Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

The House Across The Bay - Brenda Skips Town

    Larwitt's lawyer Slant arrives in San Francisco and asks Brenda to stop by his hotel.  He delivers bad news - the money Larwitt set aside for her has run out.  No more fashionista outfits, at least until after her husband serves out his sentence.

 

Then ...  He has also discovered that she is seeing Tim Nolan and, after again professing his love for her, implies he'll tell Larwitt if she doesn't spend time with him.  When she refuses he gestures out the window towards Alcatraz and threatens to tell Larwitt that it was she who put the IRS onto him.  But she brushes him off anyway.  Belvedere Island is to the left of Alcatraz and that's the original Pier 39 in the foreground at center.

... and Now,  Slant's hotel in the movie, the Ritz Curson, was fictional - this scene was filmed on a studio soundstage using for the window view a backdrop from a photo taken at the parking circle at the base of Coit Tower atop Telegraph Hill (map).  There's now a sprawling tourist replacement at Pier 39 but, as seen below, it's not visible from the same place because of encircling trees.  This view is at the one spot where en pointe visitors can just glimpse Alcatraz and Belvedere.

 

Then ...  Brenda worries that Tim will be dragged in so she leaves San Francisco hoping he'll give up on her.  But he tracks down her friend Mary, she works at a hairdresser's, and finds out that she has taken a job singing in a nightclub in Alameda.  As they talk a cable car climbs by outside the window and we see a store across the street, H. L. Ladd, and unique street-lamp globes; these three clues led CitySleuth to the location ...

    Here's an ad for H.L. Ladd from the  1927 San Francisco Blue Book and Club Directory - it was a pharmacy at 343 Powell Street and was still at that location when the movie was filmed in 1940.

... and Now,  here's today's matching photo.  343, now the boutique Cop Copine, is next to the corner boutique, Goyard.  Those same array of lamp globes still stylishly traverse the whole block in front of the hotel.  Cable cars still stop here; the line of tourists on the street island are waiting for the next one.

... a vintage photo ... an arrow has been added to this 1928 image pointing out the H.L. Ladd pharmacy.  But wait ... that's Union Square opposite, there never was any store there, so the scene at the hairdresser's must have been on a studio soundstage with the location implied using video filmed at the corner of the square (map).  Now we know.

... and Now,  the same view, taken from the top floor of Saks Fifth Avenue.  Those folks on the island will be lucky if they manage to get on the already packed cable car. (CitySleuth has heard that the cable car operators refer to this stop as 'Fantasy Island').

 

The Conversation - A Shocker

   Stunned after witnessing the deadly attack on the young wife at the Jack Tar Hotel, Caul decides to return to the Director's office to confront him.

Then ...  He crosses Grove Street outside his apartment building in Hayes Valley (described in an earlier post) to hail the 21-Hayes bus.  Movie director Coppola has described the demolition taking place across the street during the latter phase of the Western Addition clearance as a metaphor for Caul's crumbling state of mind.

and Now ...  this is the corner of Grove Street where the bus makes the turn from Laguna.  Those apartments across Laguna were replaced but Caul's building at 700 Laguna is still there having survived the clearance.  The 21-Hayes still follows the same route.

 

Then ...  He's told the Director is not in but barges past the guard anyway.

and Now ...  the same staircase today, at the west end of the lobby level of One Embarcadero Center in the Financial District.  If this looks familiar it's because we first saw it in an earlier scene.

 

Then ...  The guards make it very clear he's not welcome.

and Now ...  it's more eclectically colorful than it was!  CitySleuth prefers the original austere look and suspects the building's creators would agree.

 

Then ...  Caul takes the hint and exits the One Embarcadero building via a walk-through tunnel - the end of it is visible at far right.

and Now ...  this was the exit to Clay Street on the north side of the building (map) - it is now closed off and there's a full-height window in its place.  The Security Pacific Bank sign partially visible on the concrete overhang, above, has been replaced with a One Embarcadero Center sign, below.  See too how those sidewalk trees opposite have grown in the last 40 years.

