I realize I've posted on this before, but I don't think I did the topic justice - it's such an iconic image. A tour through a collection of old books, movie posters and comic books quickly reveals how incredibly common this scene is: the beast or the he-man carrying the damsel in distress.
Last time, I kind of speculated on why this image was so damn omnipresent, but I don't think I reached a satisfying answer. Here's a few theories I've come up with. Feel free to add your own.
A) The idyllic hero for men during these days was the ultra-masculine hulk, and their vision of woman was as helpless waifs. The imagery simply corresponded to the male frame of mind, but to an extreme degree.
B) After WWII, men saw women begin to assert themselves in society. Indeed, they had filled a lot of the vacant jobs while the boys were overseas. This may have been subconsciously emasculating, and the totally defenseless beauty in the arms of a brawny beast may have been subliminally comforting.
C) Young men were a primary target audience for the books, movies and comics that featured this imagery. Boys have a naturally fear of the opposite sex (whether they'd like to admit it or not), until they get older and less awkward. The weak, often lifeless, maiden was what these young lads wanted to see - as opposed to an intimidating woman of power.
Anyway, whatever the reason, to prove my point here's several hundred images to demonstrate my point. I think the sheer volume of examples silences even the most stubborn doubters out there. The "carry image" is, like it or not, an iconic part of our pop culture history.
Click on mosaics to enlarge.