Guys do brave, dashing, guy things while saving girls who do meek, loving, girl things. This is how fusty Old Hollywood is supposed to work.
But in Spellbound, the woman is intellectual and courageous while the guy keeps fainting and saving exactly nobody. Gender norms in this film are confusing and anxious—and the plot is about trying to get everyone back into their correctly labeled boxes.
Constance is on a quest to turn "Edwardes" into Ballantyne, a courageous dude who looks like Gregory Peck. The problem of the film isn't just that "Edwardes" doesn't know he's Ballantyne; it's that "Edwardes" isn't the right kind of dude to be up there starring in a Hollywood film. But don't worry, the doctors will fix it.
Questions About Gender
How is Ballantyne different from a traditional action-hero protagonist?
How is Constance different from a traditional female lead?
Constance is criticized both for being too womanly and not womanly enough. Who criticizes her for which, and what does their criticism consist of?
Chew on This
Spellbound celebrates a woman who saves a guy.
Spellbound is nervous about the idea that a woman would save a guy.