Actor Efrem Zimbalist Dies at 95

'The FBI' Star Was Son of Diva Emma Gluck

getty images

By Reuters

Published May 03, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Efrem Zimbalist Jr., who portrayed the indefatigable Inspector Lewis Erskine on the long-running U.S. television series “The F.B.I.”, died on Friday at the age of 95, according to media reports.

Zimbalist died at his home in Solvang, California, his daughter, actress Stephanie Zimbalist, and his son Efrem Zimbalist III, said in a statement, Hollywood trade magazine Variety and other media reported.

“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,” the statement said, according to Variety.

A spokesman for the family could not be immediately reached for comment.

From the late 1950s to the mid-1970s, Zimbalist was one of the top stars on U.S. television, playing a private detective on the ABC series “77 Sunset Strip” from 1958 to 1964 before his stint on “The F.B.I.” on the same network from 1965 to 1974.

Zimbalist, the son of opera singer Alma Gluck and concert violinist Efrem Zimbalist Sr., also appeared in about 20 movies - usually in supporting roles but sometimes as the leading man.

He was born on Nov. 30, 1918, in New York and saw U.S. Army combat duty during World War Two.

During its nine seasons on the air, “The F.B.I.” dramatized the Federal Bureau of Investigation as its agents solved murders, kidnappings and bank heists. Its episodes - inspired by real cases - required FBI approval.

Zimbalist portrayed Erskine as an assiduous, dedicated investigator during an era when the FBI in real life was embroiled in America’s tumult during the Vietnam War era.

The actor said the FBI’s larger-than-life director J. Edgar Hoover was initially reluctant to give his permission for the series and “was not a lover of Hollywood.” The two eventually met and had a steady correspondence.

In 2009, the FBI honored Zimbalist, at age 90, in a ceremony in Los Angeles in which agency Director Robert Mueller presented him with an honorary special agent badge.

Mueller said Zimbalist over the years helped the FBI by narrating recruitment commercials and taking part in fundraising events for children of agents killed in the line of duty.

“I’m a conservative Republican,” Zimbalist told the Oklahoman newspaper in 2011. “And I wasn’t a friend of the FBI just because I was in the show. My philosophy is the same. I was deeply aware of the sentiment against the bureau and against Hoover.”

On “77 Sunset Strip,” a show that was more carefree than “The F.B.I,” Zimbalist played wisecracking private detective Stu Bailey, starring alongside Roger Smith and Edd Byrnes.

Zimbalist appeared occasionally with his daughter Stephanie Zimbalist on her 1980s TV series “Remington Steele” with Pierce Brosnan, and later did voice work for animated TV shows.

His supporting movie roles included parts in “House of Strangers” (1949) with Edward G. Robinson, “Band of Angels” (1957) with Clark Gable and Sidney Poitier, “Too Much, Too Soon” (1958) with Errol Flynn, “Airport 1975” (1974) with Charlton Heston and “Hot Shots!” (1991) with Charlie Sheen.

He was sometimes a leading man, as in “Harlow” in 1965 with Carol Lynley and “The Chapman Report” in 1962 with Jane Fonda.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • How do you make people laugh when they're fighting on the front lines or ducking bombs?
  • "Hamas and others have dredged up passages form the Quran that demonize Jews horribly. Some imams rail about international Jewish conspiracies. But they’d have a much smaller audience for their ravings if Israel could find a way to lower the flames in the conflict." Do you agree with J.J. Goldberg?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.