Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (30 Nov, 1918 – 2 May, 2014) was an American actor known for his starring roles in the television series 77 Sunset Strip and The F.B.I. He is also known as recurring character “Dandy Jim Buckley” in the series Maverick and as the voice behind the character Alfred Pennyworth in Batman: The Animated Series and associated spin-offs. He also voiced Doctor Octopus from the 1990s Spider-Man animated series, and Justin Hammer from the second season of 1994 Iron Man animated series.
Zimbalist was most widely known for his starring role as Inspector Lewis Erskine in the Quinn Martin television production The F.B.I., which premièred on 19 Sept, 1965 and ended with its final episode on 8 Sept, 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 professionalism and likeable 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, and at the F.B.I. academy in Quantico, Virginia. Hoover and Zimbalist remained mutual admirers for the rest of Hoover’s life. Hoover later held Zimbalist up as an image role model for F.B.I. employees to emulate in their personal appearance.
The Society of Former Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation honoured the character of Lewis Erskine in 1985 with a set of retired credentials. On 8 June, 2009 FBI Director Robert Mueller presented Zimbalist with a plaque of an honorary special agent for his work on the television series The F.B.I. The run of the show on ABC was followed in the 1980’s by a revival show, Today’s FBI with Zimbalist returning as Erskine.
P.S. I grew up with Zimbalist and his character Erskine, The F.B.I. was shown on the ABC TV in Australia and he has always been a favourite of mine. (Showing my age)