Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Thieves' Highway - Ed's Fateful Journey

  Nick's partner Ed Kinney has been following Nick to San Francisco with his truckload of Golden Delicious apples.  He is lagging because his truck is an old jalopy and is barely making it.  Two opportunists are following him in their truck in the hope that he'll break down and they will be able to snag his precious load.

Then ...  The two trucks start to climb up a steep grade.

... and Now,  supposedly they are driving from Fresno, 190 miles south of San Francisco, but in fact these highway scenes were filmed on Highway 29 in Napa Valley 75 miles north of San Francisco.  Here, they are heading north out of Calistoga on the Calistoga Grade section of the Lake County Highway and are just approaching a hairpin bend (map).


  Ed's truck barely makes it over the top of the grade and as he picks up speed going downhill the driveshaft snaps and his brakes fail.  He is in big trouble as he fights to control his truck during a wild high speed descent (below).  This is still the Calistoga Grade but here he is travelling in the opposite direction, towards the Napa Valley floor.


Then ...   He is horrified to see a hard left turn into a wicked hairpin bend rushing towards him.  The Napa Valley, spread out ahead, catches our attention but not his.

... and Now,  this is the same hairpin bend he was climbing towards (top picture), but from the opposite direction (map)

... an aerial view ...  here's that hairpin bend as viewed on Google Earth.  It's more than 180 degrees, warranting its 15 mph limit.


Then ...  As he whips into the curve, fighting the g-force, he knows there's no way he'll make it - to borrow a noir cliche, his number is up.

... and Now,  a better road surface but otherwise identical.


  His truck plunges off the side of the road and barrel rolls down the hill, scattering thousands of apples over the slope and erupting into flames.


Then ...  Trailing him, Pete (Joseph Pevney) and Slob (Jack Oakie) pull over and rush down the hill to help.

... and Now,  the valley floor, viewed from the same roadside spot, is blanketed by vineyards (below).  Who could have known back then that this area would become one of the world's most famous winemaking appellations?


Then ...  The crash footage ends as passers-by pull over and pick their way through scattered apples and broken crates towards the billowing smoke.  There is nothing they can do.  Director Jules Dassin in a later interview said this was his all-time favorite shot.

... and Now,  the slope today is unchanged but for a rundown fence and overgrown weeds.

Petulia - The Mendoza Residence

  While Petulia is recovering from her beating, Archie comes across a letter she wrote addressed to a Mr. Mendoza at 4295 Morton Drive, San Francisco (a fictitious address).  The viewing audience knows from flashbacks that this is the family looking after Oliver after his accident and Petulia has been sending them food and cash.  Archie doesn't know this and he goes to the address to investigate.

  But as it turns out, the Mendoza house is not in San Francisco - it is in a housing tract in the Serramonte neighborhood of Daly City, just south of San Francisco.  Reel SF blog reader CDL deserves compliments for finding this location for CitySleuth.

Then ...  Has a housing tract ever looked so good?  Cinematographer Nicholas Roeg filmed this glowing vista of the tract in its early construction phase.  Morton Drive runs across the foreground and the three streets aligned away from the viewer are, from left to right, Callan Blvd, Wakefield Ave and Canterbury Ave.  The Mendoza house is 4295 Callan Blvd, in the left foreground, marked with an arrow (map).  Citysleuth wonders if the director's choice of this location was inspired by Pete Seeger's hit song 'Little Boxes', a satire on suburburban development.

Petulia -  The Mendoza Residence
... and Now,  The south-facing shot above was filmed from near the Hickey Boulevard ridge which runs up to Skyline Boulevard.  Extensive construction below the ridge since then and mature trees prevent an identical matching shot today but the similar view below is taken from a little higher up on Hickey close to Skyline.  The pink house in the bottom left corner was still under construction in the movie shot above - the Mendoza house opposite it is obscured by the line of newer houses along the near side of Morton Drive.

Petulia -  The Mendoza Residence

... Google Earth View ...  Below is a recent satellite photo of the housing tract and the Mendoza house (arrowed), courtesy of Google Earth.  Skyline Blvd runs along the top of the ridge at right.

Petulia -  The Mendoza Residence

Then ...  Archie descends the entrance steps of 4295 Callan Blvd after knocking on the door and getting no response.

Petulia -  The Mendoza Residence
... and Now,  just the same!

Petulia -  The Mendoza Residence
... and Now,  here's a wider view of the Mendoza house.  The junction with Morton Drive is one house down at right.

