Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Efrem Zimbalist Jr dies aged 95

Efrem Zimbalist Jr, who has died in California aged 95 (AP)

Efrem Zimbalist Jr, who starred in the long-running television series 77 Sunset Strip and the hit The FBI, has died aged 95.

He died yesterday at his home in California's horse country, said family friend Judith Moose, who released a statement from his children, actress Stephanie Zimbalist and her brother, Efrem Zimbalist III.

"We are heartbroken to announce the passing into peace of our beloved father, Efrem Zimbalist Jr, today at his Solvang ranch," it said.

"He actively enjoyed his life to the last day, showering love on his extended family, playing golf and visiting with close friends."

Zimbalist's stunning good looks and cool manner made him the ideal star as the hip private detective ferreting out Hollywood miscreants in 77 Sunset Strip, which aired from 1958 to 1964.

As soon as that show ended he segued seamlessly into The FBI, which was on screen from 1965 to 1974.

At the end of each episode of the latter show, after Zimbalist and his fellow G-men had captured that week's mobsters, subversives, bank robbers or spies, the show would post photos from the FBI's real-life wanted list.

Some of the photos led to arrests, which helped give the show the complete seal of approval of the agency's real-life director, J Edgar Hoover.

Zimbalist was the son of violin virtuoso Efrem Zimbalist and Alma Gluck, an acclaimed opera singer.

He studied the violin himself for seven years, but he eventually developed more interest in theatre. He became an actor, and 77 Sunset Strip made him a celebrity.

His daughter also took up acting - and small-screen detective work, in the 1980s TV series Remington Steele. Her father had a recurring role in that show as a con man.

After serving in the Second World War Zimbalist made his stage debut in The Rugged Path, starring Spencer Tracy, and appeared in other plays and a soap opera before being called to Hollywood.

In 1958 77 Sunset Strip debuted, bringing Zim balist an Emmy nomination in 1959, while The FBI was one of TV's most popular shows for a decade.

During summer breaks between the two series, Zimbalist appeared in feature films, including Too Much Too Soon, 'The Crowded Sky and Wait Until Dark. In the latter, he played the husband of Audrey Hepburn, a blind woman terrorised by thugs in a truly frightening film.

In the 1990s, Zimbalist recorded the voice of Alfred, the butler, in the cartoon Batman series, which, he said, "has made me an idol in my little grandchildren's eyes".

He was born in New York City on November 30, 1917, and during the Second World War he served in the infantry, receiving a Purple Heart for a shrapnel wound in his leg.

In 1945, Zimbalist married Emily McNair and they had a daughter, Nancy, and son, Efrem III. His wife died in 1950, and he gave up acting to teach at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where his father was an artist in residence.

After five years he returned to Hollywood. He married Loranda Stephanie Spalding in 1956, and she gave birth to daughter Stephanie.

He is survived by his children, four grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

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