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Tuesday May 18th 2021

No Way To Treat A Lady | 1968

No Way To Treat A Lady film location: Belasco Theatre, West 44th Street, Theatre District, New York
No Way To Treat A Lady film location: the 'Amanda Gill Playhouse': Belasco Theatre, West 44th Street, Theatre District, New York | Photograph: Google Maps

This dark comedy thriller set, and filmed in New York, has George Segal as Morris ‘Mo’ Brummel, the mother dominated Jewish cop on the trail of a flamboyant serial killer.

The killer’s trademark, apart from his penchant for quirky disguises, is leaving matronly ladies sitting on the toilet with a lipstick kiss on their forehead.

No Way To Treat A Lady film location: Cherokee Apartments, Cherokee Place, East Side, New York
No Way To Treat A Lady film location: the chirpy priest visits Mrs Mulloy: Cherokee Apartments, Cherokee Place, East Side, New York | Photograph: Google Maps

His identity is shown from the start so there are no spoilers in saying that Rod Steiger is first seen as a jovial Irish priest, crossing the pedestrian bridge over FDR Drive on the East Side and walking along East 78th Street to Cherokee Place, where he visits Mrs Mulloy, supposedly at ‘617 East 90th Street’.

In reality, this is the Cherokee Apartments, and it’s also home Kate Palmer (Lee Remick) – kind of – who finds she’s unwittingly become a witness after getting a cheery “top o’the mornin’ to ya” from the departing strangler.

Built in 1912 as the East River Homes, the Cherokee is group of four interconnected buildings intended to house poor families affected by tuberculosis. Unlike overcrowded tenements, they were designed to allow plenty of light and air to aid recovery.

A residential cooperative since 1986, the complex has appeared in Marc Forster’s 2005 Stay, with Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts and Ryan Gosling and almost in Robert De Niro’s The Good Shepherd, until its scenes wound up on the cutting room floor.

No Way To Treat A Lady film location: Police Building, Centre Street, Nolita, New York
No Way To Treat A Lady film location: the police station: Police Building, Centre Street, Nolita, New York | Photograph: Google Maps

Guarded by imperious carved stone lions, the Police HQ out of which Brummel operates is 240 Centre Street at Broome Street in the Nolita district, and it’s from here he escorts Kate home after her interview. This really was NYCPD headquarters until 1973, but has since been converted into the luxury Police Building Apartments.

No Way To Treat A Lady film location: East 72nd Street, East Side, New York
No Way To Treat A Lady film location: the entrance to Kate's apartment: East 72nd Street, East Side, New York | Photograph: Google Maps

Kate gets off the bus on the East Side at East 72nd Street and 3rd Avenue and Brummel accompanies her to her apartment, 126 East 72nd Street – which is strange since in the opening scenes she was established as living in the Cherokee.

Brummel becomes the centre of attention for both Kate (who pushes him into asking her out on a date) and for the killer, Christopher Gill (Steiger), who establishes a relationship by telephone with Brummel after the detective casually mentions to the press that the murder was “well executed”.

It's no surprise that the master of disguises and accents is an actor. The ’Amanda Gill Playhouse’ to which Gill returns, is the Belasco Theatre, 111 West 44th Street at 6th Avenue.

The Belasco opened in 1907, designed by architect George Keister and featuring Tiffany lighting and ceiling panels, rich woodwork, murals by Everett Shinn, and even a ten-room duplex penthouse apartment used by impresario David Belasco himself as combination living quarters and office space.

Notice that the theatre is presenting Othello, starring William Pratt – which is the real name of Boris Karloff.

The Belasco has since appeared in Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway and Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums.

The bare brick-walled bar to which Brummel hurries to interview a possible witness, and where Gill turns up in drag to lure another victim, is Joe Allen, 326 West 46th Street at 8th Avenue. Opened in 1965, it’s very much a theatrical restaurant/bar – cheekily decorated with the posters of famous Broadway flops. It’s also seen in Woody Allen’s Melinda And Melinda.

The basement apartment directly opposite, to which the unfortunate kind-hearted barfly invites the apparently distraught woman, is next door to Barbetta Restaurant, 321 West 46th Street, which in those days boasted that grand canopy.

The Barbetta is no stranger to the screen, having appeared in two Woody Allen films, Alice and Celebrity (with Leonardo DiCaprio), and in Martin Scorsese’s Boston-set The Departed.

No Way To Treat A Lady film location: Sardi's, West 44th Street, Theatre District, New York
No Way To Treat A Lady film location: Gill phones Mo Brummel at home: Sardi's, West 44th Street, Theatre District, New York

It’s on to another showbiz hangout, Sardi's Restaurant, 234 West 44th Street at 7th Avenue, where Gill is clearly a regular patron. It’s here he orders a phone to be brought to his table from which he brazenly calls Brummel

Sardi's, adorned with its famous collection of theatrical caricatures, is seen again in Martin Scorsese’s 1982 The King Of Comedy, with Robert De Niro and Jerry Lewis.

Kate works as a tour guide at the (then new) Lincoln Center, Columbus Avenue, between West 63rd and West 64th Streets, where she points out to tourists Henry Moore’s two-part bronze Reclining Figure as well as the enormous Marc Chagall murals.

Brummel joins her tour and, after an alfresco lunch on the terrace, takes her to see his “yacht”.

This is a little police boat, patrolling the Hudson River, sailing past the old piers which once served Cunard, French and American Export-Isbrandtsen Lines. They’re mostly now gone or have been refurbished as the Chelsea Piers.

Rattled by a bogus murder attributed to him, Gill angrily phones Brummel from the lobby of what was then the Pan Am Building, now the MetLife Building, 200 Park Avenue, with the cop cars arriving at the corner of Vanderbilt Avenue and East 44th Street, just a little too late to apprehend him.

For Gill, the cat-and-mouse game has now become personal. As Brummel realises that Kate is in danger, he dashes out of the Brooklyn Heights home he shares with his kvetching mother (Eileen Heckart).

There’s the briefest glimpse of Brummel’s apartment on Columbia Heights at Cranberry Street, which looks out over the East River to the Manhattan skyline.

He sprints to Clark Street subway station to get to the city and warn Kate. Notice in the station’s entrance hall the entrance to the Hotel St George, which actually stood above the station. It was in the bar of this hotel that Sollozo meets up with Luca Brasi in The Godfather. Once the largest hotel in the US and boasting an Olympic-sized salt-water swimming pool, the premises is currently used as student housing.

Kate survives (unlike William Goldman’s source novel) and Brummel finally tracks down the murderer to Gill’s mother’s old theatre. As we’ve seen, this is the Belasco Theatre, where the climax plays out in the lobby and auditorium.

If you’re catching a show here, you’ll be able to see that the beautiful theatre has been given a pretty smart renovation since the Sixties.