No Way to Treat a Lady (film)

No Way to Treat a Lady is a 1968 black comedy thriller directed by Jack Smight, with a screenplay by John Gay[2] adapted from William Goldman's novel of the same name. The film starred Rod Steiger, Lee Remick, George Segal and Eileen Heckart. Segal was nominated for a BAFTA for his role as Detective Moe Brummel.[3]

No Way to Treat a Lady
Film poster
Directed byJack Smight
Written byJohn Gay
Based onNo Way To Treat a Lady
1964 novel
by William Goldman
Produced bySol C. Siegel
StarringRod Steiger
Lee Remick
George Segal
Eileen Heckart
Murray Hamilton
Michael Dunn
CinematographyJack Priestley
Edited byArchie Marshek
Music byAndrew Belling
Stanley Myers
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • March 20, 1968 (1968-03-20)
Running time
108 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,100,000 (rentals)[1]


Christopher Gill (Rod Steiger) is a serial killer fixated on his late mother, a noted stage actress. Gill preys on older women. A Broadway theatre owner and director, he adopts various disguises, e.g., priest, policeman, plumber, hairdresser, etc., to put his victims at ease (and avoid being identified) before strangling them and painting a pair of lips on their foreheads with garish red lipstick.

Detective Morris Brummell (George Segal) is investigating the murders. Brummel is quoted in the newspaper that the latest murder was well-planned and well-executed. This appeals to Gill's ego, so he starts telephoning Brummel to chat about the murders and the state of the investigation. Brummel is able to elicit a few scraps of information about Gill, but for the most part Gill succeeds in taunting him without giving away his identity.

Away from work, Brummel's own overbearing mother (Eileen Heckart) wants her son to be more like his doctor brother and settle down. She is scornful of his career choice. Brummell's new love interest is Kate Palmer (Lee Remick), who glimpsed Gill minutes before he committed the first murder, though not well enough to identify him in a way that would aid the investigation. Palmer manages to win over Brummell's mother by claiming she is planning to become Jewish, and by pretending to dominate her son.

In what turns out to be their last phone conversation, Brummel turns the tables on Gill and insults him. Gill subsequently targets Palmer. This is obviously for reasons other than his mother fixation, as Palmer does not fit the profile of his previous victims. He may be jealous of Palmer, or perhaps wants revenge on Brummell for the insults.

Gill attacks Palmer in her apartment, but is forced to flee before he can do her serious harm. During the police manhunt that follows, Gill is seen entering his theatre via a side door. Investigating the sighting, Brummell chats amiably with Gill (the detective at that point cannot be sure the man before him is Palmer's attacker). When he sees in the theatre lobby a painting of an actress with her lips highlighted in deep red lipstick, which Gill volunteers is a portrait of his mother, he knows he has his man.

Brummel confronts Gill with his suspicions, but Gill remains cool. Brummel goes to check out the costume room, and on his way back, as he is passing the theatre stage, Gill attacks him with the backstage rigging. Brummel is staggered, but is able to fatally shoot Gill before he attacks again. In his death swoon Gill revisits the murders he committed, as his deranged mind has recast them.




Goldman wrote the original novel while experiencing writer's block, when writing Boys and Girls Together (published in 1964). He was inspired by an article about the Boston Strangler which suggested there might be two stranglers operating, and Goldman wondered what would happen if that were the case and they got jealous of each other.[4]


In October 1966 it was announced that Sol C. Siegel had signed a three-picture deal with Paramount Pictures, of which the first was to be an adaptation of No Way to Treat a Lady.[5] In December Siegel hired John Gay to do the script.[6] (Jack Smight later said Goldman refused to do the screen adaptation claiming that a novelist should never adapt his or her work for the screen.[7])

In March 1967, Jack Smight signed to direct.[8] By May, Rod Steiger was playing the lead[9] and George Segal joined the cast in June.[10]

Paramount was helmed by Robert Evans at the time, but Smight said he received more assistance from his executive Peter Bart. "He was enormously helpful to me under some very trying circumstances," said Smight.[7]

Tony Curtis was Evans' choice to play the detective, but Smight insisted that the role go to George Segal.[7]


Filming started in June and mostly took place in Brooklyn Heights, New York. The original plan was to shoot three weeks in New York and do all interiors at Paramount's studio but in the end Smight and Siegel decided to shoot the entire film in New York.[11]

"It's Steiger's film," said Segal. "He runs around doing all sorts of different roles and I just stop by and watch him... It's a big, comfortable Hollywood production and I have banker's hours."[12]

Eileen Heckart made the movie during the day while appearing at night in You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running.[13]

Filming was completed by September.[14]

Sol Siegel was reportedly unhappy with the ending, but was overruled by the director and star.[15]

The novel was re-issued under Goldman's name in 1968 to coincide with the release of the film. The New York Times called it "dazzling".[16]

Smight was entitled to 15% of the net profits. He says he never received any, but blames this on studio accounting.[7]

In other mediaEdit


In 1987, Douglas J. Cohen adapted the film into a musical comedy,[17] which was revived Off-Broadway by the York Theatre Company in 1996.[18] That production was nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical Revival.[19]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1968", Variety, 8 January 1969, pg 15.
  2. ^ "No Way to Treat a Lady". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
  3. ^ "Film Nominations 1968". Past Winners and Nominees. British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved March 15, 2008.
  4. ^ 'Butch Cassidy' Was: My Western, 'Magic' Is My Hitchcock' 'Magic' Is My Hitchcock By RALPH TYLER. New York Times 12 Nov 1978: D23.
  5. ^ MOVIE CALL SHEET: 'Brigade' Next for Holden Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 11 Oct 1966: C12.
  6. ^ MOVIE CALL SHEET: Christopher Lee Signed Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 5 Dec 1966: D29.
  7. ^ a b c d Myers, JP (March 8, 2018). "This is the story of Director Jack Smight's life in entertainment written by himself". Medium.
  8. ^ Smight Will Direct 'Lady' Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 28 Mar 1967: c8.
  9. ^ Batman Really Living It Up in London Dorothy Manners:. The Washington Post, Times Herald 12 May 1967: D12.
  10. ^ Miss Redgrave Star of 'Cyril' Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 3 June 1967: b7.
  11. ^ Rubbernecks Stretch Film-Makers' Patience Yeager, Robert. Los Angeles Time13 Aug 1967: c13.
  12. ^ He Likes His Classics Uncensored Crawford, Linda. Chicago Tribune 13 Aug 1967: e14.
  13. ^ Who's Doing What in Hollywood! NORMA LEE BROWNING. Chicago Tribune 18 July 1967: a3.
  14. ^ CBS Film Unit Signs Producer Los Angeles Times 18 Sep 1967: d27.
  15. ^ Steiger Film Role: Mr. Everything Haber, Joyce. Los Angeles Times 12 Mar 1968: c10.
  16. ^ Criminals at Large By ANTHONY BOUCHER. New York Times 14 Apr 1968: BR22.
  17. ^ Holden, Steven (June 12, 1987). "No Way to Treat a Lady". The New York Times. Retrieved March 15, 2008.
  18. ^ Marks, Peter (December 23, 1996). "A Lovelorn Detective Tracks a Singing Strangler". The New York Times. Retrieved April 14, 2009.
  19. ^ "Awards Archive - Previous Award Years: 1996-1997". Outer Critics Circle. Retrieved April 14, 2009.

External linksEdit