‘77 Sunset Strip,’ ‘F.B.I.’ Star Efrem Zimbalist Jr. Dies at 95

‘77 Sunset Strip,’ ‘F.B.I.’ Star Efrem

Efrem Zimbalist Jr., a staple of 1960s and ’70s TV as the star of ABC dramas “77 Sunset Strip” and “The F.B.I.,” has died. He was 95.

Zimbalist died Friday at his home in Solvang, Calif., according to a statement issued by his daughter, actress Stephanie Zimbalist, and son Efrem Zimbalist III.

“We are heartbroken to announce the passing into peace of our beloved father, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., today at his Solvang, Calif. ranch. A devout Christian, he actively enjoyed his life to the last day, showering love on his extended family, playing golf, and visiting with close friends.”

Tall, handsome and always well dressed, Zimbalist starred as the smooth former OSS officer-turned private eye Stuart Bailey who ran a Los Angeles detective agency in “77 Sunset Strip.” The show, one of the first TV series hits from the Warner Bros. studio, ran on ABC from 1958-64.

He returned to the Alphabet the following year as Inspector Lewis Erskine, the methodical leader of “The F.B.I.,” which ran through 1974. His real-life counterpart, FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, was a fan and supporter of the show, and a friend of Zimbalist’s. In 2009, the FBI saluted Zimbalist by making him an honorary agent, the highest honor the bureau can give to a civilian.

Zimbalist was born to a show business family in New York City in 1918. His father was concert violinist and compositor Efrem Zimbalist Sr., while his mother, Alma Gluck, was a popular singer of the day. He studied at Yale as a teenager, then worked as a page at NBC before enlisting in the Army in WWII. After the war, he studied at Yale Drama School. According to his Turner Classic Movies bio, family friend Garson Kanin gave Zimbalist his first big acting role in the Broadway production of “The Rugged Path,” starring Spencer Tracy.

Zimbalist had small roles in TV shows, worked on stage and as a producer of operas in the early 1950s before he hit big in television (he had been a tennis partner of WB chief Jack L. Warner, according to TCM). During his run on “Sunset Strip,” he made appearances on other Warner Bros. TV shows, including James Garner’s “Maverick” and “Hawaiian Eye.” He continued to log film roles, notably 1967’s “Wait Until Dark” and 1974’s “Airport 1975.”

In the 1980s, he had a recurring role on the NBC dramedy “Remington Steele,” opposite his daughter, Stephanie, and he logged guest shots on ABC’s “Hotel” and CBS’ “Murder, She Wrote.” He also co-starred in CBS’ 1980 miniseries “Scruples” and was featured in the 1991 action-movie spoof “Hot Shots.”

In the 1990s, Zimbalist became a frequent guest on shows airing on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, and host his own program for TBN, “Word From the Holyland.” He also did voiceover work for numerous cartoon series, including “Spider-Man,” “The New Batman Adventures” and more recently, Cartoon Network’s “Justice League.”

Zimbalist published a memoir in 2004, “My Dinner of Herbs,” and logged his last major film role in 2008’s “The Delivery.”

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  1. a true class act…. enjoyed 77 Sunset Strip and other shows… our condolences to the family…

  2. One classy man. Was great to see him (when I was a kid) in his early Sunset Strip and FBI shows…and was even more wonderful to see/hear him read key Bible verses on TV.

  3. He also appeared in the 90’s eboot of Zorro starring Duncan Regher playing the father of Zorro during it’s first two seasons.

  4. Phyllis Fulton says:

    The Zimbalist family and the world has lost an extraordinary humble gentleman. I like many grew up watching him in t.v. shows. A very handsome man with a very warm demeanor. It has saddened me to learn of his passing. Thank You God for giving the world Mr. Zimbalist’s memorable talents. Prayers and blessings to the Zimbalist family. R.I.P.Efrin, Jr.

  5. Mr. Zimbalist was a class act! I met him as a young man at the Bing Crosby Pro Am in 1977…

  6. Thomas Langr says:

    My condolences to daughter and son. Stephanie Zimbalist was my favorite actress of the genre. I also liked her movie (Hallmark?), “Caroline.”

  7. Chuck says:

    I was a great admirer of Efrem Sr.–a sublime violinist and composer, not “compositor” as your article says. I suspect that Efrem Sr. did not know the first thing about running a Linotype machine.

    • Richard says:

      I’m glad someone pointed that out. I imagine that the gentleman mentioned above also knew nothing about using a green screen.

      As Margaret Hamilton once remarked, “Oh, what a world, what a world!”

  8. Brenda Powell says:

    I always enjoyed Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.. His shows bring back fond memories, as well as Stephanie Zimbalist on Remington Steele. My sincere sympathy. Brenda Powell

  9. sharon k hull says:

    enjoyed his ‘Golden’ voice-overs for T.B.N….I remember a few years ago He quoted a scripture that I use every day because of His example. .”Call on the name of the LORD and thou shalt be saved AND THY HOUSE”…We all want to spend eternity with our children. Looking forward to meeting him on the other side of the veil.

  10. Ginger Hannah says:

    A man to be missed. That beautiful voice and demeanor are so rare. All who love the Lord will see him again one day. Condolences to his lovely family.

  11. Mary Nolan Green says:

    I believe he was also a veteran of WWII, because we were always told that our hometown doctor, Dr. Melvin Boright, saved his life on the battlefield by performing emergency surgery.

    • Mary Nolan Green says:

      Forgot to extend my condolences. He was one of my most favorite actors when I was growing up. He exuded class. So sorry for your loss.

