Efrem Zimbalist Jr., a famed actor since the late 1950s, has died at the age of 95. As they say in show business, he had a face for television and a voice that would have been great for radio as well as television. The baritone-voiced actor co-starred as private eye Stuart Bailey on television’s “77 Sunset Strip” beginning more than fifty years ago and sometime later starred as Inspector Lewis Erskine on “The F.B.I.” Zimbalist passed away at his home in Solvang, according to a Los Angeles Times report on Saturday. He died of natural causes.
Zimbalist was put under a seven-year contract at Warner Brothers in the mid-1950s and then appeared in several motion pictures. The pictures included “Bombers B-52,” “Too Much, Too Soon,” and “Band of Angels.” Following the motion pictures, Zimbalist was hired to act in “77 Sunset Strip” by the motion picture studio.
Zimbalist said in an interview in 1993 that he never wanted to be on television. However, Warner Brothers, he said, told him he was going to make a pilot for a television series. He didn’t want to, but the motion picture company showed him in his contract that he had actually agreed to do it. Ironically, it was his television performance in “77 Sunset Strip” that turned him into a household name and a star instead of his movies, according to ABC.
Zimbalist complained about television work being boring, even after television had made been the reason he became a star alongside Roger Smith, Jeff Spencer and Edd Byrnes on ABC’s “77 Sunset Strip.” He called the work boring. There are those who feel that actors – back then – felt they were overexposed by television and that the overexposure would harm their movie careers. In spite of his complaints about doing television, after “77 Sunset Strip” ended in 1964, he returned the next season to star in “The F.B.I.” which was televised until the mid 1970s.