Actor Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., best known for his roles in the television series 77 Sunset Strip and The F.B.I., passed away at his ranch in Southern California on Friday. He was 95.
In a statement, the actor’s daughter Stephanie Zimbalist and son Efrem Zimbalist III said, “We are heartbroken to announce the passing into peace of our beloved father, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., today at his Solvang ranch. He actively enjoyed his life to the last day, showering love on his extended family, playing golf and visiting with close friends.”
Zimbalist Jr. was born on November 30, 1918 in New York City to Russian-born violinist Efrem Zimbalist, Sr. and Romanian-born operatic soprano Alma Gluck. The actor attended Yale University in the late 1930’s and then served five years in the United States Army during World War II. He received a Purple Heart for a leg wound sustained during the battle of Hürtgen Forest. A year later, Zimbalist returned to New York and made his Broadway acting debut in The Rugged Path, starring Spencer Tracy.
Zimbalist’s stint on Broadway segued into a career in Hollywood, and the actor signed a contract with Warner Bros. in 1956. His first lead role came in 1958 as detective Stuart “Stu” Bailey in the popular police procedural 77 Sunset Strip, which ran until 1964. In 1959, Zimbalist garnered the Golden Globe for “Most Promising Newcomer – Male”.
Here is a clip of the opening credits of 77 Sunset Strip:
Zimbalist was likely best known for his starring role as Inspector Lewis Erskine on The F.B.I., which ran from 1965 to 1974.
Zimbalist maintained a strong personal relationship with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover while the show was in production. Hoover demanded technical accuracy for the series, and that FBI agents be portrayed in the best possible light. Actors who portrayed agents also had to pass a background check, and Zimbalist himself spent a week at the FBI academy at Quantico, Virginia before production of the series began. Hoover later designated Zimbalist as the image for actual FBI agents to model their personal appearances after.
Fellow actors took to Twitter to offer their condolences:
Condolences and thoughts going out to the family of Efram Zimbalist Jr.
— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) May 3, 2014
Efram Zimbalist Jr. Was a kind and gracious man. I send my love and condolences to Stephanie. RIP
— Patty Duke (@pattyduke_id) May 3, 2014
In addition to son Efrem and daughter Stephanie, Zimbalist is survived by four grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.
Image via Wikimedia Commons