Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

The Conversation - "Room 773, Jack Tar Hotel"

    On the taped recording Caul hears the lovers arranging to meet in Room 773 at the Jack Tar, a hotel between Geary and Post on Van Ness Avenue (map).   Knowing that the Director has heard the tape and fearing for their safety, he decides to go there.

Then ...  He asks for room 773 at the desk, confirms that it's occupied, and books the adjacent room.  On his balcony he peers towards 773 but the frosted glass divider juts out beyond the railing, thwarting his attempt.

... recently ...  here's a matching image by American Zoetrope that fortuitously was taken in 2011 two years before the hotel was demolished.  Other than the bland wall paint on the left that "removes the colors from our sight" (Moody Blues, anyone?) the balconies remain exactly the same despite the passage of 40 years.

 ... and Now,  by the end of 2013 the heavy equipment had moved in and demolition begun.  This view from Franklin Street of the rear of the front part of the hotel reveals Room 773 (arrowed).  As of this writing the entire site is a large hole in the ground in preparation for a state-of-the-art California Pacific Medical Center hospital. 


    The Jack Tar's Grand Opening in 1960 was heralded by a public relations blitz trumpeting "... the world's most modern hotel ..." and the "... dazzling innovations ...".  (Many San Franciscans however were less than impressed with its architecture, considering it garish).  It was the City's first hotel to have air conditioning and boasted over 400 rooms each easily accessible from a guest's parked car.  This photo taken from across Van Ness Avenue the year the hotel opened also gives us a rare look, on the left, at the Cathedral of Saint Mary Of The Assumption on Van Ness and O'Farrell that, after being destroyed 2 years later by arson, was replaced by today's modern cathedral nearby on Gough.  Tommy's Joynt on the other hand, seen on the corner of Geary, opened at that spot in 1947 and is still going strong.

    By 2011 when this photo was taken the hotel, renamed since 1982 as the Cathedral Hill Hotel (after its neighborhood), was closed, awaiting its fate.

    The billion dollar CPMC Cathedral Hill hospital, rendered below, is scheduled to open in 2015, though 2016 seems more likely.


    Here's a closer look at the Cathedral of Saint Mary Of The Assumption, in 1962 right after it was gutted by an arson fire that resulted in its subsequent demolition.


    But we digress ... back to the movie ...

Then ...  Caul has drilled a hole through the bathrooms' dividing wall and is listening in to the conversation in room 773.  He hears the voices of the lovers and the Director and becomes increasingly alarmed as denials and shouts flood his earphones.

... recently ...  another American Zoetrope image captured the same spot in 2011.


    Hearing screams he rushes out to the balcony where through the frosted glass partition he witnesses the wife being attacked by her bloodstained husband.  Or does he?  Is it real or is it all a figment of his tortured mind?


The Laughing Policeman - Fun Terminal

   Jake Martin sends two of his assistants working the murder case, Inspectors Pappas (Val Avery) and Larrimore (Louis Gossett Jr)  back to The TransBay Terminal on Mission Street to find out if the on-duty staff might have seen anything suspicious when the victims boarded the ill-fated bus.  They hear a ruckus ahead of them ... 


Then ...  A pimp outside the main upper level entrance is abusing his prostitute but Pappas and Larrimore quickly put a stop to it.  Across the street are two eye-catching signs, the Fun Terminal, an amusement arcade at 120 1st Street, and next to it the Wagon Wheel Tavern at 118 1st (map), both popular in their day with locals and with denizens of the night.

Then ...  None of those businesses, likewise the TransBay Terminal, are there anymore but here's a contemporaneous 1973 photo with them in the background.  The larger arrow at far left indicates where the pimp scene was filmed and the smaller points to the Fun Terminal on the corner of 1st and Minna.  Both it and the Wagon Wheel next door look rather ordinary sans neon glow in the harsh light of day.  Mission Street traffic passes by on the right.

and Now ...  here's the same view taken after the TransBay terminal was demolished in 2011.  The 1st Street block between Minna and Mission had already been claimed in 1988 by a 27-story office skyscraper, 100 First Plaza.  The Fun Terminal used to be at the bottom left corner of that building (arrowed).


    Larrimore takes the pimp down the ramp and around the corner on 1st and roughs him up some.  Below, he returns up the ramp inside the station to where his partner Pappas is questioning the prostitute at the upper entrance.  The Fun Terminal arcade glows across 1st Street.


... trivia but related ... A local art punk band called The Mutants became popular in San Francisco in the late 1970s.  In 1982 they released an album called 'Fun Terminal' featuring on the cover ... a great image of the amusement arcade - we can still see it as it was in its heyday!    The cocktail glass by the way is part of the adjacent Wagon Wheel sign, also visible four images above.  (The band is still at it, watch them here in a relatively recent set).

The House Across The Bay - At The Airport

Then ...  Tim's idea of a date with Brenda is to to take her to a local airport.  They drive onto the tarmac between two hangars.

     In the storyline this scene was set in the Bay Area but it was filmed at Clover Field in Southern California at what is now Santa Monica Airport.  Here's an early 1930s vintage photo of Clover Field; at that time there were just three hangars - the one on the left was the first to be built.  The arrow shows the path of Tim's car in the movie.

    By 1940 a much larger hangar had been added alongside the first three as well as the sprawling Douglas Aircraft plant next to it at 3000 Ocean Park Boulevard.  The path taken by Tim's car is again marked, on the left.  Douglas Aircraft Company became a major defense contractor during WW II employing 44,000 working 3 shifts seven days a week.


