John Hillerman

John Hillerman

Highest Rated: 100% The Last Picture Show (1971)

Lowest Rated: 17% Lucky Lady (1975)

Birthday: Dec 20, 1932

Birthplace: Denison, Texas, USA

Uptight, diminutive, mustachioed, often "veddy" (though faux) British and unfailingly urbane: Texas-born John Hillerman created this classic supporting character for 1970s and '80s 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." Hillerman fared well trading sarcastic quips with Betty White in the 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), which would prove to be his best-known role. 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 Peter Bogdanovich. Years later, the young writer-director would cast Hillerman in the landmark drama "The Last Picture Show," his film acting debut. Hillerman went on to work with Bogdanovich three more times, in screwball comedy "What's Up, Doc?" (1972); Depression-era comedy-drama "Paper Moon" (1973) as twins, a sheriff and a bootlegger; and throwback Cole Porter-inspired musical "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 era include Clint Eastwood's "High Plains Drifter" (1973) as the bootmaker; Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles" (1974) as local leader Howard Johnson; Roman Polanski's "Chinatown" (1974) as Yelburton, a shady city official; and Stanley Donen's "Lucky Lady" (1975) as a feisty hood. Hollywood proved a hospitable home for the actor. Hillerman segued between features and TV before 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. It also provided Hillerman with the means for a comfortable retirement. After the series' end in 1988, Hillerman worked only sporadically, starring in the made for TV movie "Hands of a Murderer" (1990) and joining the cast of the sitcom "The Hogan Family" (NBC/CBS 1986-1991) for its final season before making his final film appearance in "A Very Brady Sequel" (1996). John Hillerman died on November 9, 2017 in Houston at the age of 84.

Highest rated movies

The Last Picture Show
Paper Moon
Blazing Saddles
What's Up, Doc?
The Day of the Locust
A Very Brady Sequel
Audrey Rose




56% 35% A Very Brady Sequel Dr. Whitehead (Character) $21.4M 1996
No Score Yet 25% Hands of a Murderer Dr. John Watson (Character) - 1990
No Score Yet No Score Yet Sherlock Holmes and the Prince of Crime Dr. John Watson (Character) - 1990
No Score Yet No Score Yet Assault and Matrimony Cyril (Character) - 1987
No Score Yet 59% Up the Creek Dean Burch (Character) - 1984
No Score Yet 60% Sunburn Webb (Character) - 1979
53% 43% Audrey Rose Scott Velie (Character) - 1977
No Score Yet 100% Kill Me if You Can George Davis (Character) - 1977
No Score Yet No Score Yet Relentless Major Leo Hargit (Character) - 1977
No Score Yet No Score Yet The Invasion of Johnson County Maj. Walcott (Character) - 1976
No Score Yet No Score Yet Too Many Suspects Simon Brimmer (Character) - 1975
65% 75% The Day of the Locust Ned Grote (Character) - 1975
17% 40% Lucky Lady McTeague (Character) - 1975
20% 40% At Long Last Love Rodney James (Character) - 1975
No Score Yet No Score Yet Ellery Queen Simon Brimmer (Character) - 1975
No Score Yet 59% The Nickel Ride Carl (Character) - 1975
No Score Yet No Score Yet The Law Thomas Q. Rachel (Character) - 1974
99% 93% Chinatown Russ Yelburton (Character) - 1974
89% 91% Blazing Saddles Howard Johnson (Character) - 1974
93% 94% Paper Moon Deputy Hardin/Jess Hardin (Character) - 1973
No Score Yet No Score Yet The Great Man's Whiskers Major Underwood (Character) - 1973
No Score Yet 53% The Thief Who Came to Dinner Edmund Lasker (Character) - 1973
89% 88% What's Up, Doc? Hotel Manager (Character) - 1972
100% 90% The Last Picture Show Teacher (Character) - 1971
No Score Yet No Score Yet Sweet, Sweet Rachel Medical Examiner (Character) - 1971


No Score Yet No Score Yet The Betty White Show John Elliot (Character) 1977-1978 2021
No Score Yet 66% Murder, She Wrote Unknown (Guest Star) 1992
No Score Yet No Score Yet Hogan Family Lloyd Hogan (Character) 1990-1991
No Score Yet 94% Magnum, P.I. Jonathan Quayle Higgins III (Character) 1980-1988
No Score Yet No Score Yet Simon & Simon Unknown (Guest Star) 1982
No Score Yet 100% One Day at a Time Unknown (Guest Star) 1976-1977 1979-1980
No Score Yet No Score Yet Hart to Hart Unknown (Guest Star) 1980
No Score Yet 100% Soap Unknown (Guest Star) 1980
No Score Yet 92% Little House on the Prairie Sterling Murdock (Guest Star) 1978
100% 80% Wonder Woman Unknown (Guest Star) 1976
No Score Yet No Score Yet Mannix Norman Thompson (Guest Star) 1972-1973 1975
No Score Yet No Score Yet Kojak Unknown (Guest Star) 1974
No Score Yet No Score Yet Maude Unknown (Guest Star) 1974
No Score Yet No Score Yet The Sixth Sense Unknown (Guest Star) 1972