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John Hillerman

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Also Known As: John Benedict Hillerman Died:
Born: December 20, 1932 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Dennison, Texas, USA Profession: actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Uptight, diminutive, mustachioed, often "veddy" (though faux) British and unfailingly urbane, the Texas-born Hillerman created this classic supporting character for 1970s TV. After making an impression as arrogant 1940s radio show detective Simon Brimmer on the NBC revival of "Ellery Queen" (NBC, 1975-76), he further refined the character as the cold fish boss of Bonnie Franklin during the 1976-77 season of the long-running CBS sitcom "One Day at a Time". (He always addressed Franklin as "M S Romano".) Hillerman fared well trading sarcastic quips with Betty White in the superior but short-lived sitcom "The Betty White Show" (CBS, 1977-78). This clever spoof of the TV business revealed his mastery of the deadpan put-down as Hillerman played the estranged ex-husband and director of an Angie Dickinson-like actress in "Undercover Woman", a fictional cop show. He apotheosized the character as the long-suffering major domo Jonathan Higgins in the hugely popular detective comedy-drama "Magnum, P.I." (CBS, 1980-88). A stage-trained veteran of numerous TV-movies and specials (sans accent), Hillerman was also a busy character player in Hollywood features throughout the 70s, notably in four films by...

Uptight, diminutive, mustachioed, often "veddy" (though faux) British and unfailingly urbane, the Texas-born Hillerman created this classic supporting character for 1970s TV. After making an impression as arrogant 1940s radio show detective Simon Brimmer on the NBC revival of "Ellery Queen" (NBC, 1975-76), he further refined the character as the cold fish boss of Bonnie Franklin during the 1976-77 season of the long-running CBS sitcom "One Day at a Time". (He always addressed Franklin as "M S Romano".) Hillerman fared well trading sarcastic quips with Betty White in the superior but short-lived sitcom "The Betty White Show" (CBS, 1977-78). This clever spoof of the TV business revealed his mastery of the deadpan put-down as Hillerman played the estranged ex-husband and director of an Angie Dickinson-like actress in "Undercover Woman", a fictional cop show. He apotheosized the character as the long-suffering major domo Jonathan Higgins in the hugely popular detective comedy-drama "Magnum, P.I." (CBS, 1980-88).

A stage-trained veteran of numerous TV-movies and specials (sans accent), Hillerman was also a busy character player in Hollywood features throughout the 70s, notably in four films by writer-director Peter Bogdanovich: "The Last Picture Show" (1971); "What's Up, Doc?" (1972); "Paper Moon" (1973) as twins, a sheriff and a bootlegger; and "At Long Last Love" (1975) as Burt Reynolds' smooth valet. In films, Hillerman proved most convincing as small-time authority figures tinged with corruption. His other significant credits from that halcyon era include Clint Eastwood's "High Plains Drifter" (1973) as the bootmaker; Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles" (1974) as Howard Johnson; Roman Polanski's "Chinatown" (1974) as Yelburton, a shady city official; and Stanley Donen's "Lucky Lady" (1975) as a feisty hood.

The young Hillerman majored in journalism at the University of Texas and did a stint in the Air Force (1953-57)--where he achieved the rank of sergeant--before moving from Texas to NYC to pursue a career in the theater. Hillerman lost his thick Southern drawl with a year of intensive speech training the American Theatre Wing (1958-59). He went on to an active 15-year stage career, eleven largely in New York and four in the Theater Club in Washington D.C. Hillerman racked up over a 100 leading roles on and off-Broadway in such plays as "Our Town", "Death of a Salesman", "The Lion in Winter", "The Little Foxes" and "The Seven Year Itch". One early stage role was playing a spear-carrier in a production of "Othello" where he met Bogdanovich. Years later, the young writer-director would cast Hillerman in the landmark drama "The Last Picture Show", his film acting debut.

Hollywood proved a hospitable home for the actor. Hillerman segued between features and TV through the mid-70s before concentrating on the small screen where he made more than one hundred appearances. He struck paydirt as Jonathan Higgins, the repressed and paternalistic foil to the boyishly laid-back Tom Selleck. The role brought Hillerman wealth, international fame, a 1986/87 Emmy award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series and a Golden Globe that same year.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Very Brady Sequel, A (1996) Dr Whitehead
2.
 Hands of a Murderer (1990) Dr John Watson
3.
 Gummibarchen kusst man nicht (1989) Pfarrer--Padre
4.
 Street of Dreams (1988) Raymond Kepler
5.
 Assault and Matrimony (1987) Cyril Combs
6.
 Up The Creek (1983) Dean Burch
7.
 History of the World Part I (1981) Rich Man
8.
 Murder That Wouldn't Die, The (1980) Paul Harrison
9.
 Marathon (1980) Greg Previn
10.
 Institute For Revenge (1979) Vch Ifr
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1953:
Joined the Air Force and achieved the rank of sergeant
1958:
Moved to NYC to pursue his interest in theater (date approximate)
:
Lost his Texan drawl through a year of intensive speech training at the American Theater Wing in NYC
:
Acted on stage for 15 years
:
Early stage role, spear-carrier in "Othello"; met future writer-director Peter Bogdanovich
:
Worked as a company member of the Theatre Club in Washington, DC
1971:
Feature debut, Bogdanovich's "The Last Picture Show"; first of four collaborations with the filmmaker
1971:
TV-movie acting debut, "Sweet, Sweet Rachel"
1975:
Played pompous radio show detective-cum-amateur criminologist Simon Brimmer in "Too Many Suspects", the TV-movie pilot for the NBC revival of "Ellery Queen"
:
Recreated Simon Brimmer for the 1940s-set mystery series "Ellery Queen"
:
Played the recurring role of Bonnie Franklin's boss during the second season of the popular sitcom "One Day at a Time"
:
Co-starred as the suave, sarcastic director ex-husband of the star of a TV cop show in the sitcom "The Betty White Show"
:
Played the supporting role of Jonathan Higgins, the major domo of the Robin Masters estate, in the long-running detective series "Magnum, P.I."
1982:
TV miniseries debut, "Little Gloria . . . Happy at Last"
:
Hosted the Aloha Floral Parade segment from Hawaii for the "CBS All-American Thanksgiving Day Parade"
1990:
Portrayed Dr. John Watson (to Edward Woodward's Sherlock Holmes) in the CBS TV-movie "Hands of a Murderer"
:
Joined the cast of the sitcom "The Hogan Family" for the final season; played the grandfather Lloyd Hogan
1996:
Had small role in "A Very Brady Sequel"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

University of Texas: - 1949 - 1952
American Theatre Wing: New York , New York - 1958 - 1959

Family close complete family listing

father:
Christopher Benedict Hillerman.
mother:
Lenora Joan Hillerman.
sister:
Rose Mary Hillerman. Born on December 12, 1926.
sister:
Jo Ann Hillerman. Born on September 17, 1935.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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