Beginning with the Second World War years of the 1940s and extending through the 1950s, “home” stood for the utopian myth of a coherent, homogeneous popular culture. Road films made in these two decades thus project a different set of values for the road than one finds during the Great Depression or, more dramatically, after Easy Rider (1969). Films from this era equate “America” with popular entertainment, the nation's traveling showbiz culture that brought “home” to the road, as best exemplified by the USO shows during the war.
A comment made by John Hersey while reporting on a military campaign for Life in 1942 is emblematic of the value that “home” had for the wartime imagination of soldiers who were, in effect, forcibly put on the road. “Perhaps this sounds selfish, ” Hersey remarks. “It certainly sounds less dynamic than the Axis slogans. But home seems to most marines a pretty good thing to be fighting for. Home is where the good things are - the generosity, the good pay, the comforts, the democracy, the pie” (60). Variations of this exaggerated appreciation of “home” were inserted into many American films made during the war years. 1Since You Went Away (1944), for instance, begins by declaring in a title card: “This is the story of the Unconquerable Fortress: the American Home.” Of course, today that movie cliché is significant for its irony. While “home” may have been where all the good things were, the war itself - fought to preserve “home” in whatever material incarnation a soldier fondly remembered it - actually caused a radical disruption of US society. The extensive relocation of American men and women both domestically and abroad during the 1940s because of the war helped to efface what had previously been strong regional identities and values regarding family life and gender roles. Furthermore, it began the process of broadening the national culture toward that homogeneous image of “America” taken for granted during the 1950s and splintered in the late 1960s.