Watched this classic Hitchcock film last night and was frustrated by the blatant passive nature of the main female character in the film. The story is of a husband and wife travelling in Morocco with their young son, and through a series of events, the son is kidnapped.
Jimmy Stewart is the husband and Doris Day the wife. He's a doctor, she's a semi-retired singer. At every turn, he gets to make all the decisions and take all the action.
The classic is when Stewart's character, Dr. McKenna, gives his wife Jo a couple of sedatives before telling her their son has been kidnapped. "You know how you get," he says. And sure enough, she goes hysterical in his arms.
Then she's comatose as he does the initial investigation, and he has to drag her out of her stupor to take her from Morocco to London. She gets hysterical again at Scotland Yard.
When Dr. McKenna runs off to look for the boy, Jo is pointed in the right direction by a male guest, but once she arrives at the alternate location, she doesn't actually do anything - she just calls her husband.
Once they're together again, it's the good doctor who again comes up with the plan for her to leave and call the cops. When the cops arrive however, she's locked out of the building, powerless to do anything.
At the turning point of the film, she screams to distract the assassin, but it's Jimmy who gets to fight him. Then, in the final climax where they rescue the boy, it's once again Jimmy with the plan: she gets to sing, while he goes to rescue their son. He knocks down the door, then knocks the bad guy downstairs.
Meanwhile, the female kidnapper is tough for most of the movie, but in the last moments, is given a maternal instinct to protect the boy.
It would be interesting to trace female characters through Hitchcock's work. In To Catch a Thief, for example, the female figures drive the action, and one is the thief in question. I haven't seen Marnie, but it too revolves around a female thief. It's on this week on TCM, so I'll have a chance to check it out and report!