The theme of The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing is rape. Catherine (Sarah Miles) is running away from Willard Crocker (George Hamilton), her husband. She stumbles into a train robbery and is taken hostage by the bandits. One of the bandits, Billy (Bo Hopkins), tries to rape her first. Then Dawes (Jack Warden) wants in on it. Jay (Burt Reynolds) stops them. Then some Native Americans come along and try to rape her. This may well be the last Western ever made in which Native Americans try to rape a white woman (the last movie in which Native Americans actually succeeded in raping a white woman was Ulzana’s Raid (1972). Most of the Native Americans in this movie are good, however, as are pretty much most of the Native Americans portrayed in movies afterwards, so this movie is transitional.
Anyway, Dawes finally gets his chance, and he succeeds in raping Catherine. Jay comes along and has a brutal fight with Dawes and finally kills him. Then we find out that Jay killed his wife, a Native American squaw, Cat Dancing, because a man had raped her. Of course he killed the man who raped her first, but then he decided his wife needed killing too because she was defiled. Fortunately, he seems to have learned his lesson, because he does not kill Catherine. Now, you might think that having married one man who mistreated her, Catherine would be a little reticent about marrying a man that killed his wife for being raped, but that does not seem to bother her, however, because she and Jay end up living happily ever after.