Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Petulia - Viola Lee Blues Montage

    Director Lester simply had to include music from San Francisco's psychedelia phase somewhere in this movie.  He does it by having Archie visit a club where the Grateful Dead are playing.  As the group sings Viola Lee Blues a montage of short video clips is shown.  You might first want to watch the movie sequence here before reviewing the locations below, or you could go here and listen to an extended audio version of the song as you read on.

Then ...  In the club the band belts out the song ... clockwise from top left are Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, 'Pigpen' Ron McKernan and Bob Weir.  Behind Pigpen, Mickey Hart was on drums. 

    Where was this club?  Via a mutual friend CitySleuth recently asked Mickey Hart where the scene was filmed.  His telling response... "No one remembers"!  In an earlier scene the girl in the green dress standing next to Bob Weir is Rosie McGee.  She told CitySleuth that she was present at the shoot but to her recollection it was a much smaller place than the Fillmore, a favorite venue of the Dead at that time.  Reader Eric commented (below) that a 1967 Grateful Dead Fan Club newsletter reported that the band was shooting a scene for the movie 'Petulia' "live in a warehouse here in the city".  It was left to ReelSF readers Tom Ditto and Paul Hawken to finally reveal the location (see their comments at the bottom of this post) ... the scene was filmed at the closed-down Reno Hotel, at 252 6th Street in the SoMa district (map).  The hotel burned down in the 1980s but here's a 1938 aerial showing where it was.

... and Now,  the same aerial view today - the Gene Friend Recreation Center has been built on the site.

    By the 1960s the Reno Hotel had closed down.  It's 6th Street frontage was boarded up and the building was being used by a group of artists who entered at the rear at 69 Harriet Street,  referring to their space as The Warehouse or The Pie Factory.  The Petulia nightclub scene was filmed in 1967 in the basement space occupied by the Calliope Company, a music/light show production company.  Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters also hung out here around that time- this 1966 photo of their bus gives us a glimpse of 69 Harriet on the right.  

... and Now,  the line of palm trees at the rear of the Recreation Center delineates where the Reno Hotel used to be.


Then ...  We next see Archie with his friend May enjoying a cigarette and glass of wine on the balcony of, presumably, her house.

... and Now,  this fine Italianate Victorian is the historic Talbot-Dutton House at 1782 Pacific on the corner of Franklin (map), built circa 1869 by William Talbot, a lumber tycoon, as a wedding gift for his daughter Mary.  The house survived when the 1906 fire that ravaged the city stopped just one block away.  It still looks exactly as it did in the movie in 1968.


Then ...  During the montage several distant views of the city are shown, including this one ...

... and Now,  this was filmed from Conzelman Road in the Marin Headlands (map) looking south to the city skyline through the suspenders of the Golden Gate Bridge.  The yellow border in the recent photo outlines the movie view above.


Then ...  There's also a dreamlike crepescular image of Coit Tower and Telegraph Hill with one of the Bay Bridge towers visible at left.

... and Now,  snapped from a higher elevation in the Marin Headlands, here's almost the identical view.


Then ...  Next, Archie and his boys spend time at a park.

... and Now,  this scene was filmed at the Muir Woods National Monument redwoods park a few miles north of San Francisco in Marin County (map) .  Here's a recent photo of what could be the same redwood round display.


    Director Lester adds a trademark touch of whimsy when he shows Archie and his doctor friend Barney supervising bodypainting of a patient.   Hippie - i - ay!


Then ...  Archie and May are shown in a restaurant - in the twilight behind them the view looks east across the bay towards the Bay Bridge and Yerba Buena Island.

... and Now,  this is the view from the Julius Castle restaurant at the end of the Montgomery Street cul-de-sac on Telegraph Hill (map).  The restaurant closed recently after 84 years of operation but here below is the same view taken from there.

... and Now,  Julius Castle today, an icon in search of a new owner.  Incidentally, this restaurant was featured as 'the house' in the 1951 movie The House On Telegraph Hill.


Then ...  And finally Archie and Petulia spot each other as their cable cars cross paths at a street junction.

Then ...  The next shot reveals the junction - Archie's red-roofed cable car is heading to the left down California Street and Petulia's to the right down Powell Street (map).  Note the cone-roofed cable car signal house on the corner and behind it the Alta Casa Apartments which were featured in the 1950 movie Woman On The Run.

