The Guns of Will Sonnett is one of the best "unknown" western series ever produced on TV. Walter Brennan (best known from his movie roles and as a regular on TV's "The Real McCoys") is an absolute revelation in the lead role of Will Sonnett, the father who, with his grandson, is searching for his son, "James," a gunfighter.
The series only ran from 1967-1969 and was one of the first produced by now TV-mogul Aaron Spelling. Each half-hour episode began with Brennan reciting a western ballad-like narration of the premise:
"We search for a man named Jim Sonnett,
and the legends folks tell may be true;
Most call him gunman and killer,
He's my son who I hardly knew.
I raised Jim's son from the craddle,
'til the day he said to me,
'I have to go find my father,'
And I 'reckonned,
that's how it should be;
So we ride,
Jim's boy and me."
Will's grandson, Jeff, is portrayed superbly by Dack Rambo, (who died tragically in the 1990's from AIDS.) In the show, Jeff had never met his father, portrayed throughout the series by Jason Evers. Jim Sonnett sent his infant son to live with his father, Will Sonnett, on an Army base where Will had worked as a Scout. A note penned to the baby from Jim told his father that few people have an opportunity for a second chance -- in this instance, to raise a child well.
Will's character is tortured by shortcomings as a father to Jim and blames himself for the "career" his only son chose and from leaving home and striking out on his own at a very young age. As a scout, Will was away from home much of the time, especially after his wife was killed by Indians. One day he returned to the fort to find that his young son, Jim, had left never to return.
An episode in this first-season set, "Alone," is a tour-de-force for Brennan who suffers a grazing gunshot wound to the head and imagines his reunion with Jim, and acts out all of the associated guilt he had felt for decades.
The series follows Will and Jeff as they look for the elusive Jim. While Jim is a fast draw, Jeff is faster and Will is the fastest, but neither man look for trouble. Jeff is innocent, while Will is tough as nails but has a heart of gold. Will's catch phrase, "No brag, just fact," became the mantra of the show over it's short run. Will and Jeff have a strong love for each other that is rarely depicted on TV between male family members, especially in westerns.
Along the way, the two encounter many whose lives were touched, some for good but most for bad, by Jim Sonnett or his legend. By the end of each episode, many wrongs have been righted, and a clearer picture of Jim's character emerges -- he's not a killer, but a man of integrity forced to defend his life by a never-ending series of gunslinging challengers.
Jeff must also contend with the stigma of having a notorious father and last name, which helps him grow up but maintain the human values instilled by his grandfather, Will.
It was also the only Western series to end with a western trail poem recited by Brennan summarizing the blessings or challenges the two encountered in the episode.
If you enjoy good stories, great acting and western action and have not seen this series, the DVD releases of the entire run should be must see viewing. If you remember this show, no more needs to be said, it is simply a series that must be purchased. No brag; just fact!!!!