Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Play It Again, Sam - Role Model

    When it comes to women film writer and critic Allan Felix (Woody Allen) is a loser.  His wife has just divorced him and he seeks solace in a movie theater, enthralled by Humphrey Bogart in the classic Casablanca.

... a vintage photo ...  the scene was filmed in the Surf Theatre at 4510 Irving Street near Golden Gate Park in the Outer Sunset,  a short walk from the surf of the Pacific Ocean (map).  This 1970s photo shows the theatre as it was when the movie was filmed. Opened in 1926 as the Parkview Theatre, it changed its name to the Sunset in 1937 then was remodeled and rechristened as the Surf in 1957.  During the 1960s and 70s the Surf became known for its avant-garde programming of classic and international films (perhaps explaining its choice by Woody Allen for this scene).

... and Now,  the theatre closed in 1985; it has since been further remodeled and is now a church.


Then ...  He's mightily impressed by Bogart. "Who am I kidding", he muses as he leaves the theater, "I'm not like that.  I never was, I never will be".  Right from the get-go we see a lack of self-esteem prompting him throughout the movie to repeatedly turn to Bogart for advice.

... a vintage photo ...  here's a matching view of the Surf taken in the 1980s by which time the seats had been replaced.


Then ...  Outside the theatre Allan walks by a cafe advertising a Bogart Festival.  Its name is partially visible on the right - the Cine Cafe.

... a vintage photo ...  the image shown earlier in this post - here it is again - shows the Cine Cafe at 4508 Irving right next door to the theatre.  The cafe was opened and owned by the proprietor of the Surf Theatre, Mel Novikof.

... and Now,  the Cine Cafe building has survived with the same decorative fenestration, now partially covered with an awning.  Today it's a ballet school run by Ming-Hai Wu, a retired San Francisco Ballet soloist.


Fog Over Frisco - Kidnapped

    Val is led down to the waterfront where she is confronted by a group of thugs employed by Jake Bello, the night club owner who had been using her sister Arlene in his bond fencing scheme.  While struggling with them she glimpses the body of Arlene in the rumble seat of her car.    


    Then ...  Tony arrives in time to see her being dragged off to a waiting boat at a lumber yard.  He bravely takes them on but fails to prevent her from being kidnapped.

... and Now,  this is supposed to be in San Francisco but some of the location shots in the movie's developing story were filmed in the Terminal Island/San Pedro area of the Los Angeles Harbor.  There were several lumber yards in San Pedro at that time and Citysleuth has concluded that the kidnap scene was filmed at one of them,  the E.K. Wood Lumber Company.  Formerly located at the foot of 14th Street (map), it's no longer there but the arrow points to the spot most likely used for the scene shown above.

    ... a vintage photo ...  Here's a 1937 photo of the the E.K. Wood Lumber Company with a view of Terminal Island across the Main Channel. 


   Some time later the police find Jake Bello, done in by Arlene's mystery killer, floating in the water at one end of a cantilevered bridge, .

Then ...  Another look at the bridge reveals it to be the San Pedro Bascule bridge that used to span, north to south, a section of the Turning Basin (map).  Unlike the nearby Henry Ford bridge that doubled as the movie's Butchertown Bridge - a combination road and railway bridge, this one was rail only.

... a vintage photo ...  the San Pedro Bridge is seen at the bottom of this north-facing image taken in 1948.  Jake Bello's body was depicted as floating alongside the north end of the bridge, indicated by the arrow.  The bridge was subsequently damaged in a collision by a passing ship in 1955 and demolished shortly afterwards.


   The police arrive too late to prevent the boat from speeding off with Val held down in the back.


Harold And Maude - Dead Hearse

Then ...  In the previous post Harold turned off Highway 1 in Pacifica towards the Mori Point trail head.  Next we see him driving his Jaguar hearse on a trail around an S-bend.

... and Now,  Here's the same S-bend today.  It's part of the Lishumsha trail that leads directly to Mori Point  (map).  It has seen some changes - the two trails joining from the left are gone, a new trail branches off at upper right and at the bottom the trail straightens out.  Click or tap the image to highlight the changes since Harold's drive-by.

