Kip Niven, a veteran character actor whose career ranged from early-’70s TV and the first two Sensurround films to regional theater and starring in 2014’s Jayhawkers, has died. He was 73. Local media outlets in his native Kansas City, MO, said Niven died Monday of a heart attack.
Born on May 27, 1945, he got his start with guest roles in such 1970s TV dramas as Night Gallery, Escape and Emergency! before landing a key role in the first Dirty Harry sequel. In 1973’s Magnum Force, Niven played “Red” Astrachan, one of the vigilante rookie cops who terrorize San Francisco’s underworld — and eventually Clint Eastwood, who eventually gets his revenge. Astrachan’s comrades were played by future stars Robert Urich, Tim Matheson and David Soul.
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After that, Niven would appear in dozens of TV shows and more than a dozen features including Earthquake (1974) and Midway (1976), the first two movies released in the Sensurround format that made theater seats shake at key moments. He had a key, if brief and ill-fated, role in Earthquake as a scientist who predicts that the Big One will hit Los Angeles within days.
As the “disaster movie” trend swept through Hollywood in the mid-’70s, Niven also would appear in Airport 1975 and The Hindenburg (1977),
He also continued to work on the small screen, appearing in multiple telefilms, miniseries including Blind Ambition and Once an Eagle and such drama series as Marcus Welby, M.D., S.W.A.T. and The Bionic Woman. He also did an arc as Rev. Tom Marshall on The Waltons and returned for the first two post-series telepics.
Niven also did a stint on the long-running CBS sitcom Alice, whose star Linda Lavin he married in 1982. Niven’s character had a key role in the two-part series finale as a country singer who whisks Lavin’s Alice away to Nashville to follow her musical dream.
Niven worked mostly in TV during the 1980s, guesting on shows including Falcon Crest, Hart to Hart, CHiPs, Simon & Simon, T.J. Hooker, Knight Rider, Kate & Allie and Spenser: For Hire and some 1990s series including Law & Order and Walker, Texas Ranger, along with multiple telefilms.
Among his other film credtis are Swashbuckler (1976), Damnation Alley (1977) and playing a masked homicidal maniac in the 1980 slasher pic New Year’s Evil.
He would go on to appear in indie films and shorts through 2018, with his last major as playing legendary University of Kansas basketball coach Forrest “Phog” Allen in Jayhawkers.
Niven also was a regular on the Kansas City theater circuit, where he found the Equity Actors’ Readers’ Theatre.
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