... and Now,  the signal house, used for controlling the crossing of the two cable car lines, is still there but an empty lot is all that is left of the Alta Casa Apartments.

    Unrelated trivia ... back in 1935 the signal house ended up in front of the Alta Casa Apartments entrance after an altercation with a passing motor car.


Vertigo - Madeleine's Inquest and Grave Site

  An inquest is held at the San Juan Bautista mission into the death of Madeleine Elster.

Then ...  The attendees assemble at the inquest, held at the Mission San Juan Bautista Plaza Hall (map), next to the Plaza Stables.

... and Now,  the Plaza Hall today has a new coat of paint, the only significant change.


  At the inquest the jury finds that Madeleine committed suicide while of unsound mind but not before the coroner (Henry Jones) subjects Scottie to a scathing excoriation, making no attempt to hide his contempt for his inability to prevent Madeleine's fatal jump.  This scene was filmed on a Paramount Studio set which was carefully constructed to mimic the actual Plaza Hall interior.


  Afterwards, Scottie visits Madeleine's grave.  This was filmed in Colma, just south of San Francisco, in the East Side Gardens of the Cypress Lawn Memorial Park at 1370 El Camino Real (map).

Then ...  As he approaches the gravesite he walks past a 19th century memorial cross.

... and Now,  the cross is still there in section 'I' at the cemetery (this is a useful marker for those readers who may want to visit the site).


Then ...  He stands, bereft, in front of her gravestone.  We can only guess at the thoughts swirling around inside his head.

... and Now,  not surprisingly the gravestones seen in the movie view are still there; Madeleine's of course is not - it had been placed in the bottom left corner of this recent picture.


  A little trivia - most San Franciscans and many visitors have seen the Beach Blanket Babylon musical revue show in North Beach.  It turns out that Steve Silver, the creator of that venerable show, is buried very close to Madeleine's grave, in the adjacent section 'F'.  Here's his gravestone.

Experiment In Terror - Kelly picks up Toby

  Kelly's teenage sister Toby (Stefanie Powers) has slept over at a friend's house.  Kelly drives there to pick them up to take them to school.

Then ...  She drives the short distance up Glenbrook Ave from her home on St Germain Ave and stops outside the friend's house at 206 Palo Alto Avenue alongside a row of three sidewalk trees (map).

... and Now,  those trees are still there today, now with sturdy 50 year old trunks.  The house is there too but the brick walls have been refinished.


Then ...  Toby and her friend exit the side gate of No. 206.  The window on the left is the same one as the window at lower right of the 'Then' picture above.  The view looks to the east towards the Bay Bridge and the city's Financial District.

... until recently ...  the gate and side wall were subsequently remodelled.  The photo below, taken in 2007, shows how the original wall, clearly visible, had been extended upward.

... and Now,  below is the side wall as it looks today - the brick has been covered over with a stone finishand a new gate installed.  The higher wall not only blocks the east view but so too does the large house built next door.

... the view east today ...  if you could peep over the gate and the house next door wasn't there this is how the view east would look now.  Compare it with the way it was behind Toby in the Then picture above


Then ...  As Toby approaches her sister's car the view down Palo Alto Avenue shows those same three trees.

... and Now,  the same view, the same trees.

The House On Telegraph Hill - Denouement

  The final scenes take place inside the house, filmed on a Twentieth Century Fox soundstage.

  Victoria discovers newspaper clippings revealing that  her Aunt Sophie had died several days after she had received telegram notification from Alan of the death.  She realizes he must have sent the telegram knowing he was about to kill her.  Now she really is convinced he is after the inheritance and plans to kill her and her son Chris, too.

  When Alan brings orange juices at bedtime she switches the glasses.


  Alan realizes his plan to poison his wife has backfired.  He rushes to the housekeeper Margaret for help and we learn they are lovers - she is in on the plan.  But Margaret turns on him and refuses to call a doctor because he had wanted to include young Chris in his murder scheme.  Never underestimate the maternal instinct.


  And so justice is served as the poison does its job.  The final frames show Victoria and Marc carrying the sleeping Chris away presumably to a new beginning for them all.

Click in this box to search this site ...