It felt as if Efrem Zimbalist Jr. had always been part of my life. My introduction to his performance work probably came as a result of watching The F.B.I., the 1965-1974 ABC-TV series on which he played straight-laced Inspector Lewis Erskine. But I later discovered that he’d had a recurring role on Maverick as a roguish con man named Dandy Jim Buckley, and had portrayed Los Angeles private eye Stuart Bailey on the popular 1958-1964 ABC show 77 Sunset Strip.
When I heard this morning that Zimbalist died yesterday at age 95, I started to think back on where else I’d seen him. The son of a famous Russian-born violinist, Zimbalist drew his first breaths in New York City, attended Yale University, did a stint with the U.S. Army during World War II, enjoyed a stage career both as an actor and a producer, and moved to Hollywood in 1956. In addition to his early appearances on Maverick and Sunset Strip, Zimbalist was also seen in the small-screen anthology series Conflict and on Hawaiian Eye (in both cases playing P.I. Bailey), as well as on The Reporter, Bronco, and Rawhide. I remember him too for his role as Sergeant Harry Hansen in the 1975 teleflick Who Is the Black Dahlia?, his turns in Airport 1975, Babylon 5, and Hotel, and his guest shots as white-collar con man Daniel Chalmers on Remington Steele, the 1982-1987 NBC detective drama that starred his daughter, the lovely Stephanie Zimbalist, alongside Pierce Brosnan (who would later be hired as the big-screen’s fifth James Bond). His voice, if not his face, earned Zimbalist attention in his later years, as he provided the vocal tones
for animated appearances of Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne/Batman’s fictional and remarkably resourceful butler.
The HMSS Weblog offers a fine obituary of Efrem Zimbalist Jr. here,
and Deadline Hollywood provides further details of his career here.
I think the best way to close this post, and acknowledge my introduction to Zimbalist’s talents so long ago, is to embed the opening sequence--below--from “The Monster,” the very first episode of The F.B.I, shown originally on September 16, 1965.
Good-bye, sir. We’ll miss you.
READ MORE: “Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Star of 77 Sunset Strip and The F.B.I., Dies at 95,” by Susan Stewart (The New York Times); “Efrem Zimbalist Jr. Dies at 95; Starred in 77 Sunset Strip,” by Dennis McLellan (Los Angeles Times); “Actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr. Dies at 95,” by Mike Barnes and Duane Byrge (The Hollywood Reporter).