Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Vertigo - Empire Hotel

Then ...  Unaware she is being stalked, the woman leads Scottie along Sutter Street, here passing a beauty salon at 916 Sutter and the tailor/cleaners at 920, between Leavenworth and Hyde.

... and Now,  these two addresses currently belong to Dolce, a cafe, and Bellissimo Pizza.


  A few steps on she enters the Empire Hotel at 940 Sutter (map), where she has a room.  He watches from across the street as she opens her window, alongside the letter P  in the vertical sign.


Then ...  Which room is this?  When Hitchcock's camera scans the hotel (below) we see that it was the second one up on the left, which today is room 401.  (In a later scene the same letter P is visible outside the window from the interior, further confirming room 401).

... a few years ago ...  the Empire was subsequently renamed the York Hotel, seen in this 2004 photo.

... and Now,  the hotel has since been acquired by new owners and is now called (guess what?) the Hotel Vertigo.  The exterior, new paint aside, retains the same look.


Then ...  Scottie is compelled to meet this woman and brings himself to knock on the door of her room.

... and Now,  the corridor above was a studio set but Hitchcock often based his reconstructions on real locations and sure enough the actual corridor has the same feel (below), although the door at left is a few doors down from room 401.


Then ...  He talks his way in and finds out that her name is Judy Barton, a sales clerk who works at Magnin's in town.  Anxious to find out more about her, he persuades her to let him take her out later for dinner.  (On a trivia note, Kim Novak later said it was a relief wearing this dress with no bra after being straitjacketed for so long in Madeleine's constraining grey suit).

... and Now,  the room scenes were filmed on a studio set based on room 401's layout except that Hitchcock decided to flip it so that the entry was on the left side, not the right.  A photo of today's room 401 is shown below, flipped to demonstrate the similarity - the bathroom (behind the mirrored closet) relative to the entrance location matches the layout in the movie.


  After Scottie leaves, Hitchcock boldly reveals the murder plot to the audience - Judy in flashback recalls her climb, impersonating Madeleine, into the bell tower where Elster was waiting, ready to hurl his already dead wife, the real Madeleine, from the tower.  From here on the only person not in the know is Scottie.


  By the way, guests at the Hotel Vertigo today are treated to the continuously running Vertigo movie on a screen behind the check-in desk.

The Lady From Shanghai - Two Murders

  O'Hara has signed the 'confession' for Grisby's fake murder believing that he can't be convicted because Grisby will have disappeared from view.  No body, no conviction.  They are ready to stage the murder but the event is bookmarked by two real murders.

  Bannister's assistant Broome has overheard some of the plotting - concluding that Grisby is about to kill his boss -  but when he threatens blackmail Grisby without hesitation pulls a gun and fires.


Then ...  O'Hara, unaware of Broome's shooting, returns with Grisby to the Walhalla bar (at 201 Bridgeway in Sausalito, described previously here) and fires off a few shots to catch people's attention while Grisby slips away.

... and Now,  the building is still there but has been widened and extended out closer to the boardwalk.


Then ...  while O'Hara is attracting a startled crowd Grisby jumps unseen into a motor boat and heads past the anchored Circe towards the glittering San Francisco shore.  Reader Wallace Berry has pointed out that this boat wasn't the Zaca (used for the Acapulco scenes), but a stand-in, the White Cloud.

... and Now,  the same skyline, though far more developed, is as beautiful as ever - the Bay Bridge, as strings of pearls, only enhances the scene.  A few skeletal remains are all that is left of the pier.


Then ...  Grisby completes the crossing and arrives at a marina.

... and Now,  this is the West Harbor in the San Francisco Marina district, in front of the St. Francis Yacht Club (map).  Fort Mason is In the background at left and Russian Hill at right.  (Incidentally, the 1951 movie The House On Telegraph Hill featured the same pier - see it here).


Then ...  O'Hara phones Elsa only to reach the mortally wounded Broome whose gasping last words tell him Grisby is on his way to kill his law partner (Bannister), planning on pinning the murder on O'Hara.  O'Hara frantically drives over the Golden Gate Bridge to Bannister's office in San Francisco.

... and Now,  CitySleuth snapped this matching shot at the south end of the bridge from a location off limits to pedestrians (only cyclists can use this side) for which he was rebuked by the authorities.  If you look carefully you can see the recent addition of a safety railing, elegantly done on each side, between the pedestrians/bikers and road traffic.