 

Then ...  His attention is drawn to a swanky limousine, a 1971 or 1972 Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman.  This model is no ordinary limo; it has over the decades been the street transportation of choice for the famous and the infamous (John Lennon, Pol Pot), for the feted and the hated (Elizabeth Taylor, Saddam Hussein), for the simply rich and the filthy rich (Hugh Hefner, Aristotle Onassis),for believers and non-believers (The Pope, Leonid Brezhnev),  to name just a few.  (Trivia note - Francis Ford Coppola negotiated a gift of a car from Paramount Studios should 'The GodFather' take exceed $50 Million.  When it did he chose a 600 Pullman.  This one perhaps?).

and Now ...  the garage is still there and the mosaic-tiled sidewalk has held up remarkably well.

 

    He looks into the limo and is shocked to see the Director's wife!  What the ...!?  Isn't she dead?  Didn't he just witness her brutal attack at the Jack Tar?  How can this be?

 

Then ...  He walks away, flabbergasted, trying to make sense of it all.  Just beyond him is the tunnel through which he had exited moments before.

and Now ...  as mentioned earlier the exit tunnel is no longer there and the building name has been relocated around the corner of the overhang.  An additional sign has been added on the far wall and other changes have been made there to accommodate retail stores.

 

The Laughing Policeman - Porno Theatre

  Jake visits a porno theater to question the manager about his brother, an ex-San Quentin inmate, one of the bus victims.  A long shot, but Jake was hoping the connection might shed light on the massacre.

    The theatre scenes were filmed at the New Follies Theatre at 2961 16th Street in San Francisco's Mission District (map), still in operation today but since 1979 known as the Victoria Theatre (recently pictured below).  The theatre first opened in 1908 as Brown's Opera House featuring G-rated vaudeville but in the 1970s when this movie scene was filmed it offered R-rated burlesque entertainment.  Its longevity makes it the oldest operating theatre in the city.

 

Then ...  By way of introduction he flashes his SFPD badge to the sassy lady in the ticket booth.

... and Now,  from the same booth today, a daytime view across 16th Street.

 

Then ...  In the lobby as Jake is heading up the stairs he looks down and is taken aback to see his teenage son entering the theatre.

... and Now,  other than the snack counter and new paint the lobby has hardly changed.

 

Then ...  We have come to realize that Jake never cracks a smile but he's understandably less than amused to witness his son and a smattering of others enjoying an eyeful.

... and Now,  the seats have been replaced but that firehose on the side wall is still there.

 

Then ...  Backstage, the theatre manager gives Jake lip for being questioned about his murdered brother but more importantly is unable to provide useful information.  Yet another dead-end lead.

... and Now,  this is the basement dressing room area where today a concrete pillar has been added against the wall on the right to add seismic stability.

 

Then ...  On the way out the last thing he wants to do is listen to a Hare Krishna pitch.  The tiled ticket booth adds color, style and the street number, 2961, to the exterior.  This view looks west along 16th from Capp Street.

... and Now,  it's always good to see time stand still in these Then and Now comparisons.  OK, so the last digit of the street number is missing.

    A chicken and egg question ...  which came first, the floor tiles or the ticket booth?

 

The House Across The Bay - White Knuckles

    Tim persuades Brenda to go up with him for her first ever flight.  Below, they are above Treasure Island (map), newly built on silt dredged from the Bay in 1936 to host the Golden Gate International Exposition, a World's Fair celebrating, in part, the opening of the Bay Area's two great bridges.  The movie was filmed during the fair (1939 -1940) and the island is packed with Exposition buildings.  The elevated approach from Oakland to the eastern section of the Bay Bridge is visible at far right.

 Then ... Brenda is tense and white-knuckled as her relaxed guide points out the Tower of the Sun, the Exposition's 400 foot tall centerpiece.

