Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

The Laughing Policeman - A Tip From The Angels

    Leads are few and far between in this case but an arrested drug dealer anxious to soften his sentence on a third strike passes on the name of the bus victim who had lured Jake's partner onto the massacre bus - a Gus Niles who sported a distinctive eagle tattoo.  But they still don't know who the bus killer was and their search for someone who might have been asking around for an automatic weapon, aka "grease gun', takes them to another quid pro quo meeting at a Hell's Angels hangout, known to the police as a source of weapons.

Then ... Driving up Texas Street they breast 19th Street in the Potrero Hill neighborhood (map).  The city glitters in the background and in the center of this view the 6th Street and King Street exits mark the end of the incoming 280 freeway.

... and Now,  the freeway is almost hidden by one of the many Lower Potrero Hill projects currently under construction.

... recently ...  in 2014 the freeway from here was still clearly visible, a closer match to the movie view above.


Then ...  one of the bikers glances this way and that and, the coast being clear, beckons them in.

... and Now,  this is 605 Texas Street, a couple of blocks south of the top of the hill above (map).  Other than the added security gate on the front door it still looks the same.


Then ... a short passage leads them into the living room where a picture of a scantily clad female reclining on a Harley catches Larsen's eye.  Always the ladies man.

... and Now,  Déjà vu!  CitySleuth is nothing if not nostalgic and was delighted to find the room to be completely unchanged, including the built-in storage area.


Then ... the biker grabs a bottle of liquor from the kitchen to add lubrication to the negotiations.

... and Now,  the current owner had heard about the filming when buying the house two years after the movie came out and told CitySleuth that the kitchen remained exactly as above for another thirty years until it was remodeled into this current layout.


Then ... The visit wasn't a complete waste - the Angels tell them that prior to the bus massacre someone with an eagle tattoo had been around looking for a grease gun.  The detectives leave and, in this shot of them reversing out, the background reveals three of the adjacent houses.

... and Now,  those houses too have seen little change in over forty years.


Then ... They head back the way they came, up Texas Street.

... and Now,  as they leave Larsen reflects on what they have just learned... "Terrific... our John Doe now has a name, Gus Niles.  Now we know that Gus Niles was looking for a grease gun.  We also know that he was a victim on the bus, shot by a grease gun.  Now that ain't complicated at all is it?"


I Remember Mama - Mr. Hyde Skips Town

    To help cover her expenses Mama has taken in a boarder, an urbane gentleman, Mr. Hyde (the great character actor Sir Cedric Hardwicke).  He would enthrall the whole family for hours at a time by reading from his collection of books in a measured, mellifluous voice.  Katrin in particular was swept up by the classic tales and credited her desire to become a writer to these magical evenings.


Then ...  Katrin and her sister Christine (Peggy McIntyre) go to the local drug store to meet their brother Nels (Steve Brown) but as they arrive, far right below, he sees Mr. Hyde climb onto the front end of their cable car, at far left, laden with suitcases.  This scene was shot on RKO studio's back lot .


Then ...  They watch as the cable car carries him off down the street.  Katrin is worried for Mama - "I just hope he's paid whatever he owes her".

... and Now,  this is Hyde Street looking north from Lombard (map).  Turn to the right from here and you'd be looking down Lombard's famous crooked street but as the movie setting is 1910 and the block's switchbacks weren't built until 1922 the director wisely chose not to show them.  The buildings on the left are still there, but hidden by the trees, and an incongruous apartment building has since appeared down the block.   Hands up those who agree it doesn't belong.


    They rush home to find that Mr. Hyde has left a note apologizing for the sudden departure but leaving them his book collection and a check for four months rent.  Relief and delight!


Then ...  The camera cuts to Aunt Jenny laboring up a steep hill towards Mama's house.

... and Now,  the houses across the street are 2502 and 2500 Leavenworth Street at the corner of Francisco in Russian Hill, not far from the crooked street (map).


Then ...  Francisco tees off to the left as she continues huffing and puffing up Leavenworth.  This time though, a faux pas - the tower behind the houses belongs to the San Francisco Art Institute at 800 Chestnut Street; it wasn't built until 1926 whereas the movie is set in 1910.

