Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Vertigo - Mission San Juan Bautista

  Madeleine remembers more of her dreams. When she tells Scottie of a bell tower in "an old Spanish village" he realizes she is describing the historic mission at San Juan Bautista - he wastes no time driving her there, 90 miles south of San Francisco, in her Jaguar.

Then ...  As they near the mission they pass several very large rocks.

... and Now,  below is the same view. This is Highway 101 but they are approaching the mission from the south, opposite from the expected direction (map).  the only other difference is seasonal - this photo was taken in spring versus in the fall above.


Then ...  When they are 1 mile south of the 156 East turnoff, still heading north on Highway 101, they pass through this narrow tree-lined stretch of road.  Some viewers have wondered if Scottie was driving on the wrong side of the road here but no, as above they are on a divided freeway.

... and Now,  in half a century the only changes other than seasonal have been a paved shoulder and an added safety barrier.  OK, CitySleuth is in the wrong lane ... picky, picky.


Then ...  The Jaguar, now heading south on Highway 1 as it should be, turns into 156 East, the mission exit - San Juan Bautista is 3 miles along 156 from here.

... and Now,  today this exit has been made redundant by an adjacent flyover but viewed from the median strip (below) the mission monument is still there, minus its cross, next to the original road, now closed off.


Then ...  They arrive at the mission (map) which is dominated by a tall bell tower  ... or is it?

... and Now, in the recent photo below there's no sign of that tower - just a small one at the far end at right, barely visible from this angle.  So what gives?

... the original tower ...  When Hitchcock first visited the mission there was indeed a tower, but not as tall, there since 1868 and seen below in this vintage image.  When he returned to film the movie it was gone, removed in 1949 because of termite and dry rot damage.  Undeterred, he recreated it, using a matte painting for the exterior view in the 'Then' image above, and a studio mockup for the interior scenes.

... and Now, below is a closer look at the mission's current bell tower.

D.O.A. - Car Rental

  Bigelow picks up a rental car shortly after arriving in Los Angeles.  CitySleuth scoured L.A. for this site for too long before thinking of checking out San Francisco.  Wouldn't you know it, that's where it was filmed!

Then ...  He picks up the car on an open lot.  Take a look at the building across the street in the background ...

... and Now,  here's that building today, on Washington Street at the corner of Van Ness Avenue.  Back then it was the J E French Dodge dealership (you can see part of the Dodge sign above at top left and again in the vintage photo below).  The building's auto tradition continues - it now houses the Academy of Art University's Auto Museum.

  This would place the car rental lot on the 1900 block of Van Ness (map), confirmed by the ad below from a 1953 publication.  The lot belonged to the Stanway Motors used car dealership, proprietor Stanley Strauss, which occupied the whole west block between Washington and Jackson.

... from a vintage photo ...  on a historical note, here's the 1900 block of Van Ness in 1946 as it was before (regrettably) being demolished to make way for the used car lot.  Look at that wonderful house on the corner, the Silas Palmer mansion, across Washington from the Dodge dealership described above.


  ... and here's a closer look at the Silas Palmer mansion.  Why did it have to go?  What a waste!

... and Now,  below is a recent look at the same block, residential once more but a poor substitute for its former self.  This is progress?  At least the street lamp-posts survived.


Then ...  As Bigelow drives off the lot there are three businesses clearly visible across Van Ness, one of them being The House Of Prime Rib.

... and Now,  the same view today still has The House Of Prime Rib doing business at the same location, 1906 Van Ness.  It first opened in 1949, just one year before the movie was released.  The exterior of it and its neighbor has been painted in a faux stone finish.  On this block too the old street lamp-posts are still there.

Experiment In Terror - Across The Bridge

Then ...  The movie opens with a view of the double-deck San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, accompanied by a hauntingly edgy Henry Mancini theme.

... and Now,  the same view today, taken from Yerba Buena Island (map) looking towards San Francisco.


  The camera closes in on Kelly Sherwood (Lee Remick) as she drives across the bridge into San Francisco to her home, which, as we will find out, is at the base of the Sutro Tower, the huge antenna mast near Twin Peaks visible in the photo above to the right of the bridge on the horizon.  The tower, however, was yet to be built when the movie was filmed.


Then ...  Below, Kelly's open convertible has just entered the bottom of the frame on the top deck of the bridge as traffic at bottom right filters in from Yerba Buena/Treasure Island.  Note that the upper deck in 1962 was two-way, 3 lanes in each direction.  The lower deck back then had both car lanes and rail lines of the discontinued Key System shuttle train.

... and Now,  this recent photo shows the present configuration of the upper deck - 5 lanes one-way westbound into San Francisco, converted in 1968, by which time the lower deck had been cleared of the rail lines to make way for one-way eastbound car traffic.


Then ...  From the bridge, the camera takes in the sparkling city - the iconic Ferry Building is at lower right.

... and Now,  the same view today is a crush of Financial District highrises.


  Kelly arrives at her Twin Peaks home and eases her 1958 Ford Fairlane 500 Sunliner convertible into the garage.

    She gets out of her car and freezes as the garage door suddenly and inexplicably closes.  Gasp! - an attacker grabs her from behind and, wheezing asthmatically, he threatens to kill her and her younger sister if she doesn't cooperate in stealing $100,000 from the bank where she works.  (Watch this scene unfold here).

The Lady From Shanghai - Acapulco - Hotel Los Flamingos

  Grisby is anxious to talk to O'Hara.  During their long walk director Welles created for his audience a scenic tour of the Caleta Peninsula.  After visiting some of its favorite beaches (see the previous location) they head over to the Hotel Los Flamingos, which in the 1950s and 1960s was owned by John Wayne and Tarzan's Johnny Weissmuller, who ran it as a private club for their Hollywood friends.  The hotel, still going strong, is located at the arrow on the map.


Then ...  They head down a rock-bordered path - in the distance is a scenic point and beyond that, the nearby Isla Roqueta.

... and Now,  the recent photo taken from near the same spot reveals, below, some additional homes on the point.

... and Now,  the rock-bordered path is still there at the Hotel Los Flamingos - the Isla Roqueta is also in this view.  The path leads down from the hotel's then-named Casa Redonda, a circular two-room cottage, John Wayne's room of choice, now known as Casa Tarzan in recognition of Johnny Weissmuller's last years spent there.


Then ...  The path leads down to a dramatically filmed vertiginous lookout point where Grisby, in a sweaty state of enhanced excitement, makes a bizzare offer to O'Hara - $5,000 if he kills someone for him ... Grisby himself!

... and Now,  here's the same lookout today perched below the Casa Tarzan ...

... and Now,  over 60 years on, these are the rocks below the lookout.  Compared to the 'Then' image above there's been some erosion by the incessant waves, but not much.


  The Hotel Los Flamingos, pictured below, was built in 1932.  It's a totally unpretentious hotel today but its unsurpassable location, with some of the best sunsets in all of Acapulco, is what the place is all about.  The lack of extravagent interiors for many simply adds to its dreamy, laid-back feel.

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