Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Harold And Maude - Glorious Birds

Then ...  we next see them amongst a collection of makeshift sculptures alongside a freeway on the edge of the bay - the distant sign at far right gives us a first clue as to the location.

... and Now,  the scene was filmed on the east bay Emeryville mudflats alongside Highway 80 (map).  Those office buildings and the Hilton hotel (formerly a Holiday Inn) have since been built on the Watergate Peninsula.


Then ...  As the camera zooms in the freeway sign becomes more clearly visible at the Powell Street overpass. ...

... and Now,  it can't be seen now from the mudflats (blocked by trees), but the sign is still there, viewed here from Powell Street.


    By triangulation using this sign and a distant view seen in another shot CitySleuth was able to home in on the scene's location, immediately south of the Watergate Peninsula.


    The mudflats were a magnet for driftwood and industrial flotsam.  Anonymous artists began fashioning these found objects into sculptures around 1960 and continued off and on until 1985 when the area was designated a State Marine Reserve and cleaned up.  Here's a c. 1980 photo of the sculpture garden with the partially constructed Watergate Peninsula complex in the background.

    For a sample of sculptures that appeared here over the years click or tap the image below.


    Getting back to the movie ... as Harold lovingly clasps Maude's hand he is jarred at the sight of an I.D. number tattooed on her arm, a peek into her past.


Then ...  but she pretends not to notice and, seeing a flock of seagulls against the golden sunset, tells him that the French Jewish political prisoner Alfred Dreyfus used to watch birds from his island prison, thinking of them as 'glorious birds' but disappointed years later to realize they were only seagulls.  "For me", she says, "they will always be glorious birds".  A symbol of freedom perhaps, for a Holocaust survivor?

... and Now,  the view towards San Francisco spans, from left to right: Twin Peaks, downtown San Francisco, Treasure Island, Bay Bridge east tower, Golden Gate Bridge, the headlands and hills of Marin County and at far right the tip of the Watergate Peninsula; its parallax position against the Marin hills was the second clue to the scene's location.


    The mudflats didn't only host whimsical artworks; often there were social or political messages too, as for example this 'End War' sign in 1971 when Vietnam weighed heavily on the conscience of the nation.

   Harold and Maude was filmed in 1971 - it is quite possible that director Hal Ashby was inspired by the sign and planned on taking it a step further with a stronger message ... but the footage ended up on the cutting room floor;  here's an outtake image.


Fog Over Frisco - The Bradford Mansion

Then ...  Having reported Arlene's disappearance to the police, Val Bradford drives back to her Lafayette Park home, seen here heading north along Laguna Street on the west side of the park.  In the foreground are cable car tracks along Washington, a line destined to close down 22 years later in 1956.

... and Now,  the homes on this block today have all been replaced except for the setback 3-story white building on the corner of the intersecting Clay Street.  The park steps too appear to be the same ones.


Then ...  She makes a right in front of her home, the corner mansion, but screeches to a halt when she sees the reporters waiting for her.  The home's address in the story was 923 Bates Avenue, fictitious, but in real life this mansion was 2180 Washington, built in 1899 by William G. Irwin, a banker and sugar magnate.

... and Now,  the Irwin Mansion burned down in 1955; today there's a 12-story condominium building on this site (map).  In this view of new and old the common denominator is  the cluster of three tall buildings down Laguna.

    Here's the mansion in 1953 by which time it had become the home of the Irwin Memorial Blood Bank.  (Its cube-like architecture was certainly appropriate for an owner from the sugar business).

    But just two years later, sadly, it was destroyed by fire.

... and Now,  2180 Washington today. 


Then ...  In an earlier scene a view from the home's window shows a shaggy-maned lion on a pedestal, one of a pair facing the park at the front entrance (you can spot it in the 1953 photo and the fire photo above).

... and Now,  the lions, the only survivors from the original building, have lost their pedestals but still maintain their vigilant watch at the entrance.

   ... the fiercely-represented beasts hold an unfolding scroll in their teeth, a symbol of life and a hidden future.


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.


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