I too would have assumed that dishwashing scenes in movies either were dramatic license or that they involved washing the pots and pans and utensils, which you have to do by hand whether you have a machine or not. Or after a formal dinner party, the good silver and fragile china and crystal, though no one seems to give those kinds of parties any more.
Personality, or rather, habit, definitely does come into it. One of my grandmothers didn't get a dishwasher until late in life and always pre-washed and scrubbed religiously before putting the dishes in, which seemed to miss the point of having a dishwasher in the first place. My mom, on the other hand, regards a dishwasher as essential, puts every conceivable thing in it including wood-handled utensils, and flatly refuses to pre-rinse, on the theory that every machine is supposed to do what it claims to, every time, forever. (She also holds this belief about computers, despite evidence to the contrary.)
My parents recently bought a new Bosch which was supposed to be the very latest, spiffiest thing, even though they don't normally go in for fancy kitchen stuff, but they're really disappointed and would give anything to have their faithful 20-year-old KitchenAid back, if they could have gotten the part for it. It had more interior space with a considerably better layout of the racks, and several other better features, from a latch that closed smoothly, to a light that showed green when the cycle was finished (now they have to use a dish towel as a signal), to the ability to use any normal kind of detergent, not just the frou-frou kind where each costly tricolor mini-briquette comes sealed in unecological plasticky stuff that then has to melt in hot water. (Why, why, why?) Using something like 4% less water per year doesn't remotely make up to them for the frustration over the poor design.
At least that experience has made me feel good to still have my 30- or 40-year-old GE inherited from my grandparents, which is still going strong, more or less, though I only run it about once a week if that. It does feel a bit wasteful for only one or two people and not much serious cooking, but as long as you run it full when you do run it, I suppose it isn't.
Using a bowl in the sink here isn't traditional, because for generations most houses have had a double sink in the kitchen, where you can use one side to wash and the other to rinse. I do sometimes use a bowl if I'm only doing a handful, but I confess I probably waste more water because I tend to let it run while I'm washing unless I really need to stop and scrub something.
The thought of not even having running water in the kitchen, and cold water only down the hall, though, reminds me how grateful we should be for what we have. There were probably apartments like that (tenements?) in eastern cities in the US in the 19th century, but as far as I know they were gone long before the 1970s-80s.
Over 100 years ago people in this part of the country still had outhouses and no running indoor water, but by the time my dad was growing up, he took turns washing and drying dishes every night as a boy in the kitchen. Later my grandparents had a house on the edge of town with a septic tank and a well; the water tasted of sulphur, and turned things yellow. But I think they had a dishwasher even then, or got the first one while they lived there.
Nowadays I would expect virtually everyone in the US to own a dishwasher, and certainly most apartments to come furnished with one. But at the same time, if someone just preferred to get by without it, I can see how they could; you certainly wouldn't miss it as much as, say, the washer and dryer, or the fridge, or maybe even the vacuum cleaner. (-: