Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

The Lady From Shanghai - Acapulco - Hotel Casablanca

  The cast stayed at the newly opened luxury Hotel Casablanca during the making of The Lady From Shanghai and director Orson Welles made a point of incorporating it into his movie.  Its location atop Camino de la Pinzona (arrowed on the map) rewarded guests with spectacular all-around panoramic views.


Then ...  We get our first look at the hotel, perched high upon a hill, as soft background dance music conveys the viewer to another world.  This image, though, could be a painting.

... and Now,  the hotel, pictured below in a recent photo and now renamed the Casablanca Tropical, has over the decades become a faded shadow of what it once was.  The symmetrical roofline has been compromised by rooftop additions but its views remain matchless. The hotel is currently being renovated and converted to condominiums.  Just look at how the hillside has become jammed with hotels and villas!


   Below is a snapshot of our leading lady relaxing on a small boat on Santa Lucia (aka Acapulco) Bay with the Hotel Casablanca behind her in the background.

   Here's Rita on the grounds of the hotel having her picture taken for a promotional movie still.  She sure knows how to pose.


... from a vintage aerial photo ...  The photo below, circa 1945, shows the almost completed hotel (the rooftop level is not yet completed).  Interestingly - first, you can clearly see the lawn where Rita was posing in the photo above.  Second, the construction-scarred hillside adds to CitySleuth's suspicion that a painting was used for the movie's 'Then' image above.


Then ... A puzzlingly brief scene follows on the Casablanca's rooftop with Elsa walking hurriedly away from her agitated husband for, as we soon find out, a meeting with O'Hara.  Behind them is a southeast view over the bay to the shoreline of the Caleta Peninsula, with their yacht Circe cruising below.

Then ...  the scene below was filmed from the same place earlier in the movie during O'Hara and Grisby's walk, capturing even more of the view.  In both shots the moored boats on the bay are in exactly the same positions.

... and Now,  taken recently from the hotel - there's a lot more development and a lot more boats, especially the crowded marina across the bay at center.


Then ... As dusk falls Elsa, almost angelic with her flowing dress brightly shining in the foreground, runs down the hill from the hotel towards the old town.  Just above her, alongside the Zocalo central plaza, is the Nuestra Senora de la Soledad church, built in 1930 (the Zocalo is marked on the map above).

... and Now,  the mountain's profile is partly obscured by clouds but the encroachment of the town of Acapulco up its slopes is clear to see.  The blue-domed church now has two added Byzantine towers.

...  a vintage aerial photo ...  This aerial view - by now the rooftop level has been completed - shows the church location in relation to the hotel.


  Elsa meets O'Hara in the old town (filmed at the 20th Century Fox ranch).  Unhappy, she talks of suicide, but, when O'Hara offers to take her away, sagely says "You just don't know how to take care of yourself, so ... how could you take care of me?".  Soon after, they up anchor and sail on to Sausalito, California.

Petulia - Roller Derby

    Archie and ex wife Polo (Shirley Knight) take their two boys to the roller derby, a uniquely American contact sport at that time at the height of its popularity.


    During the action director Richard Lester uses a flashback to juxtapose the staged violence, so much a part of the sport, with the real violence visited upon Petulia.


Then ...  The competing teams are the San Francisco Bay Bombers (in orange) and the New York Chiefs.


... and Now,  the sport isn't as big as it was but roller derby rolls on.  CitySleuth took the photo below at Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco -  by happenstance featuring the same two teams.  The Bombers are in the white and orange strip.  But the movie scene was filmed somewhere else and it took CitySleuth a while to find out where.


Then ...  In the movie there's a closeup of (below, L to R) Bob Dancel, Pete Boyd and Eddie Krebs.  CitySleuth tracked Eddie down and confirmed that the filming took place at Winterland, on the corner of Post and Steiner streets (map).  One of Eddie's favorite recollections of that day was hanging out after a long day of filming with George C. Scott in a nearby bar - "George suggested it and I just threw my jacket on over my uniform", he said.

... in 1941 ...  Winterland was torn down in 1985 but here's an early photo taken there when it was an ice skating rink (hence its name), with the upper gallery transformed into a winter wonderland.

... in 1950 ...  here it was, below, configured for a boxing tournament

... in the 1970s ...  from 1966 through the 1970s Winterland was best known for the legendary music concerts put on there by promoter Bill Graham.  This photo shows a concert setup in progress.


    Take a look at the Winterland concert schedule during the winter of 1968 when the roller derby scene was shot - an amazing array of the hottest bands around.  Oh, to be a time traveler! (Actually, CitySleuth was there then).


... before demolition ...  Winterland's final concert featured the Grateful Dead, the Blues Brothers and New Riders Of The Purple Sage on New Year's Eve, 1978.  The arena is shown below forlornly awaiting the wrecker's ball in 1985.  On the right is St. Dominic's Catholic Church two blocks along Steiner on Bush Street.

... during demolition ...   taken just after the familiar red 'Winterland' sign that adorned the corner of the building had been lowered to the ground.

... and Now,  an apartment complex covering the entire block in both directions sits on the site today.

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.

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