Scoop is saddened to report that veteran actor John Hillerman has passed away at age 84 at his home in Houston, Texas.
After making his film debut in Lawman (1971), he worked with director Peter Bogdanovich on a string of films including The Last Picture Show (1971), What's Up, Doc? (1972), Paper Moon (1973) and At Long Last Love (1975). He also appeared in High Plains Drifter (1973), as Howard Johnson in Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles (1974), and as Russ Yelburton in Chinatown (1974), Lucky Lady (1975), and Audrey Rose (1977).
He landed frequent roles on television including stints as a regular on Ellery Queen (1975-1976) and The Betty White Show (1977-1978), and as a recurring on One Day at a Time (1976-1980) before landing his best-known role as Jonathan Quayle Higgins III, major domo of the estate of fictitious author Robin Masters on Magnum, P.I. (1980-1988).
Along with series star Tom Selleck and co-stars Roger E. Mosley and Larry Manetti, Hillerman appeared in all 158 episodes of the series. He was occasionally called upon to portray his character’s half-siblings such as Irish priest Father Paddy McGuiness, South American would-be assassin Don Luis Mongueo, and Texas cowboy Elmo Ziller, as well as his character’s father, but he was at his best as the upper class foil for Selleck’s decidedly more down-to-earth Thomas Magnum.
So effective was Hillerman’s performance as the very British former Sergeant Major and MI-6 operative Higgins, that it was noted at the time that he often received praise as a wonderful representative of the British empire. That didn’t seem to take into consideration that he was born in Denison, Texas, near the Dallas/Fort Worth area, but could be considered a favorable review nonetheless.
He was nominated for Emmy Awards in four consecutive years, 1984-1987, and won in 1987. He also portrayed the character on Murder, She Wrote, Simon & Simon, and Quantum Leap. His last work came in A Very Brady Sequel (1996).