  12. Pepper Carpenter says:

    I was truly one of your biggest fans. Every project that you participated in was made extra-special by your very presence. I loved your daughter, Stephanie..in “Remington Steele” too. I think those of from the generation of 77 Sunset Strip, and all of the movies that your made caused us to make you one of our family. Gentleman – really does describe you .. in both looks and actions. May the Lord bless your family as they begin the difficult process of grief. God Bless.

  13. I have the fondest memories of “77 Sunset Strip.” Still sing the song sometimes and snap my fingers. Efrem Zimbalist Jr. was a good man from what I know. He had a wonderful voice. I loved hearing him read the scriptures on TBN. Condolances to his family for he will definitely be missed. But now he is complete.

  14. yes a class act. loved him from the fbi to the nanny!

  15. Gaile says:

    You were always an amazing man and actor. You will be missed, thank you so much for all the great memories.

  16. Laura Skillman says:

    a wonderful..classy man..i used to love to listen to him read the old testament..RIP..you will be missed

    • Pepper Carpenter says:

      I had forgotten that he read the scriptures. His voice was amazing. Thanks for the reminder!

  17. jsanjuan1967 says:

    He was a wonderful man working in that film “Black Dahla.” REST IN PEACE!

  18. I guess they fixed it. Alma Gluck. I never knew this. She was a famous opera singer, back in the day. Beautiful voice, though a lot of her recordings are lost or horribly deteriorated.

  19. Rebecca says:

    The man had a great voice! ;). Prayers to the family!

  20. Charles Montooth says:

    A class act ,always admired him and his witness .

  21. F S N says:

    Reblogged this on Global News Now.

  22. Barbara simms says:

    When my mother was a cook at Santa Rosa Golf and Country Club, more than 40 years ago. he came there to play golf and have lunch with friends.he came back in the kitchen and told my mother how much he enjoyed his lunch,she was very much impressed by him.

  23. Miche says:

    Thank you sir for sharing your incredible talent and demonstrating to us your high moral character and integrity and letting us witness a true Christian trailblazer in Hollywood!!! Rest E.Z Jr. in the everlasting arms of Jesus Christ, till we meet in heaven.

  24. Christy says:

    Sad news. A terrific actor and devoted Christian. When I worked for Barry Goldwater, Jr. he was one of the guest speakers at a Reagan for President rally that our office was involved with. There were other stars and politicians involved, but the two I remember most are Ronald Reagan and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. — they both had a regal air about them. My family and I are huge “Remington Steele” fans and loved seeing him as the charming and scheming Daniel Chalmers. May the Lord keep him in the palm of His hand. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family…

    • Thank you for your acting career. Being a Chiristian had little to do with it. Your professionalism stands alongside so many of your generation…Chiristian and non-Christian. Let’s not turn this send-off into a quasi political/religios thing. Why not simply acknowledge that you were a good actor that represents nostaligia to our generation?

      • He wore his Christianity on his sleeve. That was who he was.And while he may have touched lives through his acting, rest assured that he would prefer to be remembered for those he may have led to the Lord. As much as you’d like as to forget that all-encompassing fact.his acting career was secondary to him. When was the last time you saw or heard his voice ? I saw him on Fri night reading Bible passages on TBN, as I did a few times week for decades. I offer condolences to his family but rejoice in the Lord for his eternal life in paradise.

      • Pepper Carpenter says:

        I so agree with your comments.

  25. Karen says:

    Very sorry to hear of his passing…Even tho i did not know to much about him as i was to little then…I only knew of him….Blessings to his family at there time of sorrow….Rip Mr Zimbalist.

  26. Kris Wright says:

    Blessings to the Zimbalist family.

  27. Di ane Rosales says:

    My Sincere Condolences to The Efram Zimbalist, Jr., Family. Never forgotton Mr Zimbalist, Mr Smith and.”Cookie” Mr. Burns and of course “Cricket” Ms.Stevens. My family and I loved watching
    “77 Sunset Strip”. Also watched TBN, he never changed Very Handsome Gentleman.
    R.I.P. Mr. Efram Zimbalist Jr.
    He will be truly Missed.

  28. Ken W. says:

    God Bless.
    Watched “F.B.I.” as a kid, and “77 Sunset Strip” in re-runs after school (yes, we snapped our fingers to the theme song every time!)

    Alfred the Butler on “Batman: The Animated Series” showed us Mr. Zimbalist was still going strong. We was with us from the beginning of our childhood, and we are grateful.

    Rest In Peace. And Thank You.

  29. BillUSA says:

    God Bless You Mr. Zimbalist. You were one of the first actors I ever watched when I was a boy in the 1960’s. I never missed an episode of “The F.B.I”.

  30. Cindy Walters says:

    Mr. Zimbalist always seemed like a Gentleman. We never saw any bad behavior stories about him or any member of his family. We have lost a GOOD MAN. Rest in Peace Mr. Zimbalist. Thank You for so much wonderful family entertainment. God Bless You. My condolences to all of the Zimbalist Family, Your loss is our loss :'( You are in my thoughts and prayers.

  31. Rest in peace, Efrem Zimbalist Jr.. And thank you for so many wonderful, unforgettable TV and movie moments.

  32. Dave Hedman says:

    We will miss your father very much. I worked in Lompoc and we had the pleasure of his presence while shopping there many times. Always very polite and a gentleman. Never played the “don’t you recognize me,I’m famous” card. He will be missed. Santa Barbara county has lost a great man.

  33. PETER says:

    Don’t forget BY LOVE POSSESSED from the James Gould Cozzens novel with the gorgeous Lana Turner. They were good together; Lana played well off the handsome, sophisticated Zimbalist.

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