Bridges made his first screen appearance when he was almost two years old in The Company She Keeps in 1951. In his youth, Bridges and brother Beau made occasional appearances on their father's show Sea Hunt (1958–1961) and the CBS anthology series The Lloyd Bridges Show (1962–1963). In 1969, he played Job Corps crew member Cal Baker in the Lassie TV series episode entitled "Success Story". In 1971, he played the lead role Mike in the TV movie In Search of America. His first major role came in the 1971 film The Last Picture Show, for which he garnered a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He next co-starred in the 1972 critically acclaimed gritty boxing film Fat City, directed by John Huston. In 1973, he starred as Junior Jackson in The Last American Hero, a film based on the true story of NASCAR driver Junior Johnson. He was again nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his performance opposite Clint Eastwood in the 1974 film Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. In 1976, he starred as the protagonist Jack Prescott in the first remake of King Kong, opposite Jessica Lange. This film was a commercial success, earning $90 million worldwide, more than triple its $23 million budget, and also winning an Academy Award for special effects.