Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

The Laughing Policeman - Prime Suspect

    Jake thinks Henry Camerero could be the killer they are looking for but his supervisor doesn't agree, accusing him of bearing a grudge because he couldn't pin down Camerero for a previous murder.  When Jake asks Larsen to tail Camerero, against the supervisor's orders, they get into a good old-fashioned shouting match in the parking lot at the Hall Of Justice.


Then ...  But Larsen relents and Jake takes him to the Financial District where Camerero works, to point him out.

... and Now,  this is One Embarcadero Center, newly completed shortly before the movie was filmed - three similar high-rise office buildings were added to the Center over the following years.  This view is from the corner of Sacramento and Front (map).  (Incidentally, One Embarcadero also appeared several times in the 1974 movie The Conversation).


Then ...  The camera pans down to show them walking west along Sacramento towards the building's south entrance.

... and Now,  the entrance awning has been redesigned, retail stores have replaced the alcoves at right and several new buildings have since been built across and down the street.


Then ...  They enter from Sacramento Street through an arcade-like tunnel, an architectural feature referred to as a 'people-scoop'.

... and Now, for some reason the tunnels have been removed.   Across the street the site of Kielty and Dayton Stationery, on the right above, has been claimed by the 353 Sacramento office building.


Then ...  A balcony alongside the footbridge spanning Clay Street at the north side of One Embarcadero (map) proves to be a good vantage point to look out for Camerero - his real estate investment office is in this building.

... and Now, a sign advertises a Landmark Theaters cinema that has since been opened at the Center.


    They watch as Camerero, flanked by two colleagues, approaches the Battery Street junction on Clay.  From now on he's a marked man.


I Remember Mama - "Uncle Chris Is Dying!"

    Mama has received a telegram - Uncle Chris is dying.  She calls her three sisters and they all meet at a train station for the trip to his ranch in Northern California.  She brings Katrin along; she is intimidated at the prospect of seeing someone die but tells herself that if she wants to be a writer she needs to experience everything.

Then ...  The Sausalito sign can be seen at the end of the platform.  This would indeed be where San Franciscans would have gone, by ferry, in 1910 to catch a train directly north...

... but this scene was filmed at the RKO Encino Ranch in the San Fernando Valley, pictured here in a 1947 photo.  RKO's backlot ranch had three working depots; this one was known as the Brick Railroad Station.  The RKO ranch was sold to developers in the 1950s and became the Encino Village subdivision (map).

    Note that the train in the Then image above was pulled by Engine No. 29.  This same one, or a renumbered contemporary, today provides scenic rides from Carson City to Virginia City in Nevada; the climb to 6,150 feet elevation guarantees spectacular vistas along the way (see it here in a promo video).  Here it is in a 2010 photo.


    The sisters, full of trepidation, arrive at the ranch house - Mama leads the way

Then ...  It's a modest place, a little run down.  This house and the barn in the background above were part of a working ranch, the Morrison Agoura Ranch in Agoura Hills 7 miles west of the RKO Encino Ranch.  Many movies were filmed here before the ranch was broken up in the 1960s.  The eastern portion has been developed into housing but the western part, where these buildings were, is still open land (map).

... in 1949 ...  The scene below from the movie The Red Pony was filmed at this same house a year after I Remember Mama was released.  These ranch buildings however are no longer there.


   As Uncle Chris lies dying he reveals to Mama that his housekeeper Jessie is actually his wife - left unsaid over the years because it was not the thing to do amongst his society.  He also admits that he has no money to pass on - Mama learns soon afterwards that  it was because he had spent all he had on operations for crippled children including his niece Sigrid's young son Arne.  A man of bluster but a heart of gold.  His last request is that Jessie should get his house.


Harold And Maude - Glaucus's Studio

    This scene, where Harold stops by the studio of Maude's artist friend Glaucus, was filmed in the former Southern Pacific Rail Yard alongside Bayshore Blvd in the City of Brisbane (map) at a building that has since been demolished.  CitySleuth thanks Walter Boland, whose father worked at the facility, and Chris Hart of for their help in identifying the location.

