Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

The Conversation - Harry Caul's Apartment

  Caul lived in the 3-story Sylvia Apartments at 700 Laguna Street, on the corner of Grove in the Hayes Valley section of the Western Addition (map).  Here's a recent photo of the front door.

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Then ...  Caul lets himself into the apartment building.  No iron security door back then.

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... and Now,  It's been 40 years but it's still the same old lobby.

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Then ...  Upstairs on the second floor corridor he has just passed apartment 206 on his left, 208 is on our left and he is heading for his apartment at the end of the corridor, # 207, just off the right of this picture.

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... and Now,  the same corridor no longer has a molding strip along the upper walls and the  light fixtures and doors and casings have been replaced.  It was a little classier then.

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Then ...  CitySleuth composited several interior shots to come up with this overall panorama of Caul's apartment, created by combining apartments 206 and 207 into one unit (click image to enlarge).  The 207 entrance leads from the corridor into the apartment from the far right and the two bay windows on the left wall look out directly across Laguna.  The building seen across the street at far left was being torn down as this scene was filmed, coinciding with the tail end of the Western Addition 'urban renewal' program that saw the demolition of 2500 Victorian homes.


... and Now,  street views from interior scenes led CitySleuth to conclude that the apartment was on the second level, highlighted in red.    The building was built in 1928 and was mostly vacant when Coppola filmed the movie but it survived the demolition taking place all around it.  Birch Street intersects on the left.

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Then ...  The kitchen is at the corner of the building and its west view looks across Laguna along Birch towards apartments on Buchanan Street.

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... and Now,  Here's the same view today taken from street level; those same apartments in the distance are still there, the matching top story can be seen above a newer building.  The apartments directly across the street on the left replaced those seen being demolished in the movie.

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Born To Kill - The Wedding

  Marty joins the other guests at Sam and Georgia's wedding, held at Georgia's home.   Helen is the Maid Of Honor but has a hard time maintaining her composure during that passionate kiss.


Then ...  While the reception is in full swing Arnett shows up.  He suspects Sam's involvement in the murder and needs evidence to back it up.

... and Now,  supposedly San Francisco but this was filmed in Southern California at the Villa Arden at 1145 Arden Road, Pasadena (map).  The house was also seen earlier in the movie.


Then ...  Arnett adopts his best hangdog expression and knocks on the door of the servant's quarters.  His plan is to feign hunger, offer to work for a meal, and find out as much as he can from the staff.

... and Now,  In this recent aerial view of the Villa Arden the arrow points to that side door.


  The housekeeper alerts Helen to the stranger asking lots of questions in the kitchen.  When she demands to see his I.D. and finds out he is a private eye checking up on Sam the audience wonders how she will react.  Will she tell her sister?  Don't hold your breath for too long, it is a film noir after all.


The Exiles - Closing Time

  ( A Bunker Hill movie in a San Francisco blog?  CitySleuth explains why).

It's 2 a.m. and the bars are closing.  Homer watches the goings-on from the back of his buddy's car parked outside a bar.  He muses about how Indians like to get together at that time  "to get out there and just be free, where nobody won't watch you ... nobody watching every move you make".

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Then ...  As the staff turfs everybody out we recognize this as the Ritz Cafe, described in an earlier post.

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Then ...  A daytime shot seen later in the movie gives us a better view.  It was at 312 1/2 S. Main Street, sandwiched between the Olympic Men's Shop at No. 310 and the Olympia Barber Shop at No. 314.

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... and Now,  this part of the block has become a car park.

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Then ...  A large crowd has gathered directly across the street in the Scott and Freeland restaurant at 325 S. Main Street (its menu can be seen covering most of the back wall).  The commotion at the bar has caught the attention of both police and bystanders.

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... and Now,  the restaurant is long gone; this part of the Ronald Reagan State Building now covers its location.

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Then ...  A scuffle on the sidewalk, and a drunk is arrested.  This is still Main Street, looking south across 3rd.  In the distance along Main over to the left we can just make out the last few letters of the vertical Hotel Barclay sign at the corner of Main and 4th and the Hotel Rosslyn sign at the corner of Main and 5th.

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... and Now,  the Hotel Barclay sign is still there as too is that of the Hotel Rosslyn, although it is obscured from this viewpoint by a lamppost.  As just mentioned a large part of the 300 S. block ahead on the right which contained the Ritz Cafe has been converted to a parking lot.

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  The camera that captured the arrest was set up in front of the El Progreso bar at 260 S. Main Street - we caught a glimpse of the bar in another shot from the movie, below, filmed from 3rd Street.

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The Conversation - Snooping In Union Square

Then ...  As the opening credits roll the camera slowly zooms in from on high to a crowded city plaza below.  From the get-go we feel like voyeurs.

... and Now,  this is Union Square - it was filmed from a hotel room on the top floor of the St. Francis hotel (not the tower).  CitySleuth was not able to access the room itself but obtained permission to take this photo from immediately above it on the roof.  It shows changes since the movie was filmed; the formal gardens have been swept away creating a more open space but the Dewey 'Victory' monument in the center remains the focal point.


