Mostly Credited As: Ty Hardin
Sometimes Credited As: Ty Hungerford
Birth Name: Orson Whipple Hungerford, Jr.
Date Of Birth: January 01, 1930 (Age 86)
Country Of Birth: USA
Birth Place: New York City, New York
Height: 6' 2" (1.87 m)
Ty Hardin was born Orison Whipple Hungerford, Jr.on New Year’s Day, 1930, in New York City. The name Whipple was given in honor of an ancestor on his father’s side, William Whipple of New Hampshire, who had signed the Declaration of Independence.
His parents divorced when he was five and he and his brother moved to Houston, Texas, with his mother. Struggling to survive in the years after the depression, his mother was forced to send the boys to live with their grandparents on a farm outside Austin. It was there he acquired the nickname “Ty” from his grandmother who described him “like a Texas typhoon”.
Ty faced many pitfalls in his young life as he struggled to find his identity. He became known as a “problem child” who rebelled against authority and was sent to the Shriners’ Institute in Kerrville, Texas, a military school, to learn discipline. Most of his time there was spent in detention, so he ran away from school and eventually, after some tough life experiences, ended up back in Houston with his mother. It was much later in his adult life that he discovered that he suffered from ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a condition that was not diagnosable when he was a child.
Ty graduated from Lamar High School in Houston, Texas, in 1949, and went on to attend Blinn Junior College on a football scholarship. Having been raised deeply religious, he studied one semester at Dallas Bible Institute before joining the Army.
He attended Officer’s Candidate School at Fort Mammoth, New Jersey, and as a Second Lieutenant, went to flight school in San Marcos, Texas, where he learned to fly light L-19 aircraft known as the “Birddog”. After achieving the rank of First Lieutenant, he served in Korea and later in Germany with the Occupation Forces.
Having been discharged from military service, he studied electrical engineering at Texas A&M where he received a football scholarship and played tight end under the coaching of legendary Bear Bryant. He left college two weeks before graduation to take a job with Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica, California, where he worked as an acoustical engineer.
Six months later, Ty walked into Western Costume Co. on Santa Monica Blvd., to rent a costume for a Halloween party. This was to change his life forever, for, as fate would have it, it was there he was “discovered” by Milton Lewis, a talent scout for Paramount Pictures. He was interviewed by Bill Micheljohn, the president of Paramount, given a screen test and was immediately offered a seven-year contract making twice what he was earning at Douglas. He had what they were looking for.
After appearing in six films at Paramount, Ty went to see John Wayne at Batjac about a film he was doing named Rio Bravo. The part Ty was perfect for had already been cast to Ricky Nelson, but Wayne was instrumental in getting him in to see Howard Hawks and Bill Orr at Warner Bros. It was Bill Orr, son-in-law to Jack Warner, who bought his contract from Paramount and changed his name to Hardin after the notorious outlaw John Wesley Hardin.
It was at Warner Bros. that he became known as a Western star with the TV series Bronco Layne where he chased bad guys and Indians all over Texas. It was an action-packed series and Ty, who knew his way around horses, did most of his own stunts. The series ran for four years as one of the top ten in the nation.
Ty went on to make eight more films for Warner Bros., several of them World War II movies, before taking off for Europe and to see the world. He made over thirty films worldwide including many “spaghetti westerns” and a TV series in Australia called Riptide.
After spending several years in Europe, he returned to the U.S., to a country and a film industry that had changed drastically during his time abroad. He rejected several film offers because the scripts contained unnecessary foul language, exploited sex,, or gruesome violence. A man with strong Christian ties, he chose to put the film industry behind him and join the ministry.