Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Born To Kill - Mrs. Kraft Hires A Detective

Laury Palmer may be dead, but her next-door neighbor Mrs. Kraft will never forget her.  She is determined the rat who killed her will be found and in the scenes that follow hires a detective to make sure it happens.

Then ...  Back in Reno we are introduced to the detective Matthew Arnett (Walter Slezak) while he has his morning cup of coffee.  The coffee shop scene was filmed on a sound stage but we can infer its location by the kitty-corner window view showing a glimpse of the Reno Arch.

5 detective 1.jpg

... in the 1940s ...   in this contemporaneous image from a vintage postcard the building at far left is the corner building above.  Part of Harolds Club, it was on the southeast corner of Virginia Street and Commercial Row (map).

5 detective 1 late1940s.jpg

... in 1955 ...   the same block was seen behind Kim Novak in the Reno heist movie '5 Against The House'.  Again we can see a glimpse of the Reno arch slogan.  By then the corner building had been changed - compared to the Then image above it has many more windows on the second floor.

5 from 5 against the house -  1955.jpg

... and Now,  that whole block of casinos has been completely rebuilt since arch-rival Harrahs took over Harolds.  In 1963 the arch was replaced by a redesigned version  (the old one can still be seen five blocks away at Lake Street by the bridge over the Truckee River).  That in turn gave way in 1986 to yet another arch, still there, below.

5 detective 1 now.jpg

  So the virtual location of the coffee shop was kitty-corner from the above on the northwest corner of Virginia and Commercial Row.  Instead of a coffee shop there was a Flying 'A' gas station at that location back then.


Then ...  Mrs. Kraft (Esther Howard) meets Arnett across from the Washoe County Courthouse on Virginia Street, featured in the opening scene of the movie.

5 detective 2.jpg

... and Now,  the county courthouse has not changed. 

5 detective 2 now.jpg

  Despite being taken aback at Arnett's nerve in asking for a $500 advance she hires him anyway.  (The wiley gumshoe had already found out that Mrs. Kraft had inherited Laury's house and money).

5 detective 3.jpg

The Exiles - 3rd Street Tunnel

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

  Homer and his friend Rico stop by Rico's pad by way of the 3rd Street tunnel. 


Then ...  They first swing by the newspaper stand at the lower terminus of the Angels Flight funicular (described earlier in this blog) on the southwest corner of Hill and 3rd Street (map) where the impassive, ever patient vendor waits for the next late night customer.

8 - tunnel 1.jpg

... and Now,  here's how this corner looks today.

8 - tunnel 1 now.jpg

Then ...  As they walk across Hill Street in this panorama the 3rd Street tunnel regresses behind them for three blocks to where it emerges near Flower Street.   At far left is the Redondo Cafe at 301 S. Hill Street next to Angels Flight (with the newspaper stand) and at far right is the Royal Liquor store at 259 S. Hill (click image to enlarge).

... and Now,  it became a very different junction after the massive redevelopment of the late 1950s and 1960s.  The buildings on either side of the junction were razed and Angels Flight was relocated a half block south.  The tunnel is still there but its entrance was extended to create a foundation for the modern structure built above it (click image to enlarge).

... in 1957 ...  the vintage photo below captured the same junction by day.

8 - tunnel 2 1957.jpg

... in 1965 ...  and here's what urban cleansing had wrought just a few years later.

8 - tunnel 2 1965.png

Then ...  Rico nips into the Royal Liquor store for a bottle of booze then they head through the tunnel on their way to his rented rooms, swigging the bottle (overtly wrapped in a paper bag - who are they trying to fool?) as they go.

8 - tunnel 3.jpg

... and Now, a recent photo reveals that the tunnel looks just the same inside, except for the painted-over graffiti (a modern, not a 1950s, phenomenon).

8 - tunnel 3 now.jpg

  They climb the stairs to the third level of this apartment house to get to Rico's place. 

8 - tunnel 4.png

  And when they leave we see, from the third level balcony, the narrow alley they took to get there and also a view across the city.  But where was this location?  CitySleuth would like to know and appeals to his Angeleno readers to figure it out.

