Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

The Laughing Policeman - Getting Warmer

Then ...  Bus victim Gus Niles' girlfriend's place is on the steep Filbert Street steps on the eastern slope of Telegraph Hill (map).  As Jake and Larsen start climbing up from Sansome Street we see, perched atop the sheer cliff at left, the ill-fated apartment building at 22-30 Alta Street which was to become national news 19 years later when it began collapsing down the cliff.

... and Now,  the steps haven't changed except for the section in front of the Filbert Landing offices at left that replaced the old repair shop above.  At the cliff top the overhanging apartments are gone following condemnation and demolition by the City.


Then ...  The stairs make a right and they continue the climb - the old repair shop is down below them.

... and Now

    This same section of steps was used by Humphrey Bogart's character when, after face-changing surgery, he climbed to Lauren Bacall's apartment in 1947 in Dark Passage - back then the steps were of more precarious wood construction.

   ... and again during the suspect's desperate dash home in 1952 in The Sniper.  The Gibraltar Warehouse across Sansome from the repair shop was subsequently demolished - its site is now part of the Levi Strauss headquarters.


Then ...  They take a breather just below Napier Lane; Jake points to the house alongside, it's the one they are looking for, the first one on the right during the climb.

... and Now,  this section is still built of wood with maintenance over the years leading to inevitable changes in the railings.  Newer home construction and remodeling are seen on the right side.


Then ...  The house has two side-by-side units; they head for the one on the right, number 218.

... and Now,  the tree next to the steps has been removed but a little more greenery makes up for it.  We see too that the second floor balcony of number 220 on the left has been redone.


Then ...  Nobody responds to the knock on the door but no worries, Larsen has it open in seconds.

... and Now,  hey, it's still  the same door, light switch too!


Then ...  Larsen enters a room and stumbles over a dead woman with a needle in her arm.  They have found Niles' girlfriend.

... and Now,  in the same room today.


    Jake looks around; he finds a war-time photo of Gus Niles and recognizes his taller buddy - it's Henry Camerero who happens to be the prime suspect in a two-year old murder case of his who he was never able to nail.  The trail is getting warmer ...


I Remember Mama - Street Posters

    Back around 1910 when this movie's story was set mass media entertainment as we know it today did not exist.  Radio didn't become widespread until the 1920s; television the early 1950s.  Even silent movies, initially individually shown in nickelodeons, didn't take off until the advent of luxury movie theaters beginning in 1915.  So where could the Hanson family and their contemporaries go out for entertainment?  Well, they could see live performances at one of the many vaudeville theaters across town, visit Playland-At-The-Beach, go swimming at Sutro Baths, or go skating at a rink.  The bold amongst them could place bets at the races.  These and other forms of entertainment were widely advertised across town by large eye-catching posters, some of which we get a glimpse of in the background of scenes from I Remember Mama.

    When Mama and Katrin were out shopping the keen of eye would have noticed the posters plastered on a door across the street, partially hidden by the flower stall canopy.  One advertises the Pantage Theater and the other Skating at the Coliseum.

    A small theater, the Empire at Sutter and Steiner, was renamed the Pantage from 1908 to 1911 but that poster would be advertising the much better known 1800 seat Pantage vaudeville theater that opened in 1911 at 941 Market Street.  Here's a postcard image, viewed south from 5th Street, showing how it looked before being converted into a department store in 1926.

... coming soon,  at the site today the ground has recently been broken for a $150 million, 250,000 square foot urban mall to be called Market Street Place, the latest contribution to the ongoing Mid Market revival.  Here's a rendering of how it will look.


    In this shot there's another Coliseum poster and one advertising the Orpheum Theater.  The Coliseum poster clearly shows the address as Baker and Oak Streets.

... a vintage photo ...  the Coliseum roller skating rink, pictured here in 1913, spanned the Baker Street block between Fell and Oak opposite Golden Gate Park's panhandle in the Upper Haight.  As an added attraction evening sessions there would sometimes include ragtime dancing on skates.  A monument to President McKinley,  erected in 1904 three years after his assassination, faces the entrance.

... and Now,  the Coliseum is long gone; its site today is occupied by San Francisco's DMV office (map).  The McKinley statue is still there, a constant target for graffiti tagging, the irksome malaise of modern times.


... a vintage photo ... The Orpheum advertised in the movie image above was the 2300 seat theater at 147 O'Farrell Street near Union Square (map), pictured here in 1910 after it was rebuilt following the great earthquake.  It was renamed the Columbia Theater in 1929 but was torn down in 1937, a victim of the Great Depression.

... and Now,  the Ellis - O'Farrell parking structure is at this site today.  The same building on the right however is still there, newly refurbished - how nice to have these century-old architectural reminders dotted around town.


    During a walk on Telegraph Hill Katrin and her sister pass by a poster for an amusement park, Idora Park (the poster showing the full name can be seen in the on-location still included in the previous post).

... a vintage photo ...   Here's a panorama of Idora Park taken in 1910.  The Victorian era entertainment park on 17 acres opened in 1904 and closed in 1929.  Trumpeted as one of the Wonders Of The West, it offered numerous rides including a roller coaster, a skating rink, a shooting gallery, a stadium for 5,000, an opera theater, picnic grounds and much more.  If you full-size the image (click or swipe it) perhaps you can find the Hanson family amongst the crowd - then again maybe not since they had so few pennies to rub together.

