We can see in these films the changing role of women, though both Hollywood and critics, like Nicholas Christopher in Somewhere in the Night: Film Noir and the American City, took this much further than the reality. High Wall best shows this. We see a character conflicted from the war a Col. in the Army Air Corps who can't settle down afterwards, willing to take a low paying professorship at the local college.
His wife is a working woman, secretary who is also having an affair with her boss. He is the real killer. Ann is the professional the doctor who helps Steven prove that he isn't guilty and give the true killer, Willard, the sodium pentathol that forces him to confess his guilt.
While some women post war did become professionals and did go into the work force, the vast majority willingly gave up that responsibility to become mothers and housewives. The "baby boom" only happened really on two continents affected by World War II, North America (mostly U.S. and Canada) and Australia. That was possible because women did give up working.
It has only been since the 1970's that women reluctantly joined the work force in the numbers they have, when the declining salary of the American worker went into decline and the only way to keep it up was the two income family. I believe it is only with the last generation that women truly see themselves as workers. Vast numbers of women from the "baby boom" would have preferred to do as their mothers had, but to survive they couldn't, they had to work. Both white and Afro-American birth rates have been in negative numbers for decades, barely giving the U.S. a positive birthrate. Europe, which did not have the "baby boom" has been in negative numbers for generations.
And both Europe and the U.S. are now concerned about immigration. Perhaps that will allow for the reincarnation of noir. A new enemy we can all see and fear. One that centers around our cities, that we rarely see, yet we as trying to take something from us. That is what is so interesting about this. The fear of our cities, if you agree with Christopher, yet what was the other big development postwar that truly affected films and our society--Levittown. Suburbia in the potato fields of Long Island, more and more we fled the cities these films were about and went into the cities to observe vicariously the life there then left.
Think of how those films reinforced so well the decision to make that move that William Levitt, the GI Bill and other things had made possible.
I have never thought of my hour + commute for the las 34 years, growing up almost all the men in my neighborhood drove that long or longer (especially before the interstate highway system) to work, though I must admit there seemed more time when my first job in my profession was just a 5 minute commute.
The anxiety was there though. What they had fought for was not coming to be. Still reeling from the depression, how many of you recall the things your parents did that went back to their growing up in the depression, like adding vinegar to Ketchup to make it go longer. The effects of World War II and Concentration Camps still coming in, not truly real until the Autobiography of Anne Frank, and yet their ally, was already becoming their enemy. That started and grew from Truman's return from Potsdam.
The ideas of psychology, simplified by the checkout counter magazine stories. The films of Hollywood, using that same psycho-babel kept the anxiety of their youth alive. And how much is explained about some of our parents behavior from our looking back now, with the knowledge we have of PTSD.
There were groups who felt the American Soldier trained to kill, now needed to be sent somewhere to be trained to be a civilian again. But servicemen and the public wanted them home and Operation Magic Carpet did that. It brought and demobilized millions of soldiers in short order, thankfully, but what of the nightmares of fighting at Pearl Harbor, or the Banzai attack? Most of those soldiers found jobs, where the women had been.
An interesting examination, of changing sex roles (if true), anxiety (the need for a second job, just in case in the 1958 recession), survival guilt?, and don't we all love movies and T.V. shows that work around the "law" to catch the bad man. Dirty Harry nor Steve in High Wall or anyone else should be kept from the truth by Constitutional "Technicalities". Who cares about privacy as long as CSI, NCIS, Criminal Intent get the "perp"; or if Marlowe just goes to Mexico and kills his friend, because there is no one else left to punish. Justice is served.
It is all "...the stuff that dreams are made of". At least in Hollywood and we love them and the movies they have made for us, that have given us so much fun. And as many of the of July 3, movies were carried by the stars Key Largo, White Heat, most were made enjoyable by character actors in them.