No Way to Treat a Lady

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No Way to Treat a Lady
Film poster
Directed by Jack Smight
Produced by Sol C. Siegel
Written by John Gay
Based on No Way To Treat a Lady
1964 novel 
by William Goldman
Starring Rod Steiger
Lee Remick
George Segal
Eileen Heckart
Music by Andrew Belling
Stanley Myers
Cinematography Jack Priestley
Edited by Archie Marshek
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • March 20, 1968 (1968-03-20)
Running time
108 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $3,100,000 (US/ Canada)[1]

No Way to Treat a Lady (1968) is a darkly comic thriller directed by Jack Smight, with a screenplay by John Gay 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.[2]


Rod Steiger stars as Christopher Gill, a serial killer who is fixated on his late mother, who had been an actress. Gill preys on older women who remind him of her. A Broadway theater director and costumer, he adopts various disguises, e.g. priest, policeman, plumber, hairdresser, etc., to put his victims at ease (and also avoid being identified) before strangling them and painting a pair of lips on their foreheads with garish red lipstick.

Gill strikes up an adversarial relationship, via telephone, with Detective Morris Brummel (George Segal), who is investigating the murders. As Brummel realizes that the killer has access to costumes, he seeks out local costume outlets, and tracks down Gill. Once he sees a portrait of Gill's mother with bright red lipstick in the theater, he knows he has his man.

A B-plot concerns Brummel's own mother (Eileen Heckart), who wants her son to be more like his brother (and settle down). Brummel's love interest in the film, Kate Palmer (Lee Remick), manages to win over Brummel's mother, but is later targeted herself by Gill--for reasons other than his mother fixation as Palmer does not fit the profile of his previous victims.


Original Novel[edit]

No Way to Treat a Lady
Author William Goldman
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Fawcett Publications
Publication date
Pages 182

Goldman wrote the original novel while he was blocked writing Boys and Girls Together. 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. He says as he walked to his office "the book simply jumped into my head. Start to finish. The whole thing... And I remember getting to my office and frantically scribbling down an enormous number of chapters."[3] Goldman was worried about never finishing Boys and Girls Together so he gave himself two weeks to write the new novel.

He published the novel under a pseudonym, Harry Longbaugh, the real name of the Sundance Kid, but it was eventually republished under Goldman's real name in 1968. Goldman:

Hiram Hayden, my editor, didn't know what to do with [the novel]. He didn't know, like, or read mysteries. There was a great feeling that Boys and Girls Together was going to establish me as a critical figure, which of course was the reverse of what happened, and Hiram kept saying, "I think you'll damage yourself if you bring this out first. Why don't you try and get it published under a pseudonym?" We went to one or two houses and we went to the paperback original place and they said, "Sure". It came out, and got the best reviews of anything I've ever been connected with.[4]

The novel led to Goldman being hired by Cliff Robertson to adapt Flowers for Algernon which launched his screenwriting career.[5]


In 1987, Douglas J. Cohen adapted the film into a musical comedy,[6] which was revived Off-Broadway by the York Theatre Company in 1996.[7] That production was nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical Revival.[8]


  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1968", Variety, 8 January 1969 p 15. Please note this figure is a rental accruing to distributors.
  2. ^ "Film Nominations 1968". Past Winners and Nominees. British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved 2008-03-15. 
  3. ^ Dennis Brown, Shoptalk, Newmarket Press, 1992 p 62
  4. ^ Richard Andersen, William Goldman, Twayne Publishers, 1979 p 62
  5. ^ "Butch Cassidy' Was: My Western, 'Magic' Is My Hitchcock' 'Magic' Is My Hitchcock", By RALPH TYLER. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 12 Nov 1978: D23.
  6. ^ Holden, Steven (1987-06-12). "No Way to Treat a Lady". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-15. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ "Awards Archive - Previous Award Years: 1996-1997". Outer Critics Circle. Retrieved 2009-04-14. 

External links[edit]