His birthday isn’t until Nov. 30 but daughter Stephanie wanted to surprise him. So, on Saturday, she produced a 90th birthday spectacular toast to her father Efrem Zimbalist,Jr. at Lakeside Country Club — across the street(s) from his alma mater Warner Bros. “I feel like I was in heaven for a day and back,” he emotionally said to me. Stephanie had gathered — under total secrecy — over 100 who had worked over a half century with him in movies and television–plus, of course family and civilian friends. “The joy of picking up again with so many–was like a dream. And I hadn’t seen many in so many years, “he said emotionally. Among them was his series costar Jim Garner who awaited him in the “screening room” in which Stephanie showed historic footage of is career. Efrem recalled “Josh Logan had me do the test, for which Jim had already won the ‘Sayonara’ role,’ but he (Josh) wanted WB to see my test–they did and signed me to a contract.” He was also surprised by John Kerr whom Logan had signed for “South Pacific.” “The three of us were united by Josh,” Zimbalist enthused. (Kerr departed showbiz to become a lawyer–“a trial lawyer,” of course,” Zimbalist added.) “I’ve seen ‘retrospectives’ of others on television specials,” he said, “but never like the one Stephanie assembled!”
The “live” cast on hand to hug and handshake Efrem included: Michele and Bruce Davison, Roger Smith, Efrem’s “77 Sunset Strip” vidpartner, and Ann-Margaret, Rhonda Fleming and husband Darol Carson, Cheryl Ladd and husband Brian Russell, Don and Betty Murray, Michele Lee and fiancé Dr. Stanley Frileck, Anne Jeffreys Sterling, Sara O’Meara and Yvonne Fedderson of Childhelp, Linda Paul Adams and husband Jim, Leonard Stern, and wife Gloria Stroock, Joe Mantegna.
The film footage contained scenes of Zimbalist with: Alan Ladd, Dorothy Malone, Natalie Wood, Dana Andrews, Jean Simmons, Angie Dickinson, Roddy McDowell, Lana Turner, Jason Robards, Fred Astaire, Patty Duke, Jane Fonda, Maureen O’Hara, daughter Stephanie and, of course, Audrey Hepburn. Rhonda Fleming laughing said, ” We had such fun in those movies long ago, and I always felt so bas Efrem, because I adored you –what woman didn’t and my character was always so terrible to you in then movies we made, Will you forgive me!” Other folks there delivering loving praises: Jenny Sullivan, Cheryl Ladd. Efrem arrived, dapper as always, strolled up the Country Club lane with granddaughters Kristin and Alexis Zimbalist and Efrem IV, and great grandson Mikhail, nine months, also church and FBI reps, “FBI” series Howard Alston and Paul Wurtzel. Stephanie toasted with, “Every once in a great while there comes along a life that simply has to be applauded. My I invite all of you to do just that.” They did indeed. Happy birthday, Mr. Z.