Unexpected honor-bound violence

I can't put my finger on it, but there was something odd in common between a couple of movies I watched yesterday.

*SPOILERS coming up*.

At one point in the 1959 Western "Escort West," Rex Ingram plays an injured/dying man who tries to convince his friend Victor Mature to carry on without him, since they're being pursued by "rogue" Indian bandits. The man will almost certainly die if they leave him, so Mature is reluctant to do it. Ingram aims a gun at Mature, then puts it to his own chin as a threat to Mature not to come closer, to move along and save the rest of the party. It seemed like a gritty thing to show in a Fifties Western, a guy threatening suicide to make a point. Come to think of it, this movie was somewhat racially progressive too. Rex Ingram is the only black man I can remember in a Western, other than Blazing Saddles. And they made a point of saying that the local tribe of Indians respected their treaties, but the villains were a handful of rogues or bandits.

Later I watched "The Great Waldo Pepper" (1975) starring Robert Redford as a barnstorming, wing-walking biplane stunt pilot in the 1920s. At one point after a stunt goes wrong, a friend of his crashes. The man is still alive when Redford runs up to try pulling him from the wreckage, but foolish bystanders gather around with their cigarettes, and the leaking fuel catches fire. Redford tries to pull him from the burning plane but he's trapped. Since they had talked earlier about how some pilots in those days would jump out without a parachute rather than burn up on the ground, Redford grabs a piece of wreckage and clubs his friend over the head, either knocking him out or caving his skull in so he wouldn't be conscious while he burned to death.

Maybe they had nothing special in common, just odd behaviors to watch good guys engage in.


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