George Segal

Pencil Portrait by Antonio Bosano.

George Segal Pencil Portrait
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The quality of the prints are at a much higher level compared to the image shown on the left.


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I first saw George Segal on the big screen in the dark comedy No Way to Treat a Lady (1968). The movie features a psychopathic serial killer Christopher Gill, played to superb effect by Rod Steiger. Obsessed with his late mother, he targets victims who remind him of her, donning various disguises to gain his victims’ trust whilst always leaving his calling card, a red lipstick mark on their foreheads when he’s done. Gill begins deliberately tipping off detective Morris Brummel (George Segal) on the phone, drawing the detective, who has issues with his own overbearing mother (Eileen Heckart), into a game of cat and mouse. A “Boston Strangler” played for laughs, the ensemble cast work well and if Rod Steiger upstages everyone, the movie avoids flagging when he’s offscreen.

The go-getters, the losers, the sexually frustrated: these were the kinds of men that George Segal portrayed during his star period of the 1970s. In general he played nice guys, but with just enough psychic damage that they might be capable of very bad behavior and feel remorseful afterwards. Segal’s self-reproaches could approach the delirious in modern comedies of manners like Irvin Kershner’s “Loving” (1970) and Paul Mazursky’s “Blume in Love” (1973), but his hysteria, both suppressed and finally unleashed, was always controlled by an estimable technique. A Segal character was never going to get so out of hand that the actor would totally lose himself; there always seemed to be a kind of moral intelligence and a strive for decency pulling the strings for his characterizations, even when the men he played were at their most contemptible. All that – of course – was in the 70’s. In the 60’s, for a brief shining moment, Segal looked set for iconic leading man status.

Recommended viewing

King Rat (1965)

Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)

The Quiller Memorandum (1966)

No way to treat a lady (1968)

As Mo Brummel, Segal is the overworked detective son of a suffocating Jewish mother, who acquires a livewire girlfriend in the shape of Lee Remick. Rod Steiger is the serial killer targeting late middle aged women who live alone with a series of quick-change disguises and accents, mixing random gobbets of Shakespearian verse into his telephoned taunts to the hapless Segal.

Appearing initially as a priest to throw viewers off the scent, his subsequent incarnations as a policeman, plumber, and – best of all – camp hairdresser complete with blond wig and dark shades – put his victims at ease before they are strangled and immortalised with the his signature calling card, a pair of lips on their foreheads using garish red lipstick. Today’s snowflakes wouldn’t approve, which may account for the movie’s paucity of terrestrial screenings in recent years. Shot on location in New York on a tight schedule during the summer of love, the movie remains a guilty pleasure for many viewers of a certain age.

The Owl and the Pussycat (1970)

A touch of Class (1973)

Fun with Dick and Jane (1977)

The Goldbergs (Sony Pictures Television : 2013-2021) TV series)