Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (November 30, 1918 - May 2, 2014) was an American actor known for his starring roles in 77 Sunset Strip and The F.B.I. However, DC Comics fans remember Zimbalist most for playing Alfred Pennyworth in Batman: The Animated Series and other television series and movies set in the DC Animated Universe.
Zimbalist was born in New York City on November 30, 1918 to Russian-born violinist Efrem Zimbalist Sr. and Romanian-born operatic soprano Alma Gluck. His stepmother was Mary Louise Curtis Bok Zimbalist, the founder of the Curtis Institute of Music. He attended Fay School in Southborough, Massachusetts.
Zimbalist attended Yale University in the late 1930's, worked as a page NBC radio in New York, and served in the United States Army for five years during World War II, where he became friends with Garson Kanin. He was awarded the Purple Heart for a leg wound recieved during the battle of Hurtgen Forest.
Following the war, Zimbalist returned to New York and made his Broadway acting debut in The Rugged Path, starring Spencer Tracy. This led to a stage career as both an actor and producer. He producing successes included bringing three Gian Carlo Menotti operas to Broadway, one of which, The Consul, won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1950.
In 1954 to 1955 he starred in his first television series, Concerning Miss Marlowe.
Warner Bros. star
In 1956, Zimbalist was put under contract by Warner Bros. and moved to Hollywood.
77 Sunset Strip
From 1958 to 1964, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. played Stuart "Stu" Bailey.
Zimbalist was most widely known for his starring role as Inspector Lewis Erskine in the television series The F.B.I. which ran from September 19, 1965 to September 8, 1974. Zimbalist was generous in his praise of producer Martin and of his own experience starring in the show. Those who worked with him on the show were equally admiring of the star's professional and likable personality.
Zimbalist maintained a strong personal relationship with J. Edgar Hoover, who requested technical accuracy for the show and that agents be portrayed in the best possible light. Actors who played F.B.I. employees were required by Hoover to undergo a background check. Zimbalist passed his background check with ease. He subsequently spent a week in Washington D.C., where he was interviewed by Hoover. Hoover later held Zimbalist up as an image role model for F.B.I. employees to emulate in their personal appearance.
Zimbalist's co-star on the F.B.I. was Philip Abbot who played Arthur Ward, assistant director to F.B.I. chief J. Edgar Hoover.
On June 8, 2009 F.B.I. Director Robert Mueller presented Zimbalist with a plaque of an honorary special agent for his work on the television series the F.B.I.
In the 1980's Zimbalist returned as Erskine for the revival show, Today's F.B.I.
Batman: The Animated Series
Starting in 1992 Efrem Zimbalist Jr. voiced Alfred Pennyworth in Batman: The Animated Series. He would later voice Alfred in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero, The New Batman Adventures, Superman: The Animated Series, Static Shock, Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman, and Justice League.
Other television roles
In 1990, Zimbalist played the fater of Zorro in the Christian Broadcasting Network's remake, The New Zorro. Zimbalist relinquished the role after the program's first season due to the filming at studios outside Madrid, Spain, and the role subsequently went to Henry Darrow.
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. married his first wife, Emily Munroe McNair, in 1945. She died of cancer five years later in 1950. Zimbalist's second marriage was to Loranda Stephanie Spaulding in 1956. She died of lung cancer on February 5, 2007, at the age of 73. Zimbalist was the father of Efrem Zimbalist III and Nancy Zimbalist, and actress Stephanie Zimbalist by Stephanie Spaulding.
Zimbalist was a Christian and was involved in a number of Christian media productions. His mother and father had him him baptized in an Epicostal Church and raised him in that church. He also attended church every Sunday with his first wife, and it was his faith which allowed him peace when she succumbed to cancer.
Zimbalist died on May 2, 2014 from natural causes at the age of 95. His daughter Stephanie announced the news, saying, "He was 95 years old, a devout christian. He actively enjoyed his life to the last day, showing love on his extended family, playing golf and visiting with close friends." His funeral was at Town Hill Cemetery in New Hartford, Connecticut, near his parents.
- Doctor Octopus: Armed and Dangerous
- The Insidious Six
- Battle of the Insidious Six
- Make a Wish
- Attack of the Octobot