 ... in 1939 ...   this contemporaneous image gives us a closer look at the Tower Of The Sun.   The theme of the Exposition was 'Pageant Of The Pacific' highlighting the culture and architecture of the countries surrounding the Pacific Ocean.  As an example the colossal Elephant Towers flanking the approach to the Tower Of The Sun incorporated both Oriental and Mayan elements.  Check out the informative newsreel footage here and chuckle at the stridently hyperbolic commentary so popular at that time.

    This wider view shows the full expanse of the Exposition and the entire eastern section of the Bay Bridge can be seen, connecting to Yerba Buena Island on the right.

... and Now,  the same aerial view today courtesy of Google Earth.  The original cantilever bridge is partially dismantled after been replaced in September 2013 by a new causeway and single tower suspension bridge.

 

 Then ...  The sightseeing flight continues across the Bay to San Francisco.  In this shot the clock tower of the Ferry Building is dead center on the Embarcadero - beyond it is the western section of the Bay Bridge.

... and Now,  the bridge and Ferry Building remain the same but over 60 years of rampant development has transformed the Financial District.

 

 Then ...  They swing back across the Bay and Brenda is brought down to earth, so to speak, at the sight of Alcatraz below them.  She is yet to reveal her past to Tim who doesn't know she has a husband nor that he is incarcerated on The Rock. 

... and Now,  the prison block itself is unchanged (other than closing down in 1963) but a close comparison of the Then and Now images does reveal some additions and subtractions on the island.

 

The Conversation - "Room 773, Jack Tar Hotel"

    On the taped recording Caul hears the lovers arranging to meet in Room 773 at the Jack Tar, a hotel between Geary and Post on Van Ness Avenue (map).   Knowing that the Director has heard the tape and fearing for their safety, he decides to go there.

Then ...  He asks for room 773 at the desk, confirms that it's occupied, and books the adjacent room.  On his balcony he peers towards 773 but the frosted glass divider juts out beyond the railing, thwarting his attempt.

... recently ...  here's a matching image by American Zoetrope that fortuitously was taken in 2011 two years before the hotel was demolished.  Other than the bland wall paint on the left that "removes the colors from our sight" (Moody Blues, anyone?) the balconies remain exactly the same despite the passage of 40 years.

 

    The Jack Tar's Grand Opening in 1960 was heralded by a public relations blitz trumpeting "... the world's most modern hotel ..." and the "... dazzling innovations ...".  (Many San Franciscans however were less than impressed with its architecture, considering it garish).  It was the City's first hotel to have air conditioning and boasted over 400 rooms each easily accessible from a guest's parked car.  This photo taken from across Van Ness Avenue the year the hotel opened also gives us a rare look, on the left, at the Cathedral of Saint Mary Of The Assumption on Van Ness and O'Farrell that, after being destroyed 2 years later by arson, was replaced by today's modern cathedral nearby on Gough.  Tommy's Joynt on the other hand, seen on the corner of Geary, opened at that spot in 1947 and is still going strong.

    By 2011 when this photo was taken the hotel, renamed since 1982 as the Cathedral Hill Hotel (after its neighborhood), was closed, awaiting its fate.

 .. and Now,  by the end of 2013 the heavy equipment had moved in and demolition begun.  This view from Franklin Street of the rear of the hotel reveals Caul's room (arrowed) for our benefit.  As of this writing the entire site is a large hole in the ground in preparation for a state-of-the-art California Pacific Medical Center hospital. 

    The billion dollar CPMC Cathedral Hill hospital, rendered below, is scheduled to open in 2015.

 

    But we digress ... back to the movie ...

Then ...  Caul has drilled a hole through the bathrooms' dividing wall and is listening in to the conversation in room 773.  He hears the voices of the lovers and the Director and becomes increasingly alarmed as denials and shouts flood his earphones.

... recently ...  another American Zoetrope image captured the same spot in 2011.

 

    Hearing screams he rushes out to the balcony where through the frosted glass partition he witnesses the wife being attacked by her bloodstained husband.  Or does he?  Is it real or is it all a figment of his tortured mind?

 

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