Efrem Zimbalist Jr. was an American actor who is best remembered for his portrayals of Dandy Jim Buckley in the TV series ‘Maverick’ and the animated character Alfred Pennyworth in the superhero series ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ and its spin-offs. Born in New York City to a popular violinist and a singer, Zimbalist grew up with an elder sister in a quite wealthy household. He received his education at a boarding school and later briefly attended Yale University. After being expelled from the university, he returned to New York City in 1936 to land on-air roles at NBC radio. Following his training in acting at Neighborhood Playhouse, he went on to serve in the United States Army during the World War II. While in the army, Zimbalist got acquainted with the director Garson Kanin, who gave him his first professional acting role in the Broadway play ‘The Rugged Path’. The actor soon started taking up roles in television series and films as well. Zimbalist married twice in his lifetime and had three children.
Childhood & Early Life
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. was born on November 30, 1918, in New York City, New York, USA. His father was the famous violinist Efrem Zimbalist Sr. and his mother was the equally famous singer Alma Gluck. His parents eventually divorced and both remarried other people.
He had an elder sister named Mary as well as a step-sister, author Marcia Davenport, from his mother’s side. His stepmother was the founder of the Curtis Institute of Music, Mary Louise Curtis Bok Zimbalist.
He studied at Fay School in Massachusetts and later boarded at St. Paul's School in New Hampshire.
In 1941, he was drafted in the United States Army. Two years later, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant of the infantry division. Zimbalist was discharged as the war ended, earning many awards, including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal.
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Efrem Zimbalist Jr. made his Broadway debut in the 1945 play ‘The Rugged Path’. He then went on to produce many operas including ‘The Consul’ that earned the Pulitzer Prize for Music.
In 1954, he was cast in his first television project, titled ‘Concerning Miss Marlowe’. Two years later, he had his first recurring role, that of a gambler named Dandy Jim Buckley, on the dramatic series ‘Maverick’.
In 1957, the actor played Lt. Ethan Sears in the romantic film ‘Band of Angels’. The film, directed by Raoul Walsh, starred Yvonne De Carlo, Sidney Poitier, and Clark Gable.
In 1958, he starred as Stuart Bailey in the detective series ‘77 Sunset Strip’. His projects for that year also included the movies ‘The Deep Six’, 'Girl on the Run', and 'Home Before Dark'.
From 1959 to 1962, Zimbalist reprised his role as Stuart Bailey in the series ‘Hawaiian Eye’. Following an appearance in the drama movie ‘The Crowded Sky’ (1960), he did the film ‘A Fever in the Blood’ (1961), which was based on William Pearson’s 1959 novel of the same name.
The year 1970 witnessed him in various roles in the religious-themed anthology series 'Insight’. Four years later, the actor played Captain Stacy in Jack Smight's air disaster film and the sequel to the 1970 movie ‘Airport,’ ‘Airport 1975’.
During the 1980s, he had roles in the dramas ‘Remington Steele’ and ‘Hotel’. Both the programs established him as a household name.
In 1990, Zimbalist featured as the father of Zorro in the series ‘The New Zorro’. He had a minor role in the sci-fi series ‘Babylon 5’ in 1997. He also voiced characters in the series ‘The Legend of Prince Valiant’ and ‘Spider-Man’.
In October 2004, he starred in the stage production of ‘Night of the Iguana’ that premiered at Rubicon Theatre Company. Three years later, the actor played The Player King in ‘Hamlet’ at the same theatre company.
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. was cast as Inspector Lewis Erskine in the police drama ‘The F.B.I.’ The show that ran from 1965 to 1974 for 241 episodes chronicles a group of FBI officials trying to defend the American Government from mysterious threats.
From 1992 to 1995, the actor lent his voice to the character of Alfred Pennyworth in the superhero series ‘Batman: The Animated Series’. He later reprised his role in ‘The New Batman Adventures’ as well as the animated movies ‘Batman: Mask of the Phantasm’ and ‘Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman’.
Family & Personal Life
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. married Emily Munroe McNair in December 1941. The couple had two kids, Efrem and Nancy. Emily died from cancer in 1950.
In 1956, he married his second wife, Loranda Stephanie Spalding. They had a daughter, actress Stephanie Zimbalist. In 2007, Loranda also died from cancer.
Zimbalist died on May 2, 2014, at the age of 95.