Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

I Remember Mama - Mr. Hyde Skips Town

    To help cover her expenses Mama has taken in a boarder, an urbane gentleman, Mr. Hyde (the great character actor Sir Cedric Hardwicke).  He would enthrall the whole family for hours at a time by reading from his collection of books in a measured, mellifluous voice.  Katrin in particular was swept up by the classic tales and credited her desire to become a writer to these magical evenings.


Then ...  Katrin and her sister Christine (Peggy McIntyre) go to the local drug store to meet their brother Nels (Steve Brown) but as they arrive, far right below, he sees Mr. Hyde climb onto the front end of their cable car, at far left, laden with suitcases.  This scene was shot on RKO studio's back lot .


Then ...  They watch as the cable car carries him off down the street.  Katrin is worried for Mama - "I just hope he's paid whatever he owes her".

... and Now,  this is Hyde Street looking north from Lombard (map).  Turn to the right from here and you'd be looking down Lombard's famous crooked street but as the movie setting is 1910 and the block's switchbacks weren't built until 1922 the director wisely chose not to show them.  The buildings on the left are still there, but hidden by the trees, and an incongruous apartment building has since appeared down the block.   Hands up those who agree it doesn't belong.


    They rush home to find that Mr. Hyde has left a note apologizing for the sudden departure but leaving them his book collection and a check for four months rent.  Relief and delight!


Then ...  The camera cuts to Aunt Jenny laboring up a steep hill towards Mama's house.

... and Now,  the houses across the street are 2502 and 2500 Leavenworth Street at the corner of Francisco in Russian Hill, not far from the crooked street (map).


Then ...  Francisco tees off to the left as she continues huffing and puffing up Leavenworth.  This time though, a faux pas - the tower behind the houses belongs to the San Francisco Art Institute at 800 Chestnut Street; it wasn't built until 1926 whereas the movie is set in 1910.

... and Now,  this corner has changed very little but for the yellow house, rebuilt with an added story.  From this viewpoint it hides the Art Institute tower...

... but take a few steps down Francisco and you can see it's still there.


    Aunt Jenny arrives at Mama's with bad news ... Mr. Hyde had written another check and it turns out he doesn't even have a bank account.  "Marta, I bet he owed you plenty, didn't he?"  Papa is stunned but Mama is stoic, "He owed us nothing," she said, "He pay with far, far better things than money."


Harold And Maude - They Meet

    Harold and Maude's odd proclivity for strangers' funeral services brings them together again, this time at a church.  The scene was filmed at St. Thomas Aquinas, the oldest (1902) church in the Bay Area city of Palo Alto, seen here in a recent photo.

... on location ....  Here's a peek at Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon inside the church waiting for the crew to set up.


Then ...  St. Thomas Aquinas' stained-glass windows bookend the sparse gathering in this symmetrically composed shot. Both Maude on the right side of the aisle and Harold on the left sit well back.  She sidles up behind him.  "I heard he was eighty years old", she whispered, "I'll be eighty next week.  Seventy five is too early... but eighty five is too much time".  A foreboding comment?  We shall see.

... and Now,  a recent photo reveals only minor changes


    Outside the church the rousing arrival of a passing band counterpoints the somber departure of the deceased.  Life goes on.  This is the Sunnyvale High School Marching Band from the city of Sunnyvale, close by Palo Alto.  During the 1970s the band distinguished itself in competitions and at major events and venues including the  Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl and Disney World.


Then ...  Perhaps sensing Harold's formal upbringing she introduces herself appropriately.  "I'm Dame Marjorie Chardin but you must call me Maude.  I think we're going to be great friends, don't you?"

... and Now,  the church is at 751 Waverley Street at Homer Ave, Palo Alto, kitty corner from Heritage Park (map).


Then ...  She hops into the Volkswagen conveniently parked in front of the church, makes a wild U-turn and darts across Homer on the wrong side, barely avoiding a collision.

... and Now,  across the street Heritage Park has since been built (it opened in 2006) on the former site of the Palo Alto Medical Clinic.


Then ...  The priest looks on in astonishment ... "That woman... she took my car!"

... and Now,  the same houses opposite are hidden by leafy trees, ubiquitous throughout Palo Alto today.  The sturdy tree down the sidewalk on the right is the matured version of the one above.


The Laughing Policeman - Lunch Break

  Then ...  Time for a break - Larsen pulls up outside a corner deli.

