Zeb: I am to young to remember the first run of Gunsmoke, so for me this is the series I associate James Arness with first. Zeb is a towering mountain man that has a heart of gold, just don't get on his bad side. Zeb is a dead on shot with a rifle and uses his bowie knife extremely well although he seldom draws his pistol. In his youth Zeb left Virginia for the west and has spent most of his life out there. Zeb returns to Virginia just before the outbreak of the Civil War and brings his brother and his family out west. The best thing about Zeb was his sense of justice. Regardless of what the law said Zeb solved matters as he saw fit and in most cases it seemed that the law felt it was easier to side with this big man than oppose him.
Tim: brother to Zeb, was a small one as it was Zeb who would assume leadership of the family. Tim was a good family man that put providing for his family above chasing his own dream of moving west. Now he has the opportunity to move west like Zeb and he is going to do it. Unfortunately he is drafted into the Union Army and killed.
Kate: wife to Tim, only consented to moving west to keep her son's out of the war. She loved her husband and after he leaves them on the trail to return home to get his parents has to deal directly with Zeb. Kate and Zeb have a love hate relationship. She is the only one in the family who stands up to Zeb.
Seth: 1st born of Tim & Kate is a Zeb wanna be. He likes the glamorized life style of his Uncle Zeb and is handy with a gun. Yet while he has a good moral foundation he lacks the intuitiveness and instincts of his Uncle.
He hesitates during a crisis. Seth ends the movie by running from the law for deserting the Union Army and shooting a Missouri sheriff. Seth will be renamed Luke in HTWWW
Laura: 2nd born to Tim & Kate is an attractive young lady who prefers civilization and cities to the wild west. She often comes across as selfish but despite this always helps out when needed. She is easily love struck as she sees every adult male who is single as a way to move on.
Jed: 3rd born to Tim & Kate is a Seth wanna be. He is the youngest male and as a result gets shafted with all the farming duties while Zeb and Seth take off on adventures. He is so inexperienced that when he trys to help out during a crisis he usually makes matters worse. He has a good heart and in the final season of HTWWW he begins to mature and is allowed to branch out. Jed will be renamed Josh in HTWWW.
Jessie: 4th born to Tim & Kate is the nicest of the children. She always puts others needs before her own. Her glass is always half full instead of half empty.
Narrator: William Conrad provides the rustic voiced narrator for this film.
His voice along with the beautiful opening music make the viewer yearn to travel west and experience all the magnificent wonders that are there. The title song and sequence is perhaps one of the best ever.
Lastly just a bit of trivia. William Conrad portrayed Marshall Matt Dillon on the radio version of GUNSMOKE and when it became a TV show James Arness took over the role. Now in this film we hear William Conrad while we see James Arness.