Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

The Penalty - Rose Is Spared

    Blizzard operates his criminal empire with impunity having bribed the local police force into turning a blind eye.  But the Federal Secret Service has him in their sights.  Their head, Lichtenstein (Milton Ross) asks his best operative, Rose (Ethel Grey Terry), to infiltrate the operation for incriminating evidence.

    She is accepted by Blizzard, quickly becoming one of his favorites, even coming under his controlling spell.  But when she discovers a secret passage down to the cellars leading to a completely outfitted surgical operating room (puzzling) and a large cache of weapons (alarming), she knows she has to report back.


Then ...  She scribbles a note and throws it from a rear window to a Secret Service agent waiting outside.

... and Now,  the scene above was most likely filmed on a studio set but this window is where it was meant to be - read on for its location.


Then ...  the agent picks up the note but he is immediately attacked and neutralized by one of Blizzard's henchmen.  

... and Now,  he picked up the note in front of 7 Old Chinatown Lane (map).  At left, note the building's standpipe; it's very similar to the one almost a century ago.  The window pictured in the Now image above, at 9 Old Chinatown Lane, is typical of this building's 2nd story windows.

    CitySleuth recognized the alley having previously researched a foot chase in the 1949 movie Impact which ended up (below) at #11 Old Chinatown Lane.


    Here's a 1955 photo of Old Chinatown Lane, formerly Church Alley, viewed from Washington Street.  Note that this is actually a block away from Wentworth Place where we previously learned that Blizzard's office is located.  Directorial license prevails.

... and Now,  a fire escape and utility equipment has been added on the left side but Old Chinatown Lane today retains its same character.


    Blizzard now knows that she's a spy and she knows he knows when he hints that her number is up.  But after commanding her to operate his foot pedals (hmm...) he is swayed by how well he plays with her help... "You're the best pedaler I ever had".  Rose is spared.


Harold And Maude - Tarzan Yell

Then ...  Having "dodged the draft" as it were, Harold drives Maude in his Jaguar-hearse to the slopes of a grass-covered open space.

... and Now,  this was filmed just off Sand Hill Road near Highway 280 on the border of Menlo Park and Woodside (map).  What was open space in 1971 is now the site of the Horse Park at Woodside.  When CitySleuth visited this spot (2016) he was incredibly fortunate; the site was being leveled for a new barn; soon the exact matching shot would be blocked.  The large foreground tree and one of the two small trees beyond it are still there.


    Here's a recent aerial of the Horse Park showing the locations appearing in this scene.  Location 1 is the large tree seen above, location 2 is the small tree.


Then ...  Maude encourages Harold to somersault down the hill... "Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves"... they are alongside the large tree and we see a closer look at the small trees beyond.

... and Now,  the tree with the deformed trunk has survived even though today it's in the middle of a horse riding ring - more clearly seen in the preceding aerial view.


Then ...  Not to be outdone, Maude raises her arms and whoops skywards.  For good measure the director extends her cry into a full-fledged Tarzan yell that echoes around the hills.

... and Now,  from the same spot.


Then ...  The frolicking continues as they dance alongside the side of a reservoir to the (Cat)chy strains of "If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out".

... and Now,  the reservoir is still there, location 3 in the aerial view; there's now a newer, larger, reservoir next to it (the reservoirs belong to the Menlo Park Municipal Water District).  When the movie was filmed only the original reservoir and its curving access road intruded upon these slopes.


Then ...  More high jinks.

... and Now,  from next to the reservoirs this view looks east across San Francisco Bay.


Then ...  They head out to Sand Hill Road down the access road, location 4 in the aerial above.

... and Now,  Hey,  there's still a yellow fire hydrant in the same spot!


Then ...  The late afternoon sunlight diffusing through a lingering mist adds a sheen to Sand Hill Road (location 5 in the aerial above) in this elevated shot.

... and Now,  from street level, no mist but still sheeny.  The fence on the left follows the same line as the old but there's now a sign ahead announcing the entrance to the Horse Park.


Fog Over Frisco - Lafayette Park

    Apparently Arlene's engagement was a sham ("For business reasons ...", she said) because It turns out that the radiogram was from her secret lover, Joshua Mayard (Douglas Dumbrille), an older man who runs a subsidiary of her stepfather's banking company.  When he cuts off their relationship she slaps his face and storms out, with Mayard in pursuit.


    Arlene fails to return home and sister Val reports her disappearance to the police; it didn't take long for a tipster to alert the local newspaper, setting off a mad rush of reporters to Arlene's home at Lafayette Park.  The entrance of the fictitious newspaper building below was most likely filmed at Warner Brothers Burbank Studios but the taxi was a real San Francisco Yellow Cab.