    Citysleuth verified this location by overlaying a 1980 aerial image with a recent one (the arrow points to the spot where Harold's Jaguar hearse was in the Then image above). Click or tap it to see the changes.

    Looking back from the S-bend, CitySleuth has indicated the hilltop from where the camera filmed it.

    Harold And Maude location fanatics can find their way to the S-bend from Highway 1 (on the right) using this trail map.


Then ...  The trail continues on to the top of Mori Point.  As Harold drives up we see Pacifica spread out along the coast with Mount Tamalpais and the hills of Marin County in the distance at left.  

... and Now,  in today's view there's a feature not there in the movie - the Pacifica pier, constructed two years later in 1973.  It carried a sewer pipe a quarter mile out from the shore to dump its miasmic effluent until a wastewater treatment plant came online years later.


Then ...  There's a collective gasp from the audience as the Jaguar plunges over the cliff edge near Mori Point - it glints in the sunlight just below the cliff top (click the image for a closer look).

... and Now,  CitySleuth risked life and limb scrambling to a spot near the cliff edge that afforded a similar view.  All in a day's work.


    The car lands wheels up with a sickening thud.  Say it ain't so!  Can the movie really end on such a shocking note?


Then ...  Pheww!  The camera slowly pans up and we see Harold standing at the cliff edge looking down to the crashed vehicle.  Somehow he got out in time, wickedly feigning his suicide just as he did several times earlier in the movie.

... and Now,  there's been erosion over the years but the cliff face is still very recognizable.  The lady who happened to be walking her dog when CitySleuth took this matching shot had no idea she was standing so close to where Harold had been.


Then ...  The movie ends as Harold picks out 'If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out' on his banjo strings while doing a little jig.  This upbeat ending, suggesting he will get over his loss, won out in a scriptwriting debate over an alternative ending that would have kept Harold in the crashing car.

... and Now,  this view today is for the most part just the same.


Fog Over Frisco - Butchertown Bridge

Then ... Val continues on her desperate dash to the Butchertown Bridge.  The company sign in the background gives us a clue as to this location, supposedly in San Francisco but, as it turns out, filmed in Los Angeles ...

    Here's an old ad for the California Corrugated Culvert Co.  Of its two addresses, the shot above is the Los Angeles location east of Chinatown, looking towards Leroy Street from the railway tracks alongside the Los Angeles River (map).

... and Now,  in 1942 the  William Mead Homes public housing project was built on the 15 acres alongside Leroy Street , still there today.


    The cops are next seen pursuing Val at a location yet to be found ... possibly the industrial area south of Market in San Francisco (that could be the Marin Headlands way in the distance).


Then ...  Val arrives at the bridge where a man is waiting for her.  A train track on the right parallels the roadway over the bridge.

... and Now,  believe it or not, this is the same view today.  But where is it and why does it look so different?  Read on ...

    Here's the bridge in a 1930 photograph.  Built in 1924 as the Badger Avenue Bridge, it linked San Pedro across the Cerritos Channel with Terminal Island (map).  When a Ford assembly plant was built in 1930 on the island (seen below in the background), the bridge became known as the Henry Ford Bridge.  The bridge design is known as a Bascule bridge - this one is unusual in that it is a combination of two back-to-back Bascules, each with three massive counterweights.  The movie image above was shot from the far lefton the south (Terminal Island) side.

Then ...  When Tony's cab reaches the bridge as a train reverses by we get a closer look at the bridge's triple counterweights.

... and Now,  an aerial view of the bridge today (with Terminal Island on the right) shows many changes.  The original road/rail bridge has been replaced by two bridges:  the Commodore Schuyler Heim road bridge since 1948 and a vertical lift railway bridge that replaced the Bascule bridge in 1996 (the nearest one).  (The Now image above was taken from the spot arrowed at right).


    So the bridge scene was filmed in Southern California even though San Francisco has a Bascule bridge of its own, the Lefty O'Doul Bridge crossing Mission Creek (McCovey Cove) at 3rd Street in China Basin (map).  It's next to the SF Giants' ballpark and just blocks north of the old Butchertown neighborhood.  Unlike the Henry Ford Bridge this one is a single bridge and has only two counterweights, but it's still in use today.  Built in 1933 it was there when the movie was filmed so why the moviemakers didn't film here is anyone's guess.


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