Saturday, May 03, 2014

Obituary: Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.

Like his famous violinist father, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. lived to a ripe old age. He died yesterday at 95 of natural causes.

According to his son, Efrem Zimbalist III, his dad was out watering his lawn when a handyman found him lying in the grass.

Since both of his parents were in show business (his mother was the famed opera singer Alma Gluck), it was natural for him to pursue the arts. He made his acting debut on Broadway in the early 1940s.

A very good-looking guy, Zimbalist played debonair types in a variety of roles, mostly on television during its best era (in my view) of the 1950s and 1960s. He was part of the Warner Brothers "stock company" of actors and appeared as a guest star or had recurring roles on a number of its programs. One that comes to mind was playing con man Dandy Jim Buckley in the TV classic western Maverick. This helped boost his career, and he went on to star in one of my favorite shows of the era, 77 Sunset Strip, as private eye Stu Bailey. It ran from 1958 to 1964 and its success inspired other Warner Brothers private eye shows including Hawaiian Eye, Surfside 6 and Bourbon Street Beat. I remember 77 Sunset Strip very well when it ran on the network. I was a little girl, but I still remember that show extremely well.

Many episodes of the classic series are up on YouTube, at least until the site is ordered by WB or whoever owns the rights to the series to take it down. Here is one of many episodes:

After this program went off the air, Zimbalist went on to even greater success playing Inspector Lewis Erskine in the Quinn Martin-produced drama The F.B.I. QM Productions* was a powerhouse in producing television dramas in the 1960s and 1970s including The Fugitive, Twelve O' Clock High, The Untouchables, The Invaders, Cannon, The Streets of San Francisco and Barnaby Jones.. The F.B.I. ran for nine seasons, and according to the linked obituary, had the full cooperation of the federal agency. Zimbalist was thrilled the show inspired people become federal agents.

Zimbalist was married twice and widowed twice. Two of his three children survive him.


*--A trademark of a QM production was its dividing each episode into four acts and an epilog. A new act or epilog would follow a commercial break. Quinn Martin sold the production company in 1978 and became an adjunct professor. He died in 1987.

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