Petulia -  The Mendoza Residence


Then ...  Archie finds Mendoza who can't help him because he doesn't speak Spanish.  Behind the house (below) a couple of spaced-out hippies are no help either.  He leaves, none the wiser.

Petulia -  The Mendoza Residence
... and Now,  the fecund slope between the two lines of houses after more than 40 years of growth.

Petulia -  The Mendoza Residence

Bullitt - Murder At The Thunderbolt Hotel

  The police learn that on the day he arrived in San Francisco the murdered state's witness Ross had called a woman, Dorothy Simmons, at the Thunderbolt Hotel in San Mateo.  Bullitt bums a ride from Cathy and they head down there.

Then ...  Cathy's yellow Porsche drops him off at the hotel entrance and she waits in her car while he goes inside.

Bullitt -  Murder At The Thunderbolt Hotel

...  more recently,  the hotel was known as the Thunderbird hotel in the early 1960s but renamed the Thunderbolt by the time the movie was filmed (see reader Tom's comment).  It then became for many years the Clarion Hotel, 401 E. Millbrae Avenue, Millbrae, alongside Highway 101 just south of San Francisco airport (map).  The distinctive billboard was retained  (below), clearly visible from the freeway. 

Bullitt -  Murder At The Thunderbolt Hotel

...  and Now,  in 2012 the Clarion became part of the Aloft chain and received a major makeover.

... a vintage postcard ...  in this 1964 postcard aerial image of the hotel there is a different billboard (at bottom right) and the name 'Thunderbird' is on the left of the entrance.

Bullitt -  Murder At The Thunderbolt Hotel

Then ...  At the concierge desk Bullitt flashes his badge and asks to be taken to the woman's room.  The panning camera gives us a sweeping view of the hotel lobby.

Bullitt -  Murder At The Thunderbolt Hotel
...  and Now,  when it became the Clarion the lobby was remodeled and extended out at the entrance to the right but the mezzanine level could still be identified at left.

Bullitt -  Murder At The Thunderbolt Hotel

  When more police arrive a nervous Cathy rushes after them - the pool is behind her so she was running across the lawn (see aerial image above) towards the rear wing ...

Bullitt -  Murder At The Thunderbolt Hotel

   ... she enters the room and is horrified to see the woman prostrate on the floor, strangled just moments earlier.

Bullitt -  Murder At The Thunderbolt Hotel

The Lady From Shanghai - "Would You Like To Work For Me?"

  After they part in the park, O'Hara hears a cry for help and rescues Elsa from a group of hooligans.  She gratefully lets him take her to a nearby garage where her car is parked.  She tells him she is married to Arthur Bannister, a famous, perhaps infamous, criminal lawyer.

Then ...  On the way to the garage they almost collide with a cab and receive an earful from the driver.

... and Now,  this looks like a set and indeed it is - it was filmed on the Columbia Ranch back lot in Burbank in Southern California (map).  The ranch is still operational, now known as the Warner Ranch.  Below is a contemporaneous image from another movie showing the same street corner, with some minor changes, on the ranch's New York Street.


Then ...  They alight from the buggy and walk past the Ellery Apt Hotel.  One clue to its location is the number 1028 on the name plaque ...

    The location was revealed to CitySleuth by John Bengtson, who hosts a well-researched silent movie website.  Per John, this was on Hope Street in Los Angeles and sure enough the 1956 L.A. city directory confirms that this was indeed a real building at 1028 S. Hope Street.

... and Now,  the hotel has been demolished - its site is now a parking lot whose entrance is about where the hotel entrance was


Then ...  Elsa's car, a swanky 1946 Lincoln Continental V-12 convertible, is parked at a garage next to the Ellery hotel.  They banter awhile then she asks him...  "If you're a sailor Michael there's a job for you - would you like to work for me?"... then, suggestively, "I'd like it".  She is to ship out with her husband the next day to the west coast by way of the Panama Canal but her yacht is short one crew member.  "I'll make it worth your while".  Hmmm.  She looks surprised when he declines.

... and Now,  the garage was next to, perhaps part of, the Earle C. Anthony Packard dealership at 1000 S. Hope (it too is listed in the city directory above).  There's still a garage at this location, part of the Packard Lofts building that was built in 2006 on the site of the dealership.


Then ...  But O'Hara has a change of heart after Arthur Bannister himself pays him a visit and he shows up at  a yacht harbor to join the crew.

... and Now,  this was filmed not in New York but near the 22nd Street Landing restaurant in San Pedro, Southern California (map).  This recent photo shows the distant breakwater on the right and the concrete pilings to the left, visible Then and Now.

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