Ty Hardin

The Times obituary :

Ty Hardin was a big television star playing the title character in the hit western series Bronco and so was not too keen on the idea of appearing in a low-budget Italian movie. Instead, the role went to the star of another TV western series, and while A Fistful of Dollars helped to transform Clint Eastwood into a Hollywood superstar, Hardin gradually slipped into obscurity via a Spanish prison cell and an unfulfilled attempt to become president of the US.

The actor, who was also mixed up in Christian fundamentalism and right-wing politics, had no regrets about turning down the landmark spaghetti western. “I didn’t like the film,” he said. “I’m not much [keen] on promoting the use of bad language, excess violence and total neglect [of] our judicial system of checks and balances — bad images for our kids and my Baptist grandmother would turn over in her grave.”

Ty Hardin appeared with Diana Dors in Berserk! (1967). He was married eight times
Ty Hardin appeared with Diana Dors in Berserk! (1967). He was married eight timesMOVIESTORE/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

He did eventually jump on the bandwagon, but Savage Pampas (1966) did not exactly replicate the success of Eastwood’s breakthrough movie. And, to make matters worse, filming commitments in Europe meant that Hardin missed out on the chance to play Batman in what became one of the big hits of American television in the 1960s.

A descendant of William Whipple, one of the signatories of the American Declaration of Independence, Hardin was born as Orison Whipple Hungerford Jr in New York City on New Year’s Day 1930. His parents separated when he was an infant and he grew up on his grandparents’ farm in Texas.

He acquired the nickname Ty from his grandmother, who said that he was like “a Texas typhoon coming through the house”. He had behavioural problems and was sent to military school, ran away and was reunited with his mother in Houston.

In a 1958 publicity portrait for BroncoWARNER BROTHERS TELEVISION/ GETTY IMAGES

He went to college on a football scholarship, served in the US army as a pilot in West Germany, studied electrical engineering back in Texas and took a job with Douglas Aircraft in California. He was spotted by a talent scout while shopping for a Hallowe’en costume and invited to take a screen test with Paramount Pictures, which led to a seven-year contract with a starting salary twice that of his engineer’s pay. Over the next few years he appeared in a wide variety of films, including I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958), under the name Ty Hungerford.

The strong-jawed Hardin looked like a classic Wild West hero: he could rope and ride, and he hoped to get a part in the western Rio Bravo. Although he was unsuccessful, its star John Wayne introduced him to William T Orr at Warner Bros Television. It was the heyday of the television western series, including Cheyenne with Clint Walker. When Walker fell out with Warner Bros over his contract, the studio was left with a hit show with no star.

Orr bought out Hungerford’s contract with Paramount, changed his name to Hardin — after the outlaw John Wesley Hardin — and cast him in Cheyenne as Bronco Layne, a taciturn former Confederate officer drifting through various adventures and jobs, including deputy US marshal, undercover agent, wagon train boss and ranch hand. When Walker returned to Cheyenne, Warners rebranded Layne’s adventures as Bronco. Between 1958 and 1962 Hardin appeared in 68 episodes, rubbing shoulders with Wild West legends such as Jesse James and Billy the Kid.

Hardin appeared with Jeff Chandler in Merrill’s Marauders (1962). He also had roles in Battle of the Bulge (1965) and Berserk! (1967) with Diana Dors before pursuing his career in Europe and Australia, where he took the role of an American running a charter boat operation in the series Riptide (1969).

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