|No Way to Treat a Lady|
|Directed by||Jack Smight|
|Produced by||Sol C. Siegel|
|Written by||John Gay|
|Based on||No Way To Treat a Lady|
by William Goldman
|Music by||Andrew Belling|
|Edited by||Archie Marshek|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$3,100,000 (rentals)|
No Way to Treat a Lady is a 1968 black comedy 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.
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 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 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.
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. In December Siegel hired John Gay to do the script. (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.)
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.
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.
"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."
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.
Filming was completed by September.
Sol Siegel was reportedly unhappy with the ending, but was overruled by the director and star.
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".
Smight was entitled to 15% of the net profits. He says he never received any, but blames this on studio accounting.
In 1987, Douglas J. Cohen adapted the film into a musical comedy, which was revived Off-Broadway by the York Theatre Company in 1996. That production was nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical Revival.