At some point in most Westerns, the action erupts into a fistfight. Low-budget affairs, such as Hoppy Serves a Writ (1943), occasionally feature an all-out fight in a saloon with smashed chairs and the obligatory cowboy falling over the railing from the second floor, but it would be difficult to find any major Western—Shane (1953), Red River (1948), Unforgiven (1992) —without the requisite slugfest. That is because the code of the Westdemands restrained violence, so the cowboy hero will fist fight with gusto, but never kill with his hands; he only kills with guns. Unlike his opponents, the cowboy hero never uses knives or hard objects in a fistfight. One particular kind of fistfight, the brutal all-out fight between two erstwhile male friends, is sometimes seen as having homoerotic overtones. In High Noon (1952), for instance, Will Kane has it out with his deputy in the stable, and perhaps the two derive masculine pleasure from the fight.

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

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