Kip Niven, Actor in 'Magnum Force,' 'Alice' and 'The Waltons,' Dies at 73

Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage
Kip Niven in 1987

The Kansas City native was "a little piece of Hollywood right here in the backyard," Oscar winner Kevin Willmott said.

Actor Kip Niven, who played one of the young rogue motorcycle cops in Magnum Force and appeared on such TV shows as Alice and The Waltons, has died. He was 73.

Niven, a theater mainstay in his native Kansas City, Missouri, died Monday, The Kansas City Star reported. Local radio station KCUR-FM said the cause of death was a heart attack.

Niven starred as legendary University of Kansas basketball coach Phog Allen in Jayhawkers (2014), written and directed by Kevin Willmott, a University of Kansas professor and recent Oscar screenplay winner for BlacKkKlansman.

"Kip was Kansas City theater and film in many ways. He was a symbol of its heart and beauty and community," Willmott told KCUR. "He was our little piece of Hollywood right here in the backyard."

At the conclusion of the long-running CBS sitcom Alice in 1985, Niven portrayed a country singer who sweeps Linda Lavin's title character off her feet and takes her to Nashville to fulfill her dream of becoming a singer as well. He and Lavin were married in real life from 1982-92.

Early in his career, Niven played Alan "Red" Astrachan, one of the traffic cops — Tim Matheson, David Soul and Robert Urich were the others — who take matters into their own hands in the Dirty Harry sequel Magnum Force (1973), starring Clint Eastwood.

On Broadway, he appeared in the 1991 musical comedy Nick and Nora, and he was the Rev. Tom Marshall on episodes of CBS' The Waltons and in a pair of subsequent telefilms.

Clifford Niven was born on May 27, 1945, in Kansas City and raised in the suburb of Prairie Village. He attended Shawnee Mission East High School and studied theater at the University of Kansas. One of his first onscreen roles came in a 1972 installment of Night Gallery.

He later showed up in the disaster pics Earthquake (1974), Airport 1975 and The Hindenburg (1975) and in other films including Midway (1976), Swashbuckler (1976), Damnation Alley (1977), New Year's Evil (1980), The Painting (2001) and Raising Jeffrey Dahmer (2006).

His TV résumé also include stints on Marcus Welby, M.D.; Emergency!; Barnaby Jones; Hart to Hart; Spencer: For Hire; Kate & Allie; Knight Rider; and Law & Order.

Niven returned to live in the Kansas City area in the 1990s and launched the Equity Actors' Readers’ Theatre (EARTh), which staged dramatic readings of plays. He worked often on local stages and was set to perform in The Wizard of Oz at the Starlight Theater in June.

Survivors include his life partner, Claudia, and his children Maggie, Kate and Jim.