8 - tunnel 5.png

The Man Who Cheated Himself - Andy Is Puzzled

  If it's a genuine San Francisco police thriller then it has to include the old Hall Of Justice.  This movie is no exception.

Then ...  Taking a break from the murder investigation the two brothers leave the Hall Of Justice on their way to lunch. 

8 portsmouth square 1.png

  A year earlier in the 1949 movie Impact a reluctant witness flees from the same main exit.

8 portsmouth square 1 impact 1949.png

... and Now,  the old Hall Of Justice faced Portsmouth Square Plaza from its location at 750 Kearny Street in Chinatown.  It was demolished in 1967 and replaced by a Holiday Inn hotel, now the Hilton San Francisco Financial District (map).

8 portsmouth square 1 now.jpg

Then ...  They walk the few steps to the Yen Yen Cafe at 716 Kearny on the corner of Merchant Street.  Its sign juts out, barely visible here above Andy's fedora.

8 portsmouth square 2.jpg

  Three years earlier in 1947's The Lady From Shanghai it was the turn of Orson Welles to flee the building.  In the image below the Yen Yen Cafe sign is clearly seen.

8 portsmouth square 1947 from lfs.jpg

... and Now,  there's still a Chinese eatery, the Garden Restaurant, at that location.  The same view reminds us though that the imposingly stolid Hall Of Justice is gone.

8 portsmouth square 2 now.jpg

Then ...  Inside the cafe Andy cannot understand why Ed persists in trying to pin the Frazer murder on the youth who shot the liquor store owner.  Yes it was the same gun but the evidence suggested he didn't have access to it until after Frazer was killed.  Portsmouth Square Plaza is seen across Kearny through the window but what's that white building in the park?

8 portsmouth square 3.jpg

... and Now,  the plaza today is no longer a gently sloping open space - it was sacrificed to make way for a huge underground car park and replaced by two uninspired levels, more grey than green.

8 portsmouth square 3 now.jpg

  And that white building?  It was a replica of the city's first schoolhouse, originally located at Portsmouth Square, which happened to be on display in the plaza for the California Centennial observance when the movie was filmed.  CitySleuth came across this 1951 image of the schoolhouse being moved from the plaza to City College, slated to be a museum exhibit.

8 schoolhouse 1951.png

  There isn't a view of the front of the Yen Yen Cafe in the movie but in this capture from The Lady of Shanghai filmed three years earlier as Rita Hayworth runs through the plaza we can see the half block of Kearny between Merchant (just off the left edge of the picture) and Clay Street to the right.  The white van on the left is parked in front of the cafe.  The awning just to the right of the van belonged to Puccinelli Bail Bonds at 714 Kearny (also visible in the other Lady From Shanghai image above).

8 yen yen from lfs 1947.jpg

... and Now,  the half block today still looks the same except for different store tenants.  The Garden Restaurant at left has expanded from the original Yen Yen Cafe corner space and now spans the full width of the host Wood Building.

8 yen yen now.jpg

Born To Kill - They Meet Again

   After she discovers the two bodies Helen decides she doesn't want to get involved - she was just about to leave Reno for home anyway so she heads straight to the station for the late night train to San Francisco.

... from 1928 ...  The Reno depot was built in 1925 by Southern Pacific.  This postcard image shows the station three years after it went into service and it still looked like this in 1947 when the movie was filmed.  The station fronts E. Commercial Row but this view, from Lake Street, of the rear track-facing side of the building shows us where the following scene was filmed (map).

3 station 1928.jpg

... and Now,  because the depot is in the center of town the tracks have since been lowered and street-level bridges built to alleviate traffic-crossing problems.  The depot has been kept in its original form and the building is now on the National Register For Historic Places.

3 station 1928 now.jpg

Then ...  While Helen waits for the train (her luggage is on the left) who should walk up but Sam (the killer - we know it but she doesn't, yet).  He too is making a hasty exit from the scene of the crime.

4 station 1.jpg

... and Now,  the red border outlines the same part of the depot (CitySleuth must confess that he used the front exterior for these comparisons because 1) the rear is harder to photograph the matching shot due to the major changes resulting from lowering the track, and 2) the depot architecture is identical front and back.

