Home / Arts & Life / Ty Hardin, Star of ‘Bronco’ Western, Dies at 87

Ty Hardin, Star of ‘Bronco’ Western, Dies at 87

“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.


Mr. Hardin, foreground, in the 1965 movie “Battle of the Bulge.” He also appeared in the 1963 film “PT 109,” about President John F. Kennedy’s time as a PT boat commander in World War II.

Warner Bros.

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.

Bronco: Season 1 Video by Warner Bros.

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.

Continue reading the main story

About admin

Check Also

Hear the Best Albums and Songs of 2023

Dear listeners, In the spirit of holiday excess and end-of-the-year summation, we’re about to make …