The Battle of the Sexes (1959 film)

The Battle of the Sexes

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Charles Crichton
Produced by Monja Danischewsky
Written by Monja Danischewsky (screenplay)
from a story by James Thurber
Starring Peter Sellers
Robert Morley
Constance Cummings
Cinematography Freddie Francis
Edited by Seth Holt
Distributed by Bryanston Films
Release dates
  • 25 February 1960 (1960-02-25)
Running time
84 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Battle of the Sexes is a 1959 British black and white comedy film starring Peter Sellers and directed by Charles Crichton, based on the short story "The Catbird Seat", by James Thurber.[1] The story was adapted by Monja Danischewsky.


A timid accountant in a Scottish Tweed weaving company (Sellers) cleverly bests the brash modern American efficiency expert (Cummings) whose ideas threaten his way of life. The film opens with Martin (Sellers) in Edinburgh buying whisky and cigarettes on the Royal Mile. We then see him at work as a head accountant in a very old-fashioned firm in the New Town. The Justerini & Brooks premises on George Street serves as their shop in the film.

Martin is called to the death-bed of the owner, old MacPherson, at Moray Place. He is offered a whisky and declines. Old MacPherson drinks both and promptly dies.

The new owner of the Tweed company, played by Robert Morley, is enamoured with a zealous American woman who is an efficiency expert and who wants to turn her hand to revolutionise the very traditional company. She insists on visiting "the factory" on the island, only to discover the task is done by old couples, on crofts where they spin the wool. She plans to replace the 700 weavers, dotted across the islands, with a single large factory. Whilst being driven through the city she even says the company should change to synthetic fibres, causing the chauffeur to drive into the back of a brewer's dray in the Grassmarket.

Martin watches a Sherlock Holmes film at the cinema and is inspired to kill Mrs Barrows. As he is a non-smoker and a non-drinker, he decides he should mislead any future investigation by smoking and drinking at the scene of the planned crime. He purchases a bottle of whisky and packet of Capstan cigarettes. In her flat though, after a series of botched attempts his conscience gets the better of him and he cannot kill her. He tries to remove all evidence when Mr MacPherson appears suddenly, and manages to avoid detection. Back in the office MacPherson interrogates Martin and finds his denial more plausible than Mrs Barrows claims. She cannot take any more, accusing them all of being mad, and she leaves for good. Thus Mr Martin wins his battle of the sexes.

However, seeing her crying at the station he is minded to buy her a flower. He may have won the battle, but he hasn't won the war.



Film rights to the story were owned by Hecht Hill Lancaster. Billy Wilder was signed to direct.[2] Eventually they sold the rights.


On its 1960 release, the film was very warmly reviewed by The New York Times, with critic A. H. Weiler calling it a "gentle, tongue-in-cheek ribbing that cleaves to the spirit, if not entirely to the letter of Thurber's lampoon."[1]


  1. 1 2 Weiler, A.H. (19 April 1960). "Screen: Thurber Tale: Battle of the Sexes' Is British Import". The New York Times.
  2. Notes From Coast Special to The New York Times. 4 June 1957: 38.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 9/14/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.