Then ... He approaches the building, evidently a tall one; the view behind him looks across Bayshore Blvd and past the PG&E Martin Substation to the hills beyond.

... and Now,  from approximately the same spot.  The site, like most of the abandoned 200 acre rail yard, is now an expanse of weeds.

    But which building was used to film the studio scene?  In this 1946 aerial photo it's the long narrow building on the left; the arrow traces Harold's approach 25 years later in the Then image above.  The building , the Erecting and Machine Shops, was known by the employees as 'The Backshops'.  It housed a row of stalls used for working on steam locomotives.  At far right is the circular Roundhouse with its 40 maintenance stalls, 17 covered and 23 uncovered, and a turntable at its focal point.

... and Now,  a recent Google aerial view reveals that the backshops are gone, leaving tell-tale hints of where they used to be - the arrow points to the corner of the building where the entrance to Glaucus's studio was.  The covered part of the Roundhouse is still there, despite damage by fire in 2001.  The surviving building at the center of the image used to be the Tank and Boiler Shop - it's now the home of Lazzari Fuel Co.


Then ...  He opens the door to see artist's paraphernalia scattered around a huge block of ice.

    As mentioned, the backshops are no longer there but this 1975 photo of the building shows (arrowed) the same door, partially hidden by the stack of wood; it was set in the larger door that led into Stall 1 of the building.  By then the shops had been made redundant by the advent of diesels and the building was being used by a lumber company.  It was demolished in the mid 1980s.


Then ...  He sees Glaucus busily chiseling the ice block into shape.  The windows behind him at the back were those of the Machine Shop which ran the length of the building at the rear.  (The Machine and Erecting Shops combined as one huge open space).

    This 1983 photo of the back wall was taken at the opposite end of the building but you can see that the window details match the windows above.


    Maude, naked, looks out cheerily from behind the ice block.  She coquettishly confides to Harold later that she posed because ... "poor Glaucus occasionally needs his memory refreshed as to the contours of the female form".


The Laughing Policeman - Getting Warmer

Then ...  Bus victim Gus Niles' girlfriend's place is on the steep Filbert Street steps on the eastern slope of Telegraph Hill (map).  As Jake and Larsen start climbing up from Sansome Street we see, perched atop the sheer cliff at left, the ill-fated apartment building at 22-30 Alta Street which was to become national news 19 years later when it began collapsing down the cliff.

... and Now,  the steps haven't changed except for the section in front of the Filbert Landing offices at left that replaced the old repair shop above.  At the cliff top the overhanging apartments are gone following condemnation and demolition by the City.


Then ...  The stairs make a right and they continue the climb - the old repair shop is down below them.

... and Now

    This same section of steps was used by Humphrey Bogart's character when, after face-changing surgery, he climbed to Lauren Bacall's apartment in 1947 in Dark Passage - back then the steps were of more precarious wood construction.

   ... and again during the suspect's desperate dash home in 1952 in The Sniper.  The Gibraltar Warehouse across Sansome from the repair shop was subsequently demolished - its site is now part of the Levi Strauss headquarters.


Then ...  They take a breather just below Napier Lane; Jake points to the house alongside, it's the one they are looking for, the first one on the right during the climb.

... and Now,  this section is still built of wood with maintenance over the years leading to inevitable changes in the railings.  Newer home construction and remodeling are seen on the right side.


Then ...  The house has two side-by-side units; they head for the one on the right, number 218.

... and Now,  the tree next to the steps has been removed but a little more greenery makes up for it.  We see too that the second floor balcony of number 220 on the left has been redone.


Then ...  Nobody responds to the knock on the door but no worries, Larsen has it open in seconds.

... and Now,  hey, it's still  the same door, light switch too!


Then ...  Larsen enters a room and stumbles over a dead woman with a needle in her arm.  They have found Niles' girlfriend.

... and Now,  in the same room today.


    Jake looks around; he finds a war-time photo of Gus Niles and recognizes his taller buddy - it's Henry Camerero who happens to be the prime suspect in a two-year old murder case of his who he was never able to nail.  The trail is getting warmer ...


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