|John Hillerman was born on
December 20, 1932 in Denison, Texas. Fans invariably type John Hillerman,
the sophisticated keeper of the estate, as British. With his clipped
mustache and cool demeanor, he looks and talks like the master of an
English country estate. Only those who have read his publicity know that
he was born in the railroad town in Texas named Denison, the son of the
owner of a gasoline service station.
Hillerman wanted to be an actor even when he was a student at St. Xavier's Academy. After graduation, he attended the University of Texas at Austin for three years and then did a four-year stint in the Air Force. During his years in uniform he worked with various theatrical groups, and on his discharge, he went to New York to study a the American Theatre Wing. In 1957, he began his career in professional theater as the resident juvenile at Chatauqua Playhouse in Middleton, Ohio. (See photo at right of a very young John Hillerman onstage.)
John then went on to appear onstage in productions at The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park (Middletown, for those of you who don't know, is the "middle town" between Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio), where he honed his art and brought his aristocratic English accent to Hollywood marketability.
While the majority of his fans know him for the many roles he played in television's Magnum P.I. in the 1980's (most notably, Higgins - see photo at left), fans of Ellery Queen know that character started life as Simon Brimmer.
The character of Simon allowed Ellery to have direct competition in his related field, and Simon's arrogance and self-assurance made Ellery's lack there-of all the more appealing to both the other characters and to the viewing audience.
Simon was a Radio personality (he saw himself as a great celebrity) sleuth who portrayed himself in ongoing serial mysteries. But he could not resist the idea of getting involved in real-life murder cases in an effort to boost ratings, boost his own ego, and the coup de gras - to beat out Ellery to finding the true murderer. As it happened, however, while Simon often ferreted out some valuable clues - that oft times were of tremendous help to Ellery - he always chose the wrong suspect as the guilty party. For a more in-depth look at the character of the suave Simon Brimmer, see our retrospective titled "Call Simon Brimmer" by Barbara Peterson. We think John Hillerman's performance as Simon Brimmer was simply delicious.
|Here is a
complete filmography for John Hillerman:
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