Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

The Laughing Policeman - The Snitch

  Police informants are part of the fabric of crime investigation especially when leads are scarce. In their search for the source of the automatic weapon used in the bus massacre Jake and Larsen meet one such snitch at Enrico's in North Beach.

Then ...  For this scene the director populated the curbside dining area with an odd array of characters ranging from hippie to dippy.  The restaurant diagonally across the street is Swiss Louis, at that spot since 1936, and the Transamerica pyramid looms in the background.

... and Now,  Enrico's started serving italian cuisine to customers at 504 Broadway near Kearny Street in 1959 (map) eventually closing in 2006.  Today the site houses a lunch spot, Naked Lunch, and sensibly the cosy outside dining space was retained.

... a few years earlier ...  Below, the same location appeared in this scene in the 1968 movie 'Bullitt'.  The striped awning kitty-corner across Broadway is at the long-lived Swiss Louis restaurant - it subsequently moved in 1978 to its current location at Pier 39.

 

Then ...  Information from a snitch is usually unreliable at best and all they gleaned from the meeting was a name, Rodney, that may or may not turn out to be useful.  As they leave Enrico's you can just see the awning sign of the adjacent drag venue Finocchio's at 506 Broadway.  They then turn at the fish and chip shop on the corner and head up Kearny Street.

... and Now,  the metal framework of the former Enrico's awning is still in place, a skeletal reminder of what used to be, as too is the stunted remnant of the corner power pole.  The Kearny steps have since been renamed for Peter Macchiarini, a local jewelry designer and founder of a number of San Francisco street fairs.  Finocchio's has become home to the Pier 5 law firm.

 

  Viewed from across Broadway Finocchio's is pictured here alongside Enrico's in an early 1960s image.  It featured cross-dressing entertainment from 1936 until it closed in 1999.  A must-see for visitors of the day, it remained a city favorite over the decades.  Check out this TV feature on the club from 1980.

 

Then ...  Their car is parked a short way up Kearny on a block so steep that steps replace sidewalks the whole way up on both sides.  Fortunately Jake knew how to curb his wheels, second nature with San Franciscans, but that looks like a No Parking sign up the way; certainly parking is prohibited here today.

... and Now,  some updated ductwork on the left, repainted exteriors, otherwise there are no significant changes.

 

The House Across The Bay - Tim's Best Friend

    Mary and Brenda stop by a store to make a phone call.  Mary, sassy as ever, hectors the man hogging the phone, Tim Nolan (Walter Pidgeon).  He doesn't mind, in fact he rather takes a shine to Brenda.  But she resists his efforts to get to know her, wanting no part of a new male friendship.

 

Then ...  Tim is a determined man and he manages to find out her address.  He pulls up across the street from her apartment on Lombard Street.  With Angel Island and Pier 37 lining up in the distance, this must be the junction with the north end of Kearny (map).

... and Now,  This block of Kearny has been developed quite a bit since then, including these houses, but Angel Island and the site of the demolished pier 37, now a marina, are still visible from here.

 

Then ...  Tim looks up to her apartment on the top floor of 301 Lombard Street at the base of Telegraph Hill ....

... and Now,  it's been over 70 years but you'd hardly know it comparing the houses today.

 

Then ...  As Tim wonders how best he should make contact a deliveryman arrives and calls Brenda from an outside phone.  She buzzes the door open for him and before it closes Tim urges his dog Smitty to follow the man.  He then returns home and, craftily, awaits a call from Brenda.

... and Now,  here's the same, identical, front door today. (By the way, check out the gawkers reflected in the doorway glass above, watching the scene being filmed).

 

Then ...  Sure enough, Brenda reads the dog's name tag and calls the phone number on it (Tim's).  When he shows up she's taken aback and accuses him of dirty tricks but he sweet talks her into a date (face it, how could she resist Walter Pidgeon's voice, one of the most mellifluous in the business?).

... and Now,  CitySleuth has explained earlier that the apartment scenes were filmed in a studio using photo and projected video backgrounds for the views.  The window view above is a photo plate of Yerba Buena Island and part of the Bay Bridge span taken from the Coit Tower parking lot at Pioneer Park.  From that same location today trees block that view but here's how it looks from close by at the top of Telegraph Hill Boulevard.

 

The Conversation - Prophetic Dream

    The conventioneers booze it up back at Caul's workshop.  Perhaps loosened up by the alcohol Caul uncharacteristically shares private thoughts with Meredith, the convention hostess (Elizabeth MacRae).  When his rival Bernie, using a planted microphone, jokingly plays it back for all to hear, Caul is furious and throws everyone but Meredith out.  She offers him solace and more as they end up spending the night together.

 

Then ... Caul's concerns over the fate of his surveillance target, the Director's two-timing young wife, gnaw away at him even as he sleeps and in a dream he finds himself following her to a park to warn her.

