And while it may be an oversimplification to invoke the much-used term paranoia , certainly the Red Scare which coincided with the noir heyday of the late 1940s and early 1950s was a major contributing ingredient, ubiquitously fanning the flames of suspicion, recriminations and counter-recriminations, and in the process infusing the noir universe with its own special brand of pungent atmospherics.
To wit - and in one of the more infelicitous coincidences in film history - it happened that many of the artists who came to be associated with what we today call film noir tended toward the Left in their political sympathies . Suffice to say that the Congressional investigations into ‘subversive’ elements in the film industry had an especially telling impact on the writers, editors, directors and actors who worked in film noir , in the process ruining, shortening or compromising entire careers, and in some cases, shortening lives.
Paraphrasing Raymond Chandler yet again, American society in the late 1940s and early 1950s had become dark with something more than night. As a result, Mexico and France in particular became popular alternatives for those who wished to escape the accusatory atmosphere of the times, especially those who found themselves under the watchful eye of the Red Scare police. The refugees on the Hollywood blacklist, as well as intellectuals and artists in other contexts, who ‘escaped’ to Mexico , continued to eke out a living, as screenwriters, ghostwriters, actors, directors, etc., or they worked in related fields, in any case under varying, usually greatly reduced circumstances (Gordon, p. 33).
There’s a further, rather cruel irony in that a common theme in American films noirs, to the point of cliché, is the notion of escape to Mexico. For the blacklistees, however, the flight to Mexico was a transmogrified, real-life variation on the noir formula. Their crime had been ideological incorrectness, and - however imperfect - Mexico represented a welcome refuge in an ever-unforgiving, indeed, noirish universe.