John Hillerman
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John Hillerman

John Hillerman
John Hillerman Betty White The Betty White Show 1977 (cropped) 2.jpg
Hillerman in The Betty White Show, 1977
John Benedict Hillerman

(1932-12-20)December 20, 1932
DiedNovember 9, 2017(2017-11-09) (aged 84)
Alma materUniversity of Texas at Austin
Years active1957-1999

John Benedict Hillerman (December 20, 1932 - November 9, 2017) was an American actor best known for his starring role as Jonathan Quayle Higgins III on the television series Magnum, P.I. that aired from 1980-1988. For his role as Higgins, Hillerman earned five Golden Globe nominations, winning in 1981, and four Emmy nominations, winning in 1987. He retired from acting in 1999.

Early life and career

Hillerman was born in Denison, Texas, the son of Christopher Benedict Hillerman, a gas station owner, and Lenora Joan (née Medlinger).[1] He was the middle child with two sisters.[2] His father was the grandson of immigrants from Germany and France,[3] and his mother the daughter of immigrants from Austria and Germany.[3] Hillerman developed an interest in opera at the age of ten, and traveled to Dallas to watch Metropolitan Opera productions.[4] He attended St. Xavier's Academy,[4] and after graduation, he attended the University of Texas at Austin for three years, majoring in journalism.[5]

Hillerman served four years in the United States Air Force (1953-1957), working in maintenance in a B-36 wing of the Strategic Air Command, and achieving the rank of sergeant.[4][6] He became interested in acting after working with a theatrical group in Fort Worth during his service: "I was bored with barracks life. I got into [acting] to meet people in town. A light went on."[4] After his 1957 discharge, he moved to New York City to study at the American Theatre Wing, and performed in professional theater for the next twelve years, in productions such as Henry IV, Part 2 and The Great God Brown.[7] Despite over 100 stage roles,[4] Hillerman was unable to make a living as a stage actor, and he moved to Hollywood in 1969.[4][6]



Hillerman made his film debut in They Call Me Mister Tibbs! (1970) in an uncredited role as a reporter.[8] Director Peter Bogdanovich, with whom Hillerman had previously worked during his stage career, cast Hillerman in his films The Last Picture Show, What's Up, Doc?, and Paper Moon.[4] Hillerman worked steadily thereafter in motion pictures and television through the 1970s, including notable supporting roles in the 1974 films Chinatown and Blazing Saddles.[2] After being cast in Magnum, P.I., he shot only four additional pictures between 1980 and 1996, with his final film performance coming in A Very Brady Sequel.


Hillerman and Betty White in a 1977 publicity photo for The Betty White Show

In 1975, Hillerman was a co-star in Ellery Queen as Simon Brimmer, a radio detective who hosted a radio show and tried to outsmart the title character (Jim Hutton).[9] From 1976-1980, he had a recurring role as Mr. Conners on the sitcom One Day at a Time, and he co-starred as Betty White's estranged husband on The Betty White Show (1977-1978).[9] In 1978, Hillerman also appeared in an episode of Little House on the Prairie called "Harriet's Happenings".

He is perhaps best remembered for his role as former British Army Sergeant Major Jonathan Higgins in Magnum, P.I. (1980-1988),[9] for which he learned to speak in the educated middle/upper class English accent known as Received Pronunciation, the King's or Queen's English by listening to a recording of Laurence Olivier reciting Hamlet.[10][note 1] He considered Higgins his favorite role,[11] and described the character in a 1988 interview as "think[ing] he's the only sane character [in the show], and everyone else is stark raving mad."[4]

In 1982, Hillerman starred in the television pilot of Tales of the Gold Monkey, as a German villain named Fritz the Monocle.[12] He hosted the 1984 David Hemmings-directed puzzle video Money Hunt: The Mystery of the Missing Link.[13] In 1990, Hillerman returned to television as Lloyd Hogan in the sixth and final season of the sitcom The Hogan Family.[9] That same year, he portrayed Dr. Watson to Edward Woodward's Sherlock Holmes in Hands of a Murderer.[12]

In 1993, he appeared in Berlin Break for one season.[10] He played the role of Mac MacKenzie, a former spy and currently the proprietor of Mac's, a bar in West Berlin considered to be neutral territory during the Cold War.[9] Mac teamed up with two jobless spies as investigators: Valentin Renko (Nicholas Clay), an ex-KGB agent, and Willy Richter (Kai Wulff), an ex-BND (West German secret service) operative.[6] The show reunited him with Jeff MacKay, who portrayed "Mac" MacReynolds in Magnum P.I..[14]

Later years and death

After Hillerman retired from acting in 1999, he returned to his home state of Texas.[11] On November 9, 2017, he died of cardiovascular disease at his Houston home, at the age of 84.[2][15]




Year Title Role Notes
1970 They Call Me Mister Tibbs! Reporter Uncredited
1971 Lawman Totts
1971 The Last Picture Show Teacher
1971 Honky
1972 What's Up, Doc? Hotel Manager Kaltenborn
1972 The Carey Treatment Jenkins
1972 Skyjacked Walter Brandt
1972 The Outside Man Department Store Manager
1973 The Thief Who Came to Dinner Edmund Lasker
1973 High Plains Drifter Bootmaker
1973 Paper Moon Deputy Hardin / Jess Hardin
1973 The Naked Ape Psychiatrist
1974 Blazing Saddles Howard Johnson
1974 The Nickel Ride Carl
1974 Chinatown Russ Yelburton
1975 At Long Last Love Rodney James
1975 The Day of the Locust Ned Grote
1975 Lucky Lady McTeague
1977 Audrey Rose Scott Velie
1979 Sunburn Webb
1981 History of the World, Part I Rich Man (The French Revolution)
1984 Up the Creek Dean Burch
1989 Gummibärchen küßt man nicht Padre
1996 A Very Brady Sequel Dr. Whitehead (final film role)