... and Now,  this is the southeast corner of Alta Plaza Park in Pacific Heights (mapwhere a series of four stairways lead up to the tennis courts.  The Director's wife was on the street level stairway accessed from Steiner Street.  (Coppola's use of oily smoke generators in this scene created a backlash amongst the surrounding residents forcing him to prematurely curtail the original scheduled shoot).

 

Then ...  She runs up the second stairway - the offset third and fourth are also visible successively climbing the hill towards the tennis court fence at the top.

... and Now,  the steps and the tennis courts are still there.

 

Then ...  He runs after her, pausing below the second stairway, offering as an excuse an outpouring of his childhood problems.

... and Now,  the matching view looks down to the corner of Steiner and Clay.

 

Then ...  He shouts his warning -  "... He'll kill you if he gets the chance ..." then, " ... I'm not afraid of death ..." and after a reflective pause, "... I am afraid of murder ".  Across Steiner Steet behind him we can just make out, at far left, the windows of 2310 Steiner.

... and Now,  absent the smoke there's a much clearer view of the shingled exterior of number 2310.

 

    Now he imagines the Director attacking his terrified wife ...

    ... then wakes up to find Meredith and his surveillance tapes gone.  So all along she had been on the Director's payroll to head off the chance that the incriminating tapes might end up in the wrong hands.  Caul's reaction was understandable ... "Bitch!".

 

The Laughing Policeman - Garden Of Eden Club

Then ...  Short on leads, Jake and Larsen try to find the supplier of the automatic weapon, grease gun in the police vernacular, used in the bus slaying.  Larsen begins at a North Beach club, the Garden Of Eden.  The camera pans down its colorful sign ...

... and Now,  the Garden Of Eden Club, at 529 Broadway in the heart of the North Beach red light district (map), opened at this location in 1972 and looks just the same more than 40 years on.

 

Then ...  Jacquie Portnoy with the San Francisco Strutters, entertains passers-by outside the club.  Across the street a steep alley, Romolo Place, tees in and we get a glimpse of the famous Hungry I club on the corner at 546 Broadway.  (This same band are also heard in the 1973 movie The Conversation during the opening scene in Union Square).

... and Now,  the Hungry I, now a strip club, lives on at the same location between the Roaring 20's club and the Beat Museum

... at an earlier location ...  the Hungry I's fame however dates back to an earlier, different location in the basement of the International Hotel two blocks away at 599 Jackson Street (map) during the time it was a folk music and satirical comedy club.  The Kingston Trio, Peter Paul & Mary, Lenny Bruce and countless others performed or recorded albums there.  The well-dressed crowd below are lining up there to see Woody Allen and newcomer Barbra Streisand on the same bill in 1963, coinciding with the release of her first album.

 

Then ...  Inside, Larsen may be on business but he takes a moment to check out the entertainment.

... and Now,  the club's compact interior has been recently remodeled but retains the same basic layout.  On a recent visit it was CitySleuth's turn to be entertained.

 

... in 1972 ...  here's a still from a 1972 TV segment about the club aired shortly before the movie was filmed.

... and Now,  remarkably similar.

 

The House Across The Bay - Rock Widows

    The Rock Widows, "Jennies with a Johnny on the Rock", take a ferry over to Alcatraz (mapto visit their man.  Brenda joins them for the first of what she assumes will be many visits.  She and Steve share small-talk and it's clear he misses her very much.

 

Then ...  After departing from the slip alongside the large building on the right the ferry sails around the southeastern tip of the island on its return trip.

... and Now,  the most striking difference in today's view is the missing and damaged staff buildings alongside the lighthouse - they were destroyed by fire during the 1969 -1971 occupation of Alcatraz by a group of tribal Indians.  The large building seen at far right above is still there, behind the trees.

... a vintage image ... This photo, taken the year after the prison closed during a brief Indian protest in 1964, gives us a clearer look at those ill-fated buildings.  The Indians were staking their historic claim to the ownership of the island.

   ... and here the buildings go up in smoke in 1970.

 

Then ...  The rock widows look back to the side of the island that faces San Francisco.  It's sobering to think that when this was filmed the prison was jammed with high-risk maximum security inmates.

... and Now,  the same view today, but the dreaded penitentiary is now a tourist attraction.  The water tower is not in the image above; it was built in 1940 shortly after the movie was released.

 

Then ...  One of the women, Mary (Gladys George), notices Brenda standing alone and walks over to talk to her.  A cigarette breaks the ice and pretty soon they become fast friends.  Behind them Russian Hill rises above Fort Mason.

... and Now,  Development on Russian Hill has changed its skyline; also downtown on the left where high-rise office buildings are pulled in close by the telephoto lens.  Nearer shore, Ghirardelli Square sits just above the Art Deco Bathhouse and the adjacent Fire Department pump house at Aquatic Park.  Fort Mason's Pier 2 and 3 are on the right and Pier 4, the Alcatraz Pier, is on the left in front of the pump house - it's marked by the red-roofed building at its end (click the image to enlarge).

 

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