Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

D.O.A. - The Showdown

  Bigelow has found out that it was Halliday who had poisoned him and rushes to his office in the Bradbury Building (described earlier here) to confront him.

Below, he looks up and sees that Halliday's office lights are still on (click image to enlarge).

Then ... As he makes his way across the street we see those same windows lit up but, hang on, this is not the Bradbury Building ... it's actually the Million Dollar Building (that's the Million Dollar Theater in front) at 307 Broadway and 3rd Street, directly opposite the Bradbury Building (map).

... and Now,  the Million Dollar Building as it is today (below).  The theater is still in business, catering to a Spanish-speaking audience, but the offices above it were recently converted to residential units.


Then ...  But as he enters the building ...

... and Now  ... we see that this really is the Bradbury Building, at the 3rd Street entrance near the corner of Broadway (map).  Note the external fire pipe down the right side of the entrance - still there after more than 60 years!



Then ...  Halliday, in the same overcoat he wore when he doctored Bigelow's drink in San Francisco, leaves his Bradbury office just as Bigelow approaches on the 3rd floor balcony (take a moment and savor the dramatic shadows of the railing projected across the balcony floor.  Isn't noir wonderful?).

... a similar view ...  this undated photo captured a very similar view.


Then ...  In the ensuing exchange of gunfire Bigelow prevails, finally achieving the redemption of a punitive but successful end to his last furious hours.

... and Now,  the same view today looks as it always did, testament to the lasting legacy of a classic building, incidentally designed not by a trained architect but by a draftsman who worked for Lewis Bradbury.

  The movie ends as it starts, at the homicide department where the rapt officers have been hanging on to every word of Bigelow's incredible tale.  His final word is "...P-Paula ..." then he drops to the ground.

      "How shall I make out the report on him, Captain?"

      "Better make it -  Dead On Arrival"

Woman On The Run - Laffing Sal Has The Last Laugh

  In the amusement park Eleanor and Leggett notice that police Inspector Ferris has followed them.

Then ...  Behind them are two attractions, The Whip and The Skooter.

...  from a vintage video ...  the amusement park is long gone now but the same attractions can be seen (below) in a short vintage home movie taken at Ocean Park Pier in 1954.


  Leggett suggests they split up to help avoid the police.  He sends Eleanor off on the rollercoaster while he looks for her husband Frank but as she pulls away he carelessly mentions something only the killer would have known - the police had told it to Eleanor so she suddenly realizes with horror that Leggett is the killer.  Because Frank had witnessed the crime his life is now in great jeopardy.

  Below is a vintage photo of the rollercoaster at Ocean Park Pier and, in the movie, Eleanor, beside herself with fear and helpless to warn her husband, is tossed about on the hair-raising ride (click image to enlarge).


  Leggett finds Frank - he knows of his weak heart and so attacks him hoping to provoke a heart attack.  Eleanor hears a shot as she rushes over to them and fears the worst.


... but, phew!, it was Inspector Ferris who got there just in time and shot Leggett, bringing his investigation to a fitting end and leaving the way clear for Frank and Eleanor to be reunited.

Then ...  The movie fades out with a shot of the amusement park's Laffing Sal cackling away (below) at the ironies of life.

 ...  from a vintage video ...  The home movie mentioned above also showed the same Laffing Sal (below).  There's a change of clothing but the display, with mirrors, a beach ball and a dangling parrot, is the same.

... and Now, but a different one ...  San Francisco's Playland-at-the-Beach amusement park also had a Laffing Sal display (as a result there are some, including Wikipedia, who mistakenly report that these scenes were filmed there).  There were many Laffing Sals at funhouses across the country at that time, all built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Co. of Germantown, Pennsylvania in the 1930s.  Playland has disappeared but its Laffing Sal display still cackles away today at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and a copy  (below) can be found at the Musee Mecanique at Pier 45 in San Francisco.

The House On Telegraph Hill - Larry's Garage

  After the car crash Victoria is convinced her new husband tampered with the brakes hoping she and her son Chris would die, leaving aunt Sophie's estate to him.  She and friend Marc Bennett take the car to a garage where the mechanic finds a broken hydraulic line - it could have been a deliberate act, but they can't be sure.

Then ...  They are at Larry's Garage on Verdi Place, off Montgomery between Broadway and Pacific (map).  The view towards Nob Hill includes the Mark Hopkins hotel just left of the 'Brakes/Alignment' sign and the Sentinel Building (aka the Columbus Tower) on Columbus Avenue, with its distinctive dome.  The gabled building with the mural, just above the gas pump, is on Pacific Avenue.

... and Now,  believe it or not, this is the same place.  From the same spot on Verdi Place today we see that it is now a two-level parking structure and the view has been blocked by several newer buildings surrounding it.


Then ...  As they drive out of the garage there's a wider angle view.  On the left horizon are the Mark Hopkins and Fairmont hotels and the Brocklebank Apartments (featured in 'Vertigo').  The two highrise apartments spaced out to their right are 1250 and 1360 Jones Street (also seen from George's House in 'Dark Passage').  1250 Jones is the only horizon building visible in today's view (above).  The Columbus Tower is at far left.

... and Now,  here's a Google Earth view of the garage site with an arrow pointing to the parking structure.  Broadway runs top to bottom right of center with Montgomery crossing it at bottom.  The Columbus Tower is at upper left.  The former site-with-a-view is now completely hemmed in.


Thieves' Highway - Bob's Roadside Cafe

  Nick is horrified to hear of his partner Ed's terrible death.  To make matters worse, he finds out Figlia had sent somebody out to retrieve Ed's scattered apples from the crash site. That does it - Nick pursues Figlia and catches up with him at a roadside cafe.

Then ...  The cafe, Bob's Roadside Cafe, is seen here with a truck loaded with Ed's apples parked out in front.

... and Now

  CitySleuth is still seaching for this location site and would welcome any reader who may recognize it to contact him.


  Justice is served, vigilante style, when Nick gives Figlia a merciless beating in a scene unusually graphic for those days.  (CitySleuth wonders if it was coincidence that the cafe walls were lined with photos of professional pugilists).


  The movie ends happily, as befits Hollywood's fascination with the tart-with-a-heart stereotype, when Nick interrupts Rica's card game back in Shorty's bar and asks her to come away with him.  She joyously flings her cards into the air and they head off in search of a wedding preacher.

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