    Brenda is about to find out there's more to Tim than she knew - it turns out he's an ace aircraft designer for the Crane Aviation Company.  They pull up and look skyward where a test pilot barrels Tim's latest experimental plane through its paces. 


Then ...  The plane lands and taxis up to them - the pilot is effusive in his praise.  The Douglas plant is In the background at left and the structure in the center is the large hangar seen in the photo (two above) next to the plant.  Douglas Aircraft's original Clover Field hangar is on the right.

    Here's another aerial photo of the airfield, taken in 1940, with a good view of the buildings seen above.  The arrow points to another plane which happened to be parked in the same spot as Tim's was.

... and Now ...  the same site today, alongside Santa Monica airport.  The newer, longer runway was built on the golf course seen in the lower foreground above.  The Douglas plant and hangars have since been torn down, replaced by business parks; the arrow points approximately to where the location above was.  The Sunset Park neighborhood of single family homes surrounding the airport mostly sprung up during WW II to house the Douglas Aircraft workers.


    Tim persuades a very nervous Brenda to climb into the aircraft with him for what will be her first ever plane ride.  "Contact!", he calls and the propeller is cranked.  Looking at this slick flying machine makes it hard to believe that heavier-than-air machine flight began only 36 years earlier.

    The aircraft in the movie was a Phillips Aeroneer.  This 1940 photo taken while it was in the Bay Area for the filming was at the San Francisco Bay Airdrome, an east bay airfield that used to be next to where Alameda Naval Air Station is now.  The tail is marked with its identification number NX16075 but also sports 'Crane Aviation Co. XPT', its name in the movie (check it out above).  By this time the aircraft had been bought by MGM studios who featured it in many movies, usually using renowned stunt pilot Paul Mantz, who flew it in this movie. (Photo by William T. Larkins).


The Conversation - Payday At The Director's Office

  Stett, the Director's assistant, phones Caul and confirms he has the tapes.  He tells Caul to come to the office for his fee.

Then ...  Caul makes his way along a corridor at One Embarcadero Center (described here earlier).  The camera glimpses a building through the corridor window with other construction activity behind it.

and Now ...  This is the 33-story 100 Pine Center office building, barely completed when the movie was filmed.  It is now surrounded by many more Financial District high-rises built during the construction bonanza starting in the 1960s.  The shot was filmed high up on the south side of One Embarcadero Center.


Then ...  Citing leaseholder privacy the Center's owners were reluctant to allow CitySleuth to search out the office so he will use clues from its window views to deduce the specific location.  From inside the office this view looks northeast across Treasure Island to the East Bay hills.

and Now ...  using the amazing Google Earth app we can hover above One Embarcadero (center foreground) to see the same view today, indicated by the arrow.  The above view can only be seen from a north or east facing window (clue # 1).  Embarcadero Two, Three and Four are in-line to the right but when the movie was filmed Embarcadero Two was being built and Three and Four were yet to be started.


Then ...  Stett and the Director (Robert Duvall, in an uncredited cameo role) are listening to the tapes, the confirmation of his wife's affair making the Director both agitated and angry.  From here there's a window view looking west between Sacramento and Clay towards the Fairmont Hotel Tower (with the flag) and the tall, narrow 1250 Jones apartments to the right.

and Now ...  One Embarcadero is at center in the lower foreground and the yellow arrow indicates its west view; the white arrows point out those two buildings mentioned above.  Armed with this second clue we surmise that the Director's office must have windows facing west and north.


Then ...  The camera has panned to the left of the movie frame  above (the orange artwork is the link between these two interior shots); it shows Caul taking his money and we see there's a corner part to the office with windows looking out to the south and west.  Interestingly the model of One Embarcadero Center in the corner coupled with another model of the site area on the table in the interior shot above suggests the Director is the developer of the Center.

and Now ...  here's that same view today, far more cluttered.  This clue # 3 then tells us this office must have windows facing north, west and also south.  Only a small number of offices at One Embarcadero can boast of this but ... which of them is this one?


    This recent photo of the west side of One Embarcadero Center reveals that only the top three floors of the two tallest columns have windows facing north + west + south.  CitySleuth has marked where he thinks the scene was filmed, in an office spanning the two tallest columns.    Now refer back to the movie capture (three above) that looks out from a north facing window across Treasure Island.  It offers a fourth clue - see the narrow deck outside the windows?  As viewed from the third office down from the top it is likely on the rooftop of the column of offices on the far left in the photo below.  Too, in the south view above there appears to be a concrete detail outside the window; it looks like the top corner of the office column next to it.  So the location appears to be two floors below the top floor, the 41st floor.  CitySleuth would appreciate it if any reader can confirm or correct this.


Then ...  Our guilt-stricken protagonist takes the packet of money but disgustedly flings it across the lawn in front of the Alcoa Building across Clay Street from One Embarcadero Center (map).  But second thoughts give him pause ...

and Now ...  note the seismic bracing at ground level, a fairly recent addition.


Then ...  Greed trumps guilt and he picks up the money.  The building's entrance has its name on it - The Alcoa Building.

and Now ...   there's since been a name change - it's now One Maritime Plaza.  The new seismic strengthening continues around the perimeter, advisable perhaps in this shake-prone city but detracting from the building's original levitated appearance.


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