  Surveillance expert Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) has been hired by a tycoon known only as The Director to spy on his young wife Ann (Cindy Williams) and her lover Mark (Frederic Forrest).  Afraid of being overheard, they meet in noisy places.  In the busy square Caul watches them as they pass by.


  He has a tough assignment - he has to record their conversation in this difficult environment.  But he's a wizard at his craft and has three hi-tech listening stations set up around the square ...

Then ...   The first is on a store rooftop on the southeast corner -  Caul has a man stationed below the sign.

... circa 1970 ...  this vintage photo shows where the City Of Paris department store was, on the corner of Geary and Stockton (map) - the sign fronted an Eiffel Tower replica on the roof.  That's the I. Magnin store at far right.

... and Now,  the City Of Paris opened in 1850 and occupied two earlier sites before moving to this premier location from 1896 until it closed in 1976.  The building was razed in 1980 to make way for a new Neiman Marcus store, still there today.  I. Magnin didn't survive either but the building did, now owned by Macy's, with a Louis Vuitton store in the corner space.


Then ...   The City Of Paris rooftop vantage point is ideal for the telescopic listening device focused directly on the mouths of the unsuspecting couple.  Across the square is the original 1904 12-story St. Francis hotel and its 32-story 1972 addition towering above it.

... and Now,  CitySleuth was unable to gain access to the Neiman Marcus rooftop so instead took this matching photo from its 4th floor Rotunda restaurant.


Then ...   Here's the spy's birds-eye view of the square.  The entrance to the underground garage on Geary Street is on the left, Post Street is across the square on the right.

... and Now, the changes made since then are readily visible in today's view including extended access from the street.  Kitty-korner across the square the Fitzhugh Building on Post Street, above, has been replaced by a Saks Fifth Avenue store, below.


Then ...   The second listening station was set up on the northwest corner of the square at an upper window of the Fitzhugh Building.  It incorporated a powerful directional microphone with an amplifier of Caul's own design.

... in 1953 ...  the 1923 building is no longer there but here's a vintage photo of it, at 384 Post Street on the corner of Powell.  When this photo was taken the ground floor housed the Robert S. Atkins store; by the time the movie was filmed it had become Roos/Atkins.  The arrow indicates the window on the 8th floor used by the snooper (map).

... and Now,  the building was demolished in 1980, so too was the City Of Paris building, creating quite a furor.  A new building housing Saks Fifth Avenue replaced it, still there now.

... a 1960s image ...  not shown in the movie, but this is the view that the snooper would have seen from the Fitzhugh Building.  Kitty-korner across the square is the City Of Paris building where the other snooper was.

... and Now,  on a recent visit to Saks CitySleuth captured the Yuletide spirit in Union Square complete with ice skaters enjoying a balmy California winter's day.


Then ...   As added insurance Caul had a third listener trailing the couple carrying a brown paper bag stuffed with state-of -the-art audio sensors.  The signals from all three stations fed wirelessly to Caul's recording devices in this truck parked on Geary at Stockton (watch the snoopers at work here).

... and Now,  pure coincidence but snoopers of the modern kind (traffic wardens) have parked in the same spot.  Neiman Marcus retained the dramatic City Of Paris rotunda within its new building and each year they place a huge Christmas tree there, visible through the window on the left (click image to enlarge).


Born To Kill - Marty joins Sam

  Sam calls his one-time prison mate and long-time roommate Marty (the ubiquitous Elisha Cook Jr) in Reno to tell him he is marrying Georgia and invites him to his upcoming wedding.

Then ...  The trip from Reno would take Marty by train to the Oakland Pier and from there by ferry to San Francisco.  Marty is seen here arriving at the Ferry Building on the 'Berkeley', incidentally the first prop-driven ferryboat on the west coast.  Behind them the Bay Bridge reaches out to Yerba Buena island.

... and Now,  there are fewer docking slips at the Ferry Building as a result of the plummeting demand for ferries in the years after the bridge was built.  As today's ferry pulls in at least the view behind it is the same.

... in 1957 ...  In the movie Pal Joey there's a scene showing the 'Berkeley' leaving the Oakland Pier Southern Pacific rail terminal to begin its cross-bay trip to San Francisco - a route it plied for sixty years until taken out of service in 1958.  In the background we see Yerba Buena island, the Bay Bridge and the San Francisco skyline.

... and Now,  the ferryboat subsequently spent 12 ignominious years moored in Sausalito as a gift shop before being sold in 1973 to the Maritime Museum of San Diego where, lovingly restored, it continues to be on display.


Then ...  Marty emerges from the Ferry Building onto the Embarcadero and heads to a waiting cab (map).

... and Now,  the kiosks under the breezeway are no longer there and the sidewalk has been widened but the building structure reassuringly remains unchanged.


Then ...  He tells the cabbie where the wedding is being held.  In the distance along the Embarcadero the Bay Bridge soars overhead and, across the street, the end building (above the cabbie's cap) is the YMCA at 166 Embarcadero. Check out the Ferry Building official - he couldn't resist looking at the camera!

... and Now,  the bridge is still there of course and the YMCA too, now sharing its building with the Harbor Court Hotel.


  Arnett, the private dick hired to find the killer, has followed Marty on a hunch that he'll lead him there.  As the cab drives off he writes down the address.


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