Ac­tor John Hiller­man dies

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - as­so­ci­ated press news.obits@la­times.com

TV and film star’s favorite role was Hig­gins on “Magnum, P.I.” He was 84.

John Hiller­man, who played stuffed-shirt Hig­gins to Tom Sel­leck’s free­wheel­ing de­tec­tive Thomas Magnum in the 1980s TV se­ries “Magnum, P.I.” has died, his nephew said Thurs­day. Hiller­man was 84.

Hiller­man, who had been in de­clin­ing health, died of nat­u­ral causes Thurs­day at his home in Hous­ton, nephew Chris Tritico said.

Be­sides play­ing man­ager of the Hawai­ian es­tate that Magnum used as home base, Hiller­man was known for his 1970s roles as ar­ro­gant ra­dio show de­tec­tive Si­mon Brim­mer on the “Ellery Queen” se­ries and the dif­fi­cult boss on the sit­com “One Day at a Time.”

When Hiller­man de­cided to re­tire about 17 years ago, the ac­tor born in Deni­son, Texas, re­turned to his na­tive state and was con­tent leav­ing Hol­ly­wood be­hind, said his nephew. He re­mem­bered his un­cle, an Air Force vet­eran, fondly.

“He had an out­stand­ing sense of hu­mor and was one of the most well-read peo­ple I ever met. You couldn’t play Scrab­ble with him,” Tritico said.

As for that quasi-Bri­tish ac­cent that Hiller­man used on “Magnum” and else­where, his nephew said that was honed dur­ing sev­eral decades of play­ing var­ied roles on the New York stage be­fore he turned to TV and movies.

Hiller­man used some­thing closer to his own voice in Mel Brooks’ “Blaz­ing Sad­dles,” play­ing Howard John­son, one of the comic western’s many John­sons. He ap­peared in a num­ber of TV se­ries, in­clud­ing “Valerie,” “The Love Boat” and “The Betty White Show,” and in films in­clud­ing “The Last Pic­ture Show” and “High Plains Drifter.”

His last cred­its in­cluded 1996’s “A Very Brady Se­quel” and an early ’90s ap­pear­ance on “Mur­der, She Wrote.”

The role of Hig­gins was his favorite, Tritico said.

“The rea­son he didn’t take an­other big role is he re­fused to take a sit­com af­ter ‘Magnum,’ ” he said. “He wanted to con­tinue do­ing the se­ri­ous work that he felt ‘Magnum’ was.”

Hiller­man’s sur­vivors in­clude a sis­ter, Jo Ann Tritico, and seven nieces and neph­ews in­clud­ing Tritico, a Hous­ton at­tor­ney.

As­so­ci­ated Press

ACTED ON STAGE, TV John Hiller­man’s cred­its in­cluded “Blaz­ing Sad­dles” and “The Betty White Show.” Above, Hiller­man with Betty White at the 1985 Emmy Awards.

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