... and Now,  this corner has changed very little but for the yellow house, rebuilt with an added story.  From this viewpoint it hides the Art Institute tower...

... but take a few steps down Francisco and you can see it's still there.


    Aunt Jenny arrives at Mama's with bad news ... Mr. Hyde had written another check and it turns out he doesn't even have a bank account.  "Marta, I bet he owed you plenty, didn't he?"  Papa is stunned but Mama is stoic, "He owed us nothing," she said, "He pay with far, far better things than money."


Harold And Maude - They Meet

    Harold and Maude's odd proclivity for strangers' funeral services brings them together again, this time at a church.  The scene was filmed at St. Thomas Aquinas, the oldest (1902) church in the Bay Area city of Palo Alto, seen here in a recent photo.

... on location ....  Here's a peek at Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon inside the church waiting for the crew to set up.


Then ...  St. Thomas Aquinas' stained-glass windows bookend the sparse gathering in this symmetrically composed shot. Both Maude on the right side of the aisle and Harold on the left sit well back.  She sidles up behind him.  "I heard he was eighty years old", she whispered, "I'll be eighty next week.  Seventy five is too early... but eighty five is too much time".  A foreboding comment?  We shall see.

... and Now,  a recent photo reveals only minor changes


    Outside the church the rousing arrival of a passing band counterpoints the somber departure of the deceased.  Life goes on.  This is the Sunnyvale High School Marching Band from the city of Sunnyvale, close by Palo Alto.  During the 1970s the band distinguished itself in competitions and at major events and venues including the  Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl and Disney World.


Then ...  Perhaps sensing Harold's formal upbringing she introduces herself appropriately.  "I'm Dame Marjorie Chardin but you must call me Maude.  I think we're going to be great friends, don't you?"

... and Now,  the church is at 751 Waverley Street at Homer Ave, Palo Alto, kitty corner from Heritage Park (map).


Then ...  She hops into the Volkswagen conveniently parked in front of the church, makes a wild U-turn and darts across Homer on the wrong side, barely avoiding a collision.

... and Now,  across the street Heritage Park has since been built (it opened in 2006) on the former site of the Palo Alto Medical Clinic.


Then ...  The priest looks on in astonishment ... "That woman... she took my car!"

... and Now,  the same houses opposite are hidden by leafy trees, ubiquitous throughout Palo Alto today.  The sturdy tree down the sidewalk on the right is the matured version of the one above.


The Laughing Policeman - Lunch Break

  Then ...  Time for a break - Larsen pulls up outside a corner deli.

... and Now,  The Mexican deli, La Palma at 2884 24th Street on the corner of Florida in the Mission (map), is still going strong.  The view, now leafy and shady, looks east along 24th from Florida Street.


  Then ...  They head for the rear of the deli towards a side door on Florida Street.

... and Now,  the palm tree logo has been supplanted by a colorful mural, a common sight throughout the Mission (but there's now a real palm tree outside the deli, see above).


    The Mission is perhaps the most culturally rich neighborhood in San Francisco.  It is primarily a mix of Latin-American communities (but currently threatened by dot-com gentrification) whose culture asserts itself in riotous color via hundreds of street murals, such as the architectural tattoo on El Edificio de Mujeres (the Women's Building) at 3543 18th Street (map), honoring women artists and activists from around the globe.

    Then there are the alleys celebrating community and arts, with an occasional social commentary thrown in, Clarion Alley being one example (map)...

    ... Balmy Street, aka Balmy Alley, being another (map).


  Then ...  they discuss the case while snacking in the deli's food prep area.  The Florida Street side door is on the right and the view past the tortilla preparers looks through the deli shop across the street to the red sign of the Variety Five and Dime at 2899 24th.

... and Now,  there have been layout and equipment changes but this bustling space continues to generate the quotidian tortillas and other freshly prepared foods that make the Mexicatessen so popular.  And, the palm tree logo lives on, adorning employees' T-shirts.


  Then ...  Jake, usually as laconic as they come, surprises Larsen with an outburst, lamenting an unsolved case of his involving a murdered woman, Teresa Camerero.  He wonders if his regrets over the case had led his former partner to try solving it only to end up himself murdered.  Evidently Jake feels some responsibility.

... and Now,  that rear staircase is still there.


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