Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

I Remember Mama - Katrin's Graduation Gift

Graduation Day is rapidly approaching for Katrin, doubly important because she is to play Portia in the school production of 'The Merchant Of Venice'.  She diligently memorizes her lines in her bedroom attic where her window view, described in more detail in an earlier post, looks across the Embarcadero to the East Bay.


Then ...  Walking down the street she practices her lines with Christine but she for her part chastises her elder sister for being consumed with the play and dreaming of graduation gifts at a time when the family is struggling to make ends meet.

... and Now,  this street scene was filmed on the east side of the 1200 block of Kearny Street between Green and Vallejo on Telegraph Hill, also seen earlier when Katrin was out shopping with Mama.

... on location ...  here's a snapshot taken as they passed 1236 Kearny while they were filming this scene.   What a great view of the action that resident had!


    They run into two of Katrin's friends in front of a store window where she points out the gift she dearly wants... a dresser set.  "it's got everything, even a hair receiver, and it's genuine celluloid!".  This though was filmed at the Warner Brothers back lot.


Then ...  (Cutting back to a location shot) Christine tells her that she's not going to get it ... she had heard Mama saying she would give Katrin her silver solje (brooch), a family heirloom.  Katrin is mortified... "What would I want with an old thing like that for?"

... and Now,  this was shot on the 500 block of Liberty Street in Eureka Valley, described in an earlier post.  The house at far right both Then and Now (with the green door) is 554 Liberty.


Then ...  Christine accuses her of being selfish and adds... "But you'll devil Mama into giving you the dresser set somehow".  As they approach the junction with Noe Street  (map) they pass an empty lot on the corner.

... and Now,  the modern house that sits on that corner lot today is totally out of character with the neighborhood (how was that allowed to happen?).  Next to it, beautifully maintained, are 513, 517 and 521 Liberty Street.  Note how the entrance stairs on some of these surviving original homes have been reworked to optimize space and improve safety (here's another example).


    Christine was right, Katrin got the dresser set.  But when she tells her (to brother Nels' disapproval) that Mama had to sell her precious solje to pay for it Katrin is shocked and distraught, causing her to perform poorly in the play.


Harold And Maude - At The Cemetery - 2

    At yet another funeral, held at the same cemetery as the earlier one, Maude peeks out from behind a fellow mourner (some think this might have been Cat Stevens, who wrote the movie's soundtrack).  She catches Harold's attention across the gathering with a loud "Pssst!".


Then ... Startled, all turn and look at Harold, including the same priest whose car Maude earlier had, shall we say, "borrowed".

... and Now,  from the same spot that's the cemetery's mausoleum in the background.

    The location is marked by the arrow in section 'J' of the Holy Cross Cemetery, 1500 Mission Road, Colma.


Then ...  With the homilies over and the Lord's Prayer said, Maude, contrarian as ever, jauntily leads the way from the ceremony beneath a bright yellow brolly.

... and Now,  the day CitySleuth visited a fallen branch had joined the linear array of headstones.


Then ...  As Harold walks towards his private hearse, Maude rounds the corner in it having unknowingly, of all cars, "borrowed" his.

... and Now,  from here we get a closer look at the mausoleum.  Things have hardly changed.


Then ...  Harold accepts her offer to give him a ride home.  By the time they reach the Hillsdale Boulevard exit from the cemetery (map) he tells her it's his car she's driving.  They change places and he gives her a ride home instead.

... and Now,  the most interesting change here is the hillside, so carefully cultivated above but since allowed to go to seed.  The nurseries across the road partially make amends.


The Laughing Policeman - A Tip From The Angels

    Leads are few and far between in this case but an arrested drug dealer anxious to soften his sentence on a third strike passes on the name of the bus victim who had lured Jake's partner onto the massacre bus - a Gus Niles who sported a distinctive eagle tattoo.  But they still don't know who the bus killer was and their search for someone who might have been asking around for an automatic weapon, aka "grease gun', takes them to another quid pro quo meeting at a Hell's Angels hangout, known to the police as a source of weapons.

Then ... Driving up Texas Street they breast 19th Street in the Potrero Hill neighborhood (map).  The city glitters in the background and in the center of this view the 6th Street and King Street exits mark the end of the incoming 280 freeway.

... and Now,  the freeway is almost hidden by one of the many Lower Potrero Hill projects currently under construction.

... recently ...  in 2014 the freeway from here was still clearly visible, a closer match to the movie view above.


Then ...  one of the bikers glances this way and that and, the coast being clear, beckons them in.

... and Now,  this is 605 Texas Street, a couple of blocks south of the top of the hill above (map).  Other than the added security gate on the front door it still looks the same.


Then ... a short passage leads them into the living room where a picture of a scantily clad female reclining on a Harley catches Larsen's eye.  Always the ladies man.

... and Now,  Déjà vu!  CitySleuth is nothing if not nostalgic and was delighted to find the room to be completely unchanged, including the built-in storage area.


Then ... the biker grabs a bottle of liquor from the kitchen to add lubrication to the negotiations.

... and Now,  the current owner had heard about the filming when buying the house two years after the movie came out and told CitySleuth that the kitchen remained exactly as above for another thirty years until it was remodeled into this current layout.


Then ... The visit wasn't a complete waste - the Angels tell them that prior to the bus massacre someone with an eagle tattoo had been around looking for a grease gun.  The detectives leave and, in this shot of them reversing out, the background reveals three of the adjacent houses.

... and Now,  those houses too have seen little change in over forty years.


Then ... They head back the way they came, up Texas Street.

... and Now,  as they leave Larsen reflects on what they have just learned... "Terrific... our John Doe now has a name, Gus Niles.  Now we know that Gus Niles was looking for a grease gun.  We also know that he was a victim on the bus, shot by a grease gun.  Now that ain't complicated at all is it?"


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."


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