07 August 2017

Ty Hardin (1930-2017)

On 3 August 2017, blonde American actor Ty Hardin (1930) passed away. He was probably best known as hunky TV cowboy Bronco and this fame lead to several film appearances in Hollywood and Italy.

Ty Hardin
Spanish postcard by Ediciones Este, no. 7 T, 1963. Photo: Warner Bros. Publicity still for the TV series Bronco (1958-1962).

Just a hunk of beefcake

Though born as Orison Whipple Hungerford Jr. (!) in New York City in 1930, Ty Hardin was raised in Texas. His family moved to Austin when he was six months old. His father, an acoustical engineer, left the family four years later.

As a growing boy, his grandmother, with whom he lived part of the time after his parents divorced, nicknamed him 'Ty' because he was as active as a 'Texas typhoon'. Hardin graduated in 1949 from Lamar High School in Houston. A football scholarship enabled him to attend Blinn College in Brenham, Texas for one year, and then he went to Dallas's Bible Institute for one semester.

After military service during the Korean War, Ty took some classes at Texas A&M University in College Station on a football scholarship. He then moved west to California. A Paramount Pictures talent scout discovered him at a costume party. Ty had rented six-guns from a costume rental company.

By 1957, Hardin acquired the services of agent Henry Willson, the man who discovered Rock Hudson, and made his way to Hollywood where he was put under contract by Paramount Pictures. Credited as Ty Hungerford, the handsome blonde won some minor roles in B movies such as I Married a Monster from Outer Space (Gene Fowler Jr., 1958) and The Space Children (Jack Arnold, 1958).

He moved to Warner Brothers, and his stage surname was changed to 'Hardin', reminiscent of the Texas gunfighter John Wesley Hardin. He attended actors' school at Warner Brothers and landed small parts in various Warner productions. In 1958, when TV's Clint Walker insisted on improvements in his Cheyenne contract, Warner Brothers countered by bringing in Ty as a possible replacement.

Warner Bros installed Ty into Cheyenne for the remainder of the season, as the country cousin Bronco Layne. Walker and Warner Brothers came to terms after the season ended, but Hardin had made such a big hit on the show that Jack L. Warner gave him his own series, Bronco. The series alternated weeks with Sugarfoot, starring Will Hutchins, and Cheyenne for four years. The series ran from 1958 to 1962.

From here, he moved into a brief flurry of film activity. Warner Bros cast him as Doug 'Stretch' Fortune in Merrill's Marauders (Samuel Fuller, 1962). It was followed by roles in The Chapman Report (George Cukor, 1962) opposite Glynis Johns, Wall of Noise (Richard Wilson, 1963), and Battle of the Bulge (Ken Annakin, 1965) starring Henry Fonda.

IMDb: "Though often dismissed as just a hunk of 'beefcake' - he did a lot of bare-chest scenes - Ty displayed a flair for light comedy in The Chapman Report (1962) and showed dramatic potential in the underrated Wall of Noise (1963)."

Ty Hardin (1930-2017)
British postcard by D. Constance Ltd., London, in the Celebrity Series, no. 372. Photo: Ty Hardin as Bronco Layne in the TV series Bronco (1959-1962).

Ty Hardin (1930-2017)
Vintage card.

A penchant for stockpiling weapons and baiting public officials

When his contract expired, Ty Hardin left Hollywood to seek opportunity overseas as his series aired all over the world. Like many other American actors, he travelled to Europe, where he turned down Sergio Leone's offer to play the lead in the classic Per un pugno di dollari/A Fistful of Dollars (1964). In Italy, he did play in the Spaghetti Western L'uomo della valle maledetta/The Man from Cursed Valley (Siro Marcellini, 1964), and the action film Bersaglio mobile/Moving Target (Sergio Corbucci, 1967).

Wikipedia mentions that Hardin was reportedly the first choice to play the starring role in the television series Batman (1966), which went instead to Adam West. Hardin turned down Batman because of film commitments overseas. He did star in the Australian television series Riptide (1967–1968)  in which he played an American running a charter boat company along the eastern seaboard of Australia. In 1970 he starred in the popular French-German TV series called Arpad der Zigeuner/Arpad the Gypsy (1973-1974) with Robert Etcheverry.

After his acting career faded away, he worked in Prescott, Arizona, as an evangelistic preacher. According to IMDb, Ty Hardin then became a self-proclaimed 'freedom fighter' in the 1970s, and led a radical right-wing group called The Arizona Patriots, an anti-Semitic/anti-immigrant/anti-black group with a penchant for stockpiling weapons and baiting public officials.

In 1986, following a two-year FBI undercover investigation, agents from the FBI and ATF raided an Arizona Patriot camp and confiscated a hoard of illegal weapons and publications from Aryan Nation groups and affiliates. Hardin left Arizona, and the group soon ceased to function.

Later he incidentally appeared in TV series and films. He had small parts in the American teen film The Zoo Gang (Pen Densham, John Watson, 1985) with Jason Gedrick, and the American coming-of-age adventure action film Rescue Me (Arthur Allan Seidelman, 1992) starring Stephen Dorff. His final film role was s bit part in the romantic comedy Head Over Spurs in Love (Ana Zins, 2011)

On 3 August 2017, Ty Hardin died of Alzheimer disease in Huntington Beach, California, USA. He married eight times, divorced seven times, and had ten children from five of his marriages. From 1962 till 1966, he was married to the 1961 Miss Universe, German beauty queen Marlene Schmidt, who later worked in the film industry; they had one daughter. He also had twin sons with Andra Martin: Jeff Orison and 'John Richard Hardin. At his death, Hardin lived with his eighth wife, Caroline, in Huntington Beach.

Ty Hardin
Spanish postcard by Archivo Bermejo, no. C-81, 1963. Photo: Warner Bros. Publicity still for the TV series Bronco (1958-1962).

Source: Les gens du Cinema (French), Wikipedia and IMDb.

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