.... a vintage photo ...  here's part of a fleet of 337 of the same cabs idled at 245 Turk Street in San Francisco during the 1934 general strike.  Note the same exterior sun visor and the telephone number and circular insignia on the sides.


Then ...  The cab climbs towards Lafayette Park from Jackson Street up a steep section of Octavia in Pacific Heights (map);  the view across the north bay takes in Alcatraz and Angel Island.

... and Now,  rampant tree growth now blocks this view.  Drivers today still navigate around the concrete-walled planters in the center of the pavement.


Then ...  The reporters congregate on Washington Street at Octavia next to a large Pacific Heights mansion on the northern edge of Lafayette Park.

... and Now,  the mansion, at 2080 Washington, was built in 1913 by sugar magnate Adolph Spreckels for his young wife Alma.  Author Danielle Steel is the current owner and she is responsible for that swollen overgrown hedge that today denies passersby the sight of the classic French Baroque limestone home.  Ms Steel, tear down this wall!!

... in 1953,  20 years after the movie was filmed unimpeded views of both mansion and bay were still being enjoyed.


Then ...  Viewed from the Octavia intersection, Lafayette Park stretches back beyond the reporters.  The cable car on Washington is a reminder that Pacific Heights used to be served by the Washington-Jackson line.

... and Now,  from the same vantage point the park looks very different having been re-laid out and reworked over the years.  The Washington-Jackson line was shut down in 1956, to the chagrin of the local residents.

... in 1906 ... For history buffs here's a composited image of Lafayette Park when it was home to a tent city erected for earthquake survivors.  Those three homes on Washington Street  have since been replaced; they are, from left to right, the William Dunphy mansion, the James V. Coleman mansion and, across Octavia, the Jean M. Boyd mansion at 2080 Washington on the site of the Spreckels mansion described above.


The Penalty - Barbara's Studio

    Dr. Ferris's daughter Barbara is an artist, seen here working on a sculpture in her studio.  The nude model raised few eyebrows in 1920, more than a decade before the industry's Production Code censors would react otherwise, especially (gasp!) when she steps off the dais and walks offscreen.


Then ...  The interior above was a movie set but the exterior was real, seen below as Ferris drops off his assistant Wilmot Allen, who has taken a fancy to Barbara, in front of her studio.

... and Now,  it was referred to as 32 Institute Place in the movie; the actual address then was 32 Middle Street, now named Orben Place (map), a narrow street running between California and Pine in the Western Addition's Japantown.  


Then ...  Judging by the sign, the house was available for rent when the filming took place (the British term 'To Let' was still in use back then).  Dr. Ferris's fine limousine is a symbol of his elevated social status.

... and Now,  Despite changes the entrance of 32 Orben Place has managed to retain a somewhat similar appearance.

   Tangential trivia 1 ... In the 'To Let' sign in the Then image above, the renting company was Madison and Burke at 80 Post Street.  This was a real company, listed in San Francisco's 1920 city directory.

   Tangential trivia 2 ... this restored example of the same limousine model as Dr. Ferris's, a 1917 Packard Twin Six 2-35 All-Weather Landaulet, sold at the 2011 Pebble Beach auction for $192,500.  Compare it to the Then image above - it's identical.  It was powered by a V-12 424 cubic inch engine producing nearly 90 horsepower.  Remember, this was 1917; it hadn't taken the auto industry's engineers long to get into their stride.


Then ...  When the limousine pulls away from the studio we see the other half of Middle Street (seeing the cable car heading down California Street helped CitySleuth track down this location).  Another prominent Madison and Burke sign on the right makes CitySleuth wonder if this was an early example of subliminal advertising in a movie?

... and Now,  the same view down Orben Place today.  It's hard to see from here, but the partially obscured house facing us beyond the stop sign is an example of one that has changed very little over the past century.  On the other hand, cable cars no longer traverse California Street west of Van Ness Avenue.


    In the studio, Wilmot (Kenneth Harlan) urges Barbara (Claire Adams), portrayed here at her winsome best, to give up her bohemian ways.  She tells him she will but only after she takes on one last challenge: "...I'm going to do 'Satan - After the fall'... if I fail, I'll marry you".  But if she succeeds? ... it's left unsaid but in the male-centric 1920s this is one lady who won't be pushed around.

   She posts an ad; Blizzard sees it and realizes this is his chance to use her in his revenge plot against Ferris.  He applies, making sure his henchmen scare away the other applicants.

Then ...  When he arrives at the studio Orben Place reminds us that this was the overlap period between horse and horseless transportation.  Despite Barbara's trepidation over his appearance, or perhaps because of it, or even that he was the only applicant, he gets the job.

... and Now,  many but not all of the houses in this neighborhood  have modernized exteriors today.


    Who better to pose as Satan than Lon Chaney?  But as fierce as he is while posing he turns on the smiles in the breaks between, gradually charming his way into her good graces.


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