Friday, September 19, 2008

Vintage Men: Mr. Hardin

A recent post over at TJB's elegant digs got me thinking about the perils that faced Hollywood's B- (or C-) string leading men - the counterparts of Martha Hyer, Beverly Garland, or even Jill St. John - familiar enough names, but hardly stars. Specifically, of one of them, the inimitable Mr. Ty Hardin.

He would, based on his slim filmography and generally undistinguished television résumé, be yet more obscure were it not for his having traveled to the UK to appear in the picture immortalized above, Joan Crawford's late, anything-to-be-onscreen opus Berserk! In it, he plays a dashing aerialist who catches the boss's eye, as it were. Joan, of course, is the boss in question, and it all leads to some of the most squirm-inducing flirting even captured on film.

Like so many actors of his generation, Hardin passed through the stable of Hollywood agent Henry Willson, going in a drifting bit-part player named Orison Whipple Hungerford, Jr. and emerging a rising studmuffin with a distinctly more evocative moniker.

He doesn't seem to have harbored many illusions about his thespian skills, happily doffing his shirt on cue and settling into a string of spaghetti Westerns, a season leading an Australian action series, and occasional guest shots.

His was more than just a boyish appeal, judging by this dashing portrait shot for 1967's Custer of the West.

Sometime in the 70s, though, things seem to have gone more than slightly awry. Mr. Hardin's politics, it turns out, were distinctly less savory than his pecs, and he ended up on the rightermost fringes of politics, dabbling with tax rebels, antisemites, and the Aryan Nation.

Which makes it all the sadder that he's kept his looks to the extent that he has.

Today, he maintains a website (find it yourself, I don't feel like being connected, even vaguely, to it) and is, one gathers, a big fan of the kind of Old Tyme Religion I lump together under the heading of Vengeful Baby Jeebus, whom I imagine looking like an evil Kewpie with an AK-47.

All in all, I prefer to think of him in palmier days - poolside, perhaps, with Rock, Troy, Rip, and Guy, and Joan just about to ring up to ask him to take her to Chasen's. Much better, don't you think?

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