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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
Produced bySol C. Siegel
Written byJohn Gay
Based onNo Way To Treat a Lady
1964 novel
by William Goldman
StarringRod Steiger
Lee Remick
George Segal
Eileen Heckart
Music byAndrew Belling
Stanley Myers
CinematographyJack Priestley
Edited byArchie Marshek
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • March 20, 1968 (1968-03-20)
Running time
108 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,100,000 (US/ Canada)[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. She 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 Kate. 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 Kate, or perhaps wants revenge on Brummell for the insults.

Gill attacks Kate 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 Kate's attacker). When he sees in the theatre lobby a portrait of an actress with her lips highlighted in deep red lipstick, 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 next attacks. 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.

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In 1987, Douglas J. Cohen adapted the film into a musical comedy,[4] which was revived Off-Broadway by the York Theatre Company in 1996.[5] That production was nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical Revival.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1968", Variety, 8 January 1969 p 15. Please note this figure is a rental accruing to distributors.
  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 2008-03-15.
  4. ^ Holden, Steven (1987-06-12). "No Way to Treat a Lady". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-15.
  5. ^ Marks, Peter (1996-12-23). "A Lovelorn Detective Tracks a Singing Strangler". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2009-04-14.
  6. ^ "Awards Archive - Previous Award Years: 1996-1997". Outer Critics Circle. Retrieved 2009-04-14.

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