‘Bronco’ Star Ty Hardin Dies at 87

Ty Hardin, popular for his starring role in the Bronco western series, has died at the age of 87. His widow, Carolyn Pampu Hardin, told the Associated Press that he’d been in failing health. Hardin died on August 3. Ty Hardin was living in Huntington Beach, CA.

Television westerns dominated airwaves during the 1950s and ’60s. Ty Hardin received his big break with the help of none other than John Wayne, who helped him get his contract with Warner Bros. When Cheyenne star Clint Walker temporarily left the series over a contract dispute, Hardin stepped in as Bronco Layne. Bronco continued as a spin off series after Walker’s return, going on to air for four seasons from 1958-1962.

Ty Hardin was born Orson Whipple Hungerford in 1930. He changed his name as his stardom grew. Hardin chose his stage name after outlaw John Wesley Hardin. Before entering television, Hardin raised by his grandparents on an Austin, Texas farm. He went on to complete military service, serving in the Korean War. He went on to play football at Texas A&M under the famed Paul “Bear” Bryant.

Hardin’s career started with Paramount after a talent scout spotted him in a cowboy costume for a party. He made a series of B-movies for Paramount. John Wayne then suggested him for a television role that later went to Ricky Nelson. Soon after, the Bronco Layne opportunity came forth.

Ty Hardin escorts Shelly Winters at the Academy Awards

Following his famous role, Ty Hardin went on to star in several Hollywood movies throughout the early ’60s including PT 109, Battle of the Bulge, and Palm Springs Weekend. His co-stars included Troy Donahue, Cliff Robertson, and Henry Fonda, among others. Many of his roles took advantage of his 6-foot-2, muscular physique, featuring a lot of shirtless moments.

Ty Hardin and Joan Crawford in costume in 1966

Later in life, Hardin’s career was less successful. After 1966, he moved to Europe where he made European movies through the 1970s. Hardin ran into some problems with the IRS during the 1970s. He started an anti-tax organization in Prescott, Arizona that later evolved into an extremist anti-government group known as the Arizona Patriots. In 1986, the government raided one of the group’s camps, after which Hardin left Arizona.

He continued to make movies with his last credited role in 1992. He remained an advocate for Westerns and granted interviews for many years after his retirement.

The cause of Hardin’s death has not yet been determined. He had been married eight times with a total of five children.

[Featured Image by L.J. Willinger/Keystone/Getty Images]