Year Title Role Notes
1971 Sweet, Sweet Rachel Medical Examiner Television film
1972 The Sixth Sense Adrian Weems Episode: "Once Upon a Chilling"
1972 Mannix Larry Lawton Episode: "Light and Shadow"
1972 The Great Man's Whiskers Major Underwood Television film
1973 Mannix J. H. Morell Episode: "Silent Target"
1974 Maude Drunk Episode: "The Commuter Station"
1974 Kojak Mark Gallant Episode: "The Only Way Out"
1974 The Law Thomas Rachel Television film
1975 Mannix Norman Thompson Episode: "Search for a Dead Man"
1975 The Bob Crane Show Dean Harrington Episode: "The Son of the Campus Capers"
1975-1976 Ellery Queen Simon Brimmer 8 episodes
1976 Serpico Raoul Christie Episode: "Rapid Fire"
1976 Hawaii Five-O Donald Blair Episode: "Man on Fire"
1976 Wonder Woman Conrad Steigler Episode: "Wonder Woman vs Gargantua"
1976-1980 One Day at a Time Mr. Connors 6 episodes
1977 Delvecchio Dr. Augustus Hamilton Episode: "Licensed to Kill"
1977-1978 The Betty White Show John Elliott 14 episodes
1978 Hawaii Five-O Nelson Bodine Episode: "A Stranger in His Grave"
1978 Little House on the Prairie Sterling Murdock Episode: "Harriet's Happening"
1979 The Love Boat Ed Hartnett 2 episodes
1979 Beane's of Boston John Peacock Pilot
1980 Soap Minister Episode: "3.12"
1980 Young Maverick McBurney Episode: "Makin' Tracks"
1980 Hart to Hart Victor Sutter Episode: "Cruise At Your Own Risk"
1980 Tenspeed and Brown Shoe William Whitney Episode: "Diamonds Aren't Forever"
1980 Lou Grant Sturbridge Episode: "Pack"
1980-1988 Magnum, P.I. Jonathan Higgins 158 episodes
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Nominated--Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Series, Miniseries or Television Film (1983, 1985, 1987-1988)
Nominated--Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (1984-1986)
1982 Tales of the Gold Monkey Monocle 2 episodes
1982 Simon & Simon Jonathan Higgins Episode: "Emeralds Are Not a Girl's Best Friend"
1983 The Love Boat Manfred Episode: "The Last Case"
1986 Murder, She Wrote Jonathan Higgins Episode: "Magnum on Ice"
1987 Assault and Matrimony Neighbor, Cyril Television film
1989 Around the World in 80 Days Sir Francis Commarty 3 episodes
1990 Hands of a Murderer Dr. John Watson Television film
1990-1991 The Hogan Family Lloyd Hogan 13 episodes
1992 Murder, She Wrote Edgar Greenstreet Episode: "Murder on Madison Avenue"

Awards and nominations


  1. ^ An article about Hillerman in Orange Coast magazine in June 1988 said, "... the accent supplanted a thick drawl. Born and raised in Texas, he [Hillerman] trained away the drawl in a year of intensive work in New York's American Theatre Wing."


  1. ^ "John Hillerman Biography". Retrieved 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Haas, Matthew (November 9, 2017). "John Hillerman, Snooty Sidekick on 'Magnum, P.I.,' Dies at 84". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017.
  3. ^ a b Sheff, David (April 18, 1983). "The Lean Years Are Over for John Hillerman, Who's Finding a Magnum of Success in Hawaii". People. Retrieved 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Logan, Dan (June 1988). "John Hillerman Says Goodbye to Magnum, P.I." Orange Coast. pp. 214-215. Retrieved 2017.
  5. ^ Quttman, Monika (June 17, 1987). "'Higgins' Not Really British". The Victoria Advocate. Tribune Media Services. Retrieved 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d "John Hillerman, Emmy-Winning 'Magnum, P.I.' Actor, Dies at 84". Variety. November 9, 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  7. ^ "("John Hillerman" search results)". Playbill. Archived from the original on July 12, 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  8. ^ "'Magnum, P.I.' Star John Hillerman Dead At 84". TMZ. November 9, 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  9. ^ a b c d e Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 94. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  10. ^ a b Conroy, Sarah Booth (June 1, 1986). "John Hillerman". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on July 12, 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  11. ^ a b "'Magnum, P.I.' actor John Hillerman dies at 84". Los Angeles Times. November 9, 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  12. ^ a b c Barnes, Mike (November 9, 2017). "John Hillerman, Higgins on 'Magnum, P.I.,' Dies at 84". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2017.
  13. ^ "Billboard Videocassette Top 40" (PDF). Billboard. September 15, 1984. p. 30. Retrieved 2017.
  14. ^ a b "'Magnum P.I.' Higgins actor John Hillerman dies at 84". Fox News. November 9, 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  15. ^ "'Magnum, P.I.' Star Died From Heart Disease". TMZ. December 7, 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  16. ^ "John Hillerman Filmography". FanDango. Retrieved 2017.
  17. ^ "John Hillerman". Hollywood. Retrieved 2017.
  18. ^ "John Hillerman Filmography". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2017.
  19. ^ "Nominees/Winners". 1984. Retrieved 2014.
  20. ^ "Nominees/Winners". 1985. Retrieved 2014.
  21. ^ "Nominees/Winners". 1986. Retrieved 2014.
  22. ^ "Nominees/Winners". 1987. Retrieved 2014.
  23. ^ a b c d e "Winners and Nominees: John Hillerman". Golden Globe Awards. Retrieved 2017.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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