active in theater, and was chosen by Tennessee Williams to helm the 25th anniversary production of A Streetcar Named Desire in 1972. Bridges made his film debut as writer/director with The Babymaker (1970). Remarkable for its then-dicey subject of surrogate motherhood, The Babymaker has since become more notable as Scott Glenn's first movie. Bridges' next film, however, fared much better. Starring then-rising actor Timothy Bottoms as a first-year Harvard law student and Bridges' former mentor, Houseman, as a stern professor, The Paper Chase was an acerbic look at academia's cutthroat atmosphere that unexpectedly resonated with the popular audience. Nominated for several Oscars, including one for Bridges' adapted screenplay, The Paper Chase turned neophyte actor Houseman into a star, complete with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Bridges and Houseman reteamed for The Paper Chase TV series as well. Resisting numerous offers after The Paper Chase, Bridges didn't make another movie until 9/30/55 (1978). A semi-autobiographical examination of the impact of James Dean's death on a group of Arkansas teens (and Dennis Quaid's first film), 9/30/55 was dumped by its studio despite earning critical accolades. Bridges scored a major hit with his third effort, The China Syndrome (1979). Starring Jack Lemmon as an honest nuclear power plant executive and Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas as the newspeople intent on reporting the truth, The China Syndrome avoided a heavy-handed approach to its divisive subject, with Bridges' semi-documentary style enhancing the story's punch. Benefiting from the unfortunate coincidence of the Three Mile Island accident shortly after its release, The China Syndrome became one of the year's biggest successes, and garnered Bridges his second Oscar nomination for screenplay. Turning to a somewhat lighter subject, Bridges incisively contrasted the banal details of working-class Houston life with the frontier fantasies driving the nocturnal honky-tonk scene in Urban Cowboy (1980). Though Urban Cowboy's success restored some credibility to mega-star John Travolta's career, and inspired a brief mechanical bull vogue, most of the critical attention was lavished on Bridges' latest star discovery, Debra Winger. Bridges' subsequent collaborations with Winger and Travolta, however, bombed. Extensively altered after disastrous previews, tough neo-noir Mike's Murder (1984) was virtually doomed by bad publicity before its release, despite Winger's fame. Bridges' and Aaron Latham's flaccid exposé of fitness culture and journalist ethics, starring Travolta as a Rolling Stone reporter and Jamie Lee Curtis as a pelvic-thrusting aerobics instructor, was woefully misnamed Perfect (1985). Bridges earned his final directorial credit when he replaced Joyce Chopra on the screen adaptation of Jay McInerney's zeitgeist novel Bright Lights, Big City (1988). An honorable stab at translating McInerney's interior monologues by a magazine fact-checker as he descends through the coke-fueled '80s New York club scene into a coherent film, Bright Lights, Big City nevertheless failed to live up to either its best-selling source or star Michael J. Fox's popularity. Bridges was diagnosed with intestinal cancer the same year White Hunter, Black Heart was released. In 1999, U.C.L.A. rededicated one of its theaters in Bridges' honor.