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TV GUIDE ad for "Suns of Will Sonnett".“Guns of Will Sonnett”

“The Guns of Will Sonnett” followed the exploits of retired Army Scout Will Sonnett (Walter Brennan) and his grandson Jeff (Dack Rambo) as they journey through the West in search of Jeff’s father, James Sonnett (Jason Evers), who abandoned his family 20 years earlier and became a renowned gunfighter and who is now on the run.

Walter Brennan, Dack Rambo.Over the theme music of Hugo Friedhofer, the spoken opening by Brennan explained, “We search for a man named Jim Sonnett; and the legend folks tell may be true. Most call him gunman and killer. He’s my son, who I hardly knew. I raised Jim’s boy from the cradle til the day he said to me, ‘I have to go find my father.’ And I reckon that’s how it should be. So we ride, Jim’s boy and me.”

The 50 episode show was producer Aaron Spelling’s only attempt at a Western series. Created by Spelling and Richard Carr and produced by Danny Thomas (and associate producer Andy Brennan, Walter’s son), the half hour episodes were in color. The ABC series aired first on Friday nights from 9:30-10 from September 8, 1967 until March 21, 1969. Summer reruns ran on Monday nights from 8:30-9 from June to September ‘69.

Although Will and Jeff come close, it is difficult to find James who is always on the move, until the 50th episode, “Three Stand Together”, which did not air until the end of those summer reruns on September 16, 1969 and is often overlooked. It was intended as a series finale or… possibly…the pilot for a revamped series which never materialized. In the episode Will and Jeff finally meet up with Jim and convince him to start a new life and join them as lawmen in a small trail town.

Jason Evers as Jim Sonnett.Evers noted, “Walter Brennan was wonderful; we got along just great. Every kid grows up with fantasy dreams of wanting to be a Western hero, and that part of Jim Sonnett was really a Western hero. So it was like a dream coming true.”

Brennan was a bonafided TV star after 224 episodes of “The Real McCoys” (‘57-‘63) and “The Tycoon” (32 eps. ‘64-‘65), so along with his established Western film credits “The Guns of Will Sonnett” was a ratings winner for ABC, solidly beating the forgettable “Accidental Family” on NBC (replaced by “Hollywood Squares”) and rerun movies on CBS.

Filmed at Desilu Studios with exteriors often at Vasquez Rocks and Bronson Canyon, series directors included Jean Yarbrough (33 eps.), Richard Sarafian, Jack Arnold, Bernie Kowalski, Irving J. Moore, Christian Nyby and a few others including B-Western vet Tommy Carr who recalled, “My last before retirement was ‘Guns of Will Sonnett’. Walter Brennan was a nice guy but he’d never rehearse a line. You had to work with signs on a blackboard off stage. It was awful rough on other actors to have this guy looking right past them and talking. But, that was the way he worked by that time.”

Due to Spelling, Desilu and Danny Thomas, the series attracted top name Western guest stars.

Stuntwork was handled by the best—Bob Herron, Bobby Hoy, George Orrison, Bill Catching, Rocky Shahan, Boyd Stockman, Boyd “Red” Morgan, Allen Pinson and Troy Melton.

Full of old west philosophy with past paced, well written stories, high production values and an unusual premise “The Guns of Will Sonnett” is an ever enduring TV Western. No brag, just fact!


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