Then ...  The camera pivots, following the car, and we see the Round House on the right, opened as a restaurant for passing motorists in 1938, one year after the bridge was inaugurated.  In the distance just left of center is the dome of the Palace of Fine Arts and Coit Tower atop Telegraph Hill is discernible at far left.

... and Now,  the Round House is still there, now a gift shop for the ubiquitous visitors.


Then ...  O'Hara arrives at Bannister's office and finds the police are out front responding to yet another murder.  But, surprise, it's Grisby who has been shot!  The police find the confession on O'Hara and promptly arrest him.

   Wouldn't you know it, this scene was filmed on the Columbia Ranch, the original back lot for Columbia Pictures, in Burbank (map).  Below is an image from a 1949 Batman and Robin TV episode filmed at the ranch showing the same building, known as the Kirby Building.  It was subsequently destroyed in a devastating 1974 fire but the ranch is still operational, now called the Warner Ranch.


  Just to dot the i's, below is the Columbia Ranch layout as it was when the movie was filmed, with the Kirby Building corner shown arrowed.  The two views above look across New York Street with Brownstone Street teeing in on the right.  (CitySleuth is indebted to the excellent Columbia Ranch website for these images).

Petulia - South Of The Border

  David and Petulia have sailed their yacht to Peru and we see them relaxing at a marina somewhere south of the border while a radio station chatters away in Spanish in the background.


Then ...  But sombreroed locals and a few potted palms dotted about didn't fool CitySleuth.  This scene was filmed at Kappas Marina in Sausalito (map), just north of San Francisco!  Check out what appears to be a causeway at upper right and a mountain slope behind it in the composited panorama below.

... and Now,  the causeway is Highway 101 crossing Richardson Bay and the mountain, fully revealed under clear skies, is Mount Tamalpais.  The hills behind Sausalito are in the left background.


Then ... Here's an aerial photo of Kappas Marina taken in 1968, the year Petulia was filmed.

... and Now,  compare it with the marina today, now called Richardson Bay Marina, as captured in the Google satellite view below.  The marina has been renovated and expanded and a houseboat community, retaining the Kappas Marina name, has been built between it and the adjacent Highway 101.


     Below deck, David is overcome with self-recrimination.  "Only a crazy man can hit a woman ... or a coward".  He commits never to do it again and Petulia, believing him or not, forgives him.

Impact - Bayview Apartments

  Walter Williams (Brian Donlevy), a hardnosed, successful businessman, lives in the Bayview Apartments with his wife Irene (Helen Walker), over whom he shamelessly fawns.  The apartment shows up a number of times throughout the movie.

Then ...  A visitor drives up a steep hill and turns into the apartment courtyard.

... and Now,  the steep hill is Sacramento Street and the apartments are the Brocklebank Apartments at 1000 Mason Street (map), former home of San Francisco's iconic Herb Caen.  Another famous resident of the Brocklebank was the enigmatic Madeleine in Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece Vertigo (seen here).  The Fairmont Hotel is on the right.


Then ...  When the visitor enters the lobby, we wonder if this was filmed inside the Brocklebank?

... and Now,  the answer, based on the real lobby below, is no.  Evidently a studio set was used but some similarities are there - in particular, the corridor with four steps leading from the lobby.  There was an elevator on the right in the movie set (above) but in real life the courtyard is on the other side of this wall.


Then ...  Inside the Williams' apartment, the window view behind Walter is of the Bay Bridge where it meets Yerba Buena Island (map).  This again was a studio set, using a photograph to represent the view.

... and Now,  the east facing windows of the Brocklebank did indeed have a view of the bridge back then, before today's Financial District urban jungle blocked it, but the angle doesn't correspond to the movie view above.  That photo was taken from further north, most likely from Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill, like the recent one below.


Then ...  But when we are shown this view looking down to the courtyard from another of the apartment's windows, it's the real thing.

... and Now,  the same view from ground level, unchanged in 60 years but for the lamp-posts.  The building kitty-korner across Mason Street is the Pacific Union Club, also featured in Vertigo as Madeleine's husband's club (see it here).

... The Brocklebank Apartments today ...  This fine 1926 building is testament to the days when class informed architectural design.  It was designed, as too was the nearby Huntington Hotel, by the architects Weeks and Day.

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