John Wesley Hardin (May 26, 1853 – August 19, 1895) was an American Old West outlaw, gunfighter, and controversial folk icon. The son of a Methodist preacher, Hardin got into trouble with the law from an early age. He killed his first man at age 14, he claimed in self-defense.
Pursued by lawmen for most of his life, he was sentenced in 1877 at age 24 to 25 years in prison for murder. When he was sentenced, Hardin claimed to have killed 42 men but contemporary newspapers accounts attributed only 27 deaths to him. While in prison, Hardin studied law and wrote an autobiography. He was well known for wildly exaggerating or completely making up stories about his life. He claimed credit for many murders that cannot be corroborated.
Within a year of his release in 1894, Hardin was killed by John Selman in an El Paso saloon.
Hardin showed up in a lot of TV Westerns over the years. I think the differences in his appearance due to recasting can be attributed to the old Toobworld splainin - each difference is based on the perspective of the TV character looking at him.
Here are some of the portrayals of Hardin as compiled by Wikipedia:
Actor Richard Webb played Hardin in a 1954 episode of Jim Davis' syndicated western television series, 'Stories of the Century'. The segment shows Hardin shooting two Indians in the back; gunning down a sheriff in a saloon in Abilene, Kansas; and finally being outgunned himself by an El Paso officer attempting to arrest him.
O'Bservation: We regularly discount historical figures - and their stories - because the stories related by Jim Davis' character are not reliable.
Phillip Pine played Hardin in 1955 in the ninth episode "John Wesley Hardin" of the ABC/Desilu western television series, 'The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp', starring Hugh O"Brian in the title role as frontier marshal Wyatt Earp. In the story line, Hardin arrives in Wichita, Kansas, to avenge Earp for having run out of a town a friend of Hardin's. The Hardin character also unveils tricks he has learned with his revolvers. Barbara Bestar plays Jane Hardin in the episode.
In an episode called "Turning Point'" of the 'Bronco' series, Scott Marlowe played John Wesley Hardin. Bronco befriends Hardin after stumbling upon him after Hardin has been bitten by a rattlesnake, saves his life, and then agrees to be partners in a land acquisition deal.
Randy Quaid played Hardin in the 1995 TV mini-series, 'Streets of Laredo'.
In a 1998 episode of 'Antiques Roadshow', a previously unknown and rare photograph of John Wesley Hardin was appraised at $30,000 - $50,000.
In August 1, 2001 season three episode four of 'Family Guy' ("One_If_by_Clam,_Two_If_by_Sea"), Peter and Quagmire quote from decades-old advertisements for a Time-Life book series about the American West, which mentioned Hardin as a "man who was so mean, he once shot a man just for snoring."
In the (November 28, 2011) episode ["Mile High Club"] of the History channel show 'Pawn Stars', one of Hardin's business cards was featured.
But here is the one we're giving a showcase:
A 1959 episode of 'Maverick', "Duel at Sundown," has the character of Bart Maverick posing as John Wesley Hardin in order to stage a fake gunfight against his brother, Bret, so that he can avoid a real gunfight with a local tough, played by Clint Eastwood. As Bret and Bart ride out of town, they meet a stranger who wants directions to find this "fake" John Wesley Hardin. The stranger is none other than the "real" John Wesley Hardin.
This episode was "Bret-centric" with Bart only making a glorified cameo near the end, I'll make the claim that we were seeing Hardin from Bret's point of view.
And as short as the scene was, James Griffith's portrayal of John Wesley Hardin is my favorite. He just oozes menace.
That's why I'm choosing him to represent the historical multi-dimensional John Wesley Hardin of Toobworld. And we're inducting him into the Television Crossover Hall of Fame today as our Friday Hall of Famer.
I've written about Hardin in the past, in which I listed other actors who played the role.