... and Now,  The Mexican deli, La Palma at 2884 24th Street on the corner of Florida in the Mission (map), is still going strong.  The view, now leafy and shady, looks east along 24th from Florida Street.


  Then ...  They head for the rear of the deli towards a side door on Florida Street.

... and Now,  the palm tree logo has been supplanted by a colorful mural, a common sight throughout the Mission (but there's now a real palm tree outside the deli, see above).


    The Mission is perhaps the most culturally rich neighborhood in San Francisco.  It is primarily a mix of Latin-American communities (but currently threatened by dot-com gentrification) whose culture asserts itself in riotous color via hundreds of street murals, such as the architectural tattoo on El Edificio de Mujeres (the Women's Building) at 3543 18th Street (map), honoring women artists and activists from around the globe.

    Then there are the alleys celebrating community and arts, with an occasional social commentary thrown in, Clarion Alley being one example (map)...

    ... Balmy Street, aka Balmy Alley, being another (map).


  Then ...  they discuss the case while snacking in the deli's food prep area.  The Florida Street side door is on the right and the view past the tortilla preparers looks through the deli shop across the street to the red sign of the Variety Five and Dime at 2899 24th.

... and Now,  there have been layout and equipment changes but this bustling space continues to generate the quotidian tortillas and other freshly prepared foods that make the Mexicatessen so popular.  And, the palm tree logo lives on, adorning employees' T-shirts.


  Then ...  Jake, usually as laconic as they come, surprises Larsen with an outburst, lamenting an unsolved case of his involving a murdered woman, Teresa Camerero.  He wonders if his regrets over the case had led his former partner to try solving it only to end up himself murdered.  Evidently Jake feels some responsibility.

... and Now,  that rear staircase is still there.


I Remember Mama - Violets for Dagmar

Then ...  Katrin recalls going out with Mama on a walk through the neighborhood to buy flowers for little sister Dagmar's return home from a stay in a hospital.  It was a coming-of-age moment as Mama spoke to her as she would an adult.

... and Now,  for this shot they were at the top of Green Street where it crests between Montgomery and Kearny on Telegraph Hill (map).  It looks so much tidier since the power wires were moved underground.


Then ...  They continue downhill ... but this is miles away in a completely different neighborhood - Eureka Valley in the Castro, on Liberty Street, the street where they live.  (CitySleuth, a back seat editor, would have begun the scene with this shot then cut to the one above).

... and Now,  From left to right are 525, 529, 533 and 537 Liberty Street (interesting that they increment by four).  It's great to see so little has changed here, except for the steps leading up to number 525.  


Then ...  Katrin asks if she is old enough to be allowed to drink coffee - "Comes the day you're grown up, Pop and I will know", Mama replied.  Note that in filming these location shots the moviemakers opted to clear the streets (in 1947) rather than include cars from the movie's setting (1910).

... and Now,  they were back on Telegraph Hill, from here looking north on Kearny across Union Street.  The buildings they walked by are mostly unchanged except for the added fire escape this side of the bay windows with the scalloped trim.


Then ...  At the end of that block Mama stops at a stall outside a corner store and buys ten cents worth of "welcome home" violets for Dagmar.

... and Now,  the Fog Hill Market is the current tenant at this location, 1300 Kearny at Green (map).

    From the store they head up the steep block of Green Street; this is the same block where the first picture in this post was filmed.  Behind them there are two wagons parked on the pavement...

... on location ...  Eureka! - here's an on-location photo of this very scene being filmed - note the same wagons and the partially visible flower stand.  Green Street runs down to North Beach on the left then climbs to Russian Hill in the distance.

... and Now,  the Fog Hill market is on the corner to the right and the Russian Hill skyline has sprouted a few more high-rise apartment buildings.


Then ...  While continuing up Green from Kearny Katrin promises her Mama that when she becomes rich and famous she will buy lovely clothes and jewelry for her...

... and Now,  trees obscure some of the duplicate view but we do see the same tiled awning over the doorway on the left.


Then ...  but for Mama, seeking wealth is not why she came to San Francisco; joining the rest of her family was far more important.  They are back on Kearny, half a block from the corner store.  This view looks south across Vallejo towards the downtown Financial District.

... and Now,  once again trees get in the way of the view from the same spot.  Newer buildings have replaced those on the left but the rest of the block on that side are the originals, as is the house on the corner of Vallejo at far right.  The extent of today's transformed Financial District is hinted at by the office high-rise in the distance.


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