LOS ANGELES - Handsome, debonair and blessed with a distinguished voice that reflected his real-life prep school upbringing, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. seemed born to play the television roles that made him famous, that of hip Hollywood detective and brilliant G-man.
A prolific actor who also appeared in numerous films and stage productions, Zimbalist became a household name in 1958 as Stu Bailey, the wisecracking private investigator who was a co-partner in a swinging Hollywood detective agency located at the exclusive address of "77 Sunset Strip."
When the show of the same name ended in 1964, Zimbalist became an even bigger star playing the empathetic, methodical G-man Lewis Erskine in "The F.B.I."
The actor, who in recent years had retired to his ranch in Southern California's bucolic horse country, died there Friday at age 95.
"We are heartbroken to announce the passing into peace of our beloved father, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., today at his Solvang ranch," the actor's daughter, Stephanie Zimbalist, and son Efrem Zimbalist III said in a statement. "He actively enjoyed his life to the last day, showering love on his extended family, playing golf and visiting with close friends."
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. had a Spoleto Fesitval connection. In 1986, he was in Charleston to co-host the festival's 10th gala at the Gaillard Auditorium with actress Colleen Dewhurst. The standing-room-only gala also celebrated the 75th birthday of festival founder Gian Carlo Menotti and included performances by ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov and other stars.
In 2009, the FBI honored Zimbalist with his own special agent's badge, making him an honorary G-man in recognition of the contributions his show and his character made to the agency's reputation.
"We could not have asked for a better character, or a better man, to play his role," FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said at the time.
The son of violin virtuoso Efrem Zimbalist and acclaimed opera singer Alma Gluck, young Efrem initially appeared headed for a musical career himself. He studied violin for seven years under the tutelage of Jascha Heifetz's father, but eventually developed more interest in theater. After serving in World War II, he made his stage debut in "The Rugged Path," starring Spencer Tracy, and appeared in other plays and a soap opera before being called to Hollywood. Warner Bros. signed him to a contract and cast him in minor film roles.
He also had a recurring role in the hit Western series "Maverick," playing con man Dandy Jim Buckley.
"The F.B.I." endured for a decade as one of TV's most popular shows.
His daughter Stephanie also took up acting - and small-screen detective work, in the hit 1980s TV series "Remington Steele." Her father had a recurring role in that show, again playing a con man.
Zimbalist was in several feature films, including "Wait Until Dark" with Audrey Hepburn.
In 1945, Zimbalist married Emily McNair and they had a daughter, Nancy, and son, Efrem III.
After his wife died in 1950 he gave up acting for a time to teach at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where his father was an artist in residence. He returned to Hollywood five years later, marrying Loranda Stephanie Spalding in 1956, and she gave birth to their daughter Stephanie.
Zimbalist was preceded in death by his second wife and by his daughter Nancy.
In addition to his son and other daughter, Stephanie, he is survived by four grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.
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