3 station 1 now.jpg

Then ...  They strike up a conversation, recalling their first meeting in the casino.  Sam offers to carry her luggage onto the waiting train and she is quite happy to accept.

4 station 3.jpg

... and Now,  the red border outlines the same part of the depot (again using the more accessible but identical front of the building).

4 station 3 now.jpg

... and Now,  this recent photo taken track-side shows where the filming took place, on the right, before the tracks were lowered.

4 station 3 now track side.jpg

  In the club car they waste no time flirting with each other as the train pulls out past the glitter of downtown Reno.

4 station 4.jpg

Then ...  By the time they get on the ferry at Oakland Pier to complete the journey to San Francisco it's obvious they will continue to see each other.  But wait a minute ... there's a continuity goof in this footage - with Yerba Buena Island on the left this is a view from San Francisco showing the ferry going in the wrong direction, cruising under the Bay Bridge from left to right towards Oakland.

4 ferry 1.jpg

Then ...  But in the next shot their ferry is on the other side of the bridge and heading, correctly, towards San Francisco.

4 ferry 2.jpg

... and Now,  six decades of development has transformed the San Francisco shoreline.

4 ferry 2 now.jpg

The Exiles - Voiceover Views

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

  How does a filmmaker keep the viewer entertained during a voiceover?  Director Kent MacKenzie used several voiceovers in this movie and his solution was to fill in the time with downtown street scenes filmed at night using the street lamps, retail shop window lights and neon signs as highlights.  They were all located within a few short blocks.

Then ...  In this shot we can see the tower of City Hall in the upper right corner.

7 - voiceovers 1.jpg

... and Now,  the view looks north along Main Street with 3rd Street crossing in the foreground (map).  City Hall is still there but the corner building at left has had the upper two stories removed.  What is unusual is that its retail stores were left in place - the previous location showed surviving threshold tiles in one of the stores in this block.

7 - voiceovers 1 now.jpg

Then ...  Here's a bustling street corner.

7 - voiceovers 2.jpg

... and Now,  this is at the same junction as the prior scene, Main at 3rd.  The store on the left, on the northwest corner, is now the Persian restaurant Shish Kebob but back then was called Optimo (you can see it in the first 'Then' image above).  El Progreso across the street was at 260 S. Main Street but this half of that block is now a parking structure.

7 - voiceovers 2 now.jpg

Then ...  This was filmed from below the Angels Flight funicular as one of its cars approached the lower terminus at Hill and 3rd (map).  As we look east from here along 3rd Street the F P Fay Building sign is seen at right across 3rd and that hotel facing us a few blocks down is the St. George at 115 E. 3rd Street.  Hard to see from here but below the word 'HOTEL' is a stylized 'One Dollar' sign, its daily room rate.

7 - voiceovers 3.jpg

... and Now,  the funicular has been moved a half block south along Hill Street and the old F P Fay corner building on the right has been replaced by a parking structure.  The St George hotel, distantly small in this non-telescopic photo, is still there, now providing low income housing.

7 - voiceovers 3now.jpg

... in 1952 ...  the St George survived a fire a few years before The Exiles was filmed, captured in the photo below which clearly shows the stylized 'One Dollar' neon signs (the one on the left is the one visible in the 'Then' image above).  Incidentally the Enderle hardware store, on the left below, and a recent photo of the St. George can be seen here in an earlier post.

7 - st george hotel 1952.jpg

Then ...  More drinking joints but this shot includes an architecturally interesting building on the left.  This is the south side of the 300 block of 3rd Street (map).  From left to right were Radio-Electronics at 316 S Main, a liquor store and Saddle Rock Cafe at 320, the posh entrance to the F P Fay Building at 326, and Buggy Wheel Cafe at 328 (most bars in those days seemed to prefer the pseudonym 'cafe'.  Who were they kidding?).

7 - voiceovers 4.jpg

... and Now,  the stylish building with the arches, an extension of the Metropolitan Water Board Building, is still there but those on the right including the F P Fay building have been replaced by a parking structure.

7 - voiceovers 4 now.jpg

Click in this box to search this site ...