Ty Hardin, Star of ‘Bronco’ Western, Dies at 87
The New York Times
By William Grimes
August 6, 2017
Ty Hardin, who roamed the West searching for adventure in the television series “Bronco” in the late 1950s and early ’60s, died on Thursday in Huntington Beach, Calif. He was 87.
His wife, Caroline, confirmed his death, but said the cause had not been determined.
In a television landscape crowded with gunslingers like Sugarfoot, Cheyenne, Lucas McCain (the Rifleman) and Bret Maverick, Mr. Hardin carved a niche playing Bronco Layne, a soft-spoken loner slow to anger but quick on the draw and skilled in the saddle.
“There ain’t a horse that he can’t handle, that’s how he got his name,” a line in the show’s theme song went.
First introduced on the series “Cheyenne” in 1958, Bronco, formerly a captain in the Confederate Army, held various jobs as he traveled — Army scout, deputy sheriff, wagon-train master, undercover post-office agent and miner among them — and encountered colorful historical characters along the way, notably Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hickok and Jesse James (played by James Coburn).
“Ty Hardin, the hero, is a handsome, callow cowhand,” The New York Times wrote when the show had its premiere, “not as frivolous as Bret Maverick but, then again, not as omnipotent as Marshal Dillon nor as righteous as Wyatt Earp.”
Mr. Hardin was born Orison Whipple Hungerford Jr. on Jan. 1, 1930, in Manhattan. His parents divorced when he was 2, and his mother, the former Gwendolyn Burnett, took him and his brother to live in Houston and then at her mother’s farm outside Austin, Tex. His grandmother gave him the nickname Ty.
After graduating from Lamar High School in Houston he attended Blinn Junior College in Brenham, Tex., on a football scholarship and studied for a semester at the Dallas Bible Institute.
He enlisted in the Army and, after attending officer candidate school, underwent flight training and flew light aircraft while stationed in West Germany during the Korean War. After leaving the Army, he studied electrical engineering at Texas A&M, where he played tight end for Bear Bryant. A few weeks before graduation, Mr. Hardin left college to work as an acoustical research engineer at Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica, Calif.
While shopping for a Halloween costume, he was spotted by a talent scout for Paramount Pictures, who arranged a screen test that led to a seven-year contract and the films “The Space Children” and “I Married a Monster From Outer Space.”
Hoping for a role in the Warner Bros. film “Rio Bravo,” he met with John Wayne, only to find that the part he wanted had been given to Ricky Nelson. Wayne introduced him to Howard Hawks, the film’s producer and director, and to William T. Orr, head of the studio’s television division. Warner bought his contract, assigned him the last name Hardin, and inserted him into its series “Cheyenne” when the show’s star, Clint Walker, walked off the set in a contract dispute.
As Bronco Layne, Mr. Hardin proved so popular with viewers that when Walker returned to “Cheyenne” in 1959, the studio created “Bronco” as a spinoff, which ABC ran in rotation with “Cheyenne” and “Sugarfoot” in the same time slot.
After “Bronco” had run its course, Mr. Hardin appeared in several Warner films, including “Merrill’s Marauders,” directed by Sam Fuller; “The Chapman Report”; “PT 109”; and the Troy Donahue vehicle “Palm Springs Weekend.”
His career on the wane, he tried his luck in Europe. He played a tightrope walker in a circus owned by Joan Crawford in the 1967 British horror film “Berserk!” and an action hero in the Italian thriller “Death on the Run.” He also appeared in several spaghetti westerns and the Australian adventure series “Riptide.”
He experienced the double misfortune of turning down the lead role in “A Fistful of Dollars,” the film that rejuvenated Clint Eastwood’s career, and, because of filming commitments in Spain, the role of Batman in the 1960s television series.
After returning to the United States in the late 1970s, Mr. Hardin came into conflict with the I.R.S. over nonpayment of taxes.
While living in Prescott, Ariz., he formed an anti-tax, anti-government protest group that evolved into the Arizona Patriots militia movement, which was accused in 1986 of planning to blow up an I.R.S. complex in Utah. In a raid on a Patriots camp, federal agents confiscated weapons and publications from Aryan Nation groups. The group has since disbanded.
Mr. Hardin’s first seven marriages ended in divorce. He lived in Huntington Beach. Besides his wife, the former Caroline Pampu, survivors include his sons Bobby Smith, Jeff and John Hardin, and Tyrin Hungerford; his daughters Mary Chriss Smith and Stefanie Hardin Leuty; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
HARDIN Ty (Orison Whipple Hungerford III)
Born: 1/1/1930, New York City, New York, U.S.A.
Died: 8/3/2017, Huntington Beach, California, U.S.A.
Ty Hardin’s westerns - actor
Bronco (TV) – 1958-1962 (Bronco Layne)
Last Train from Gun Hill - 1959 (cowboy loafer)
Sugarfoot (TV) – 1959, 1962 (Bronco Layne)
Maverick (TV) – 1960 (Bronco Layne)
Cheyenne (TV) – 1961 (Bronco Layne)
Man of the Cursed Valley - 1964 (Johnny Walscott)
Savage Pampas – 1966 (Miguel Carreras)
Custer of the West – 1967 (Major Marcus Reno)
Drummer of Vengeance – 1971 (The Stranger)
Holy Water Joe – 1971 (Jeff Donovan)
The Last Rebel – 1971 (The Sheriff)
Vendetta at Dawn – 1971 (Jonathan Benton)
You're Jinxed, Friend You've Met Sacramento – 1972 (Jack ‘Sacramento’ Thompson)
The Quest (TV) – 1976 (Tom Kurd)
When the West Was Fun: A Western Reunion (TV) – 1979 (Bronco Layne)
Red River (TV) – 1988 (Cotton)
Bad Jim – 1990 (Tom Jefferd)