    The park was bounded by Shattuck, Telegraph,  56th and 58th in North Oakland (map).  It's at the center of this 1912 map detail.


    The girls walked past another poster, this one exhorting folks to come place their bets on the horses at the New California Jockey Club.

   The New California Jockey Club was the name given in 1896 to the renovated Oakland Trotting Park which had been open since 1871 as a mile-long racetrack for harness and thoroughbred racing.  Unfortunately for them horse racing was banned by the State in 1911 and after trying out automobile and airplane racing the track was demolished in 1915.  This 1912 map shows the track, still referring to it as the Oakland Trotting Park.  The site is now an industrial zone; today both the Novartis Research Institute and Pixar Animation Studios overlap the site of the old racetrack, centered at Hollis and 53rd in Emeryville (map).  


Harold And Maude - Dates From Hell

    Harold's mother has decided that it's time for him to be married.  No girlfriends?  No problem!  She fills out a questionnaire from a computer dating service, reading the questions out loud but filling in the answers herself.  She doesn't seem to notice he has taken a gun from its box and is methodically loading the bullets.

   This and the scenes of the three dates that Mother sets up were filmed inside the Rosecourt Mansion at 10 Stacey Court in Hillsborough, described in an earlier post.  Here's a recent aerial view of the home. 

    As she prattles on Harold slowly lifts the gun to his temple and pulls the trigger.  Neither the percussive bang nor the sight of her son upended on the floor seems to faze her ...  "Oh, Harold, puh-leez!", she says, exasperatedly.  It was a protest of course and the hilarious  dates that follow make clear what Harold  thinks of Mother's plan.  (Watch this scene here).


  First up is Candy, a college student.  She can see Harold out in the garden while trying hard to make a good impression with Mother.  But when he suddenly explodes in a fireball her shrieking exit is enough to shake up the genteel neighborhood.  One down, two to go.


Then ...  Next, Edith.  She is introduced to Harold in front of the garage at the back of the home. He is finishing up a conversion of a brand new Jaguar XKE roadster, a gift from Mother to replace "...that monstrous thing of yours" - his hearse, into another hearse.

... and Now,  the original garage was demolished a few years ago in a remodel that replaced the swimming pool and added a new garage with a second floor addition, seen here in an aerial view.  The arrow below points to the spot where the above shot was filmed.

    On a trivia note, in 1997 BMW announced its squat Z3 M Coupe; the automaker's design chief reportedly had been inspired by Harold's Jaguar hearse.  Here it is ... you decide.

Then ...  Mother might have be a little taken aback at the sight of Harold's Jaguar makeover but without skipping a beat she ushers Edith into the house to wait for him to clean up and join them.

... and Now,  the home's unchanged entrance is visible from the street.

    As Edith perkily describes her job -  typing up schedules for chicken feed deliveries -  she is given pause when Harold suddenly produces a cleaver and lops off his left hand.  Two down, one to go.


    The young man is nothing if not creative at feigning death.  His next date, Sunshine, "...your third and final chance, please try to be serious, Harold", is an actress.  For her he enacts an elaborate hara-kiri ritual in the music room, falling prostrate after plunging the traditional knife into his gut.

    But did we say she's an actress?  Sunshine sees through the ruse, segues into Juliet's last lines from Romeo and Juliet and plunges the knife into her heart in a fervent performance worthy of enthusiastic applause.


The Laughing Policeman - Art Institute

    As Jake and Larsen know only too well murder investigations involve painstaking work and the endless pursuit of tips.  Next up for them is the girlfriend of one of the bus massacre victims, Gus Niles, who they now know had been trying to buy an automatic weapon of the type used in the massacre.  But first they have to find her.  They begin at her workplace, the San Francisco Art Institute, at 800 Chestnut on Russian Hill (map), pictured here in a recent photo. 


    Larsen looks down through a window to an artist's model reclining languidly in the studio down below.


Then ...  As he mutters disgustedly about the, er, corpulent sight a clue to where this was comes from the window reflection; he must be looking in from outside the building and there's a concrete roof above, unusually angled up rather than down.

... and Now,  this outside space is on the upstairs deck of the Institute but has since been enclosed to create a Digital Media Lab.  That exterior window, above, now hides behind the wall, below, and the concrete roof and beams have been refinished and painted.

... and Now,  in this view of the Digital Media Lab, added since the movie was filmed, the reverse angle of the original roof overhang now makes sense - an architectural feature.


Then ...  Larsen turns and looks across to Jake quizzing a couple of students about the whereabouts of Niles' girlfriend... that's  Alcatraz and Angel Island in the distance.  The window wall on the left is the same one through which Larsen looked down to the studio. 

... and Now,  the matching view is blocked by the media lab occupying  this spot...

... and Now  ... so we have to step outside to see the view as it looks today.  The wall of the building, the Institute's cafeteria, incorporates projecting table tops, one of which the students were sitting on in the scene above.


Then ...  They find she hadn't shown up for work that day so they head out the main entrance to try where she lives.

... and Now  ... the same solid wooden doors are still in use.


Then ...  She lives on Telegraph Hill - up there on the horizon -  so they turn east down Chestnut Street.

... and Now,  cypresses hug the front of the Institute and the sidewalk trees, pollarded every winter, have filled out after an extra  40 years of growth.


Click in this box to search this site ...