Ty Hardin Dead: How Did the ‘Bronco’ Actor Die?


Ty Hardin has died.

The veteran television and film actor passed away on Thursday evening, according to The Associated Press. His widow, Carolyn Pampu Hardin, said that he was at his home in Huntington Beach, California. He was 87.

The New York Times, who broke the story, reported that a cause of death has yet to be determined. That being said, Carolyn Pampu Hardin stated that her husband had been in “failing health” over the past few months.

Born Orison Whipple Hungerford Jr., Hardin broke into Hollywood in the 1950s, and changed his name in homage to the outlaw John Wesley Hardin. He credited John Wayne for giving him his first break and helping him nab a contract with Warner Bros.

After bit parts in films like I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958), Hardin would become a household name when he replaced Clint Walker as the star of the western television series Cheyenne. The success of the series let to Hardin getting his own spinoff, Bronco, which ran from 1958 to 1962 and remains his signature role.

Hardin parlayed this television fame back into film, appearing in Last Train from Gun Hill (1959) with Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn, Battle of the Bulge (1965) with Henry Fonda, and Berzerk! (1967) with Joan Crawford. His last credited role was in the 1992 comedy Rescue Me. When asked why he retired, Hardin said “I think for me it has been, because I was able to just walk away from the industry with no remorse. I felt I’d served my purpose.”

He remained an avid supporter of the Western genre throughout his career, and even sat down with the Memphis Film Festival in 2010 to explain its importance.

Hardin was also known for marrying eight times during his life. He married Nancy Smith (1952-?), actress Andra Martin (1958-60), actress Marlene Schmidt (1962-65), Francine Nebel (1966–?), Jenny Atkins (1971-74), Lyndell Hardin (1974–?), Judy D. Hild McNeill (1978-2007), and finally, to Caroline Pampu in 2007.

In a 2010 interview with Henry’s Round Up, Hardin spoke on his matrimonial lifestyle:

That was one fun thing I had, I really enjoyed doing my mail, and I’d get a big ego trip, then I’d have to go down to real life. During that period I was married for a while, but marriages are hard to keep. Poor old Andra Martin (his 2nd wife), she was a real sweetheart of a gal. I just never really got to know her. I was married to Miss Universe at one time. (Helen Schmidt, wife #3 was 1961 Miss Universe) I was making PT 109. I was one of the judges for the Miss Universe contest. And of course I voted for her. She was a sweet gal. Looking back I think what an idiot I was. The industry just is so demanding, and I followed it so relentlessly, and I was so damned dedicated to it that I just got my values screwed up, my priorities all messed up. Marriage has always meant something to me. Unfortunately I’ve been good at doing it, but not at keeping it.

Hardin is survived by his children, among which include Jeff Orison Hardin, John Richard Hardin, Bobby Smith, and Mary Chris Smith.

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