Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

I Remember Mama - Katrin sells a story

    Katrin shrieks with delight when a letter arrives from Florence Dana Morehead's publisher with a check for $500.  She has sold her first story.  That was a very large chunk of change back in 1910.  But a moment of awkwardness intervenes when she asks Mama to put it into their bank account. "Is no bank account", she finally confesses, "Never in my life have I been inside a bank".  She had lied all those years so that the children would feel secure.


    They gather around to hear Katrin read them her story.  Mama is taken aback as she realizes it's about her, not Papa as she had suggested.


    She is deeply touched, captured by this lingering closeup viewed through the home's front bay window.


    As she listens to Katrin describe the family members the camera backs up then slowly swings to the right, tracing a panorama of the street outside, bathed in the city's wafting mist.


    This was filmed on the RKO Studios street set described in a previous post.  In this shot on the set seen earlier in the movie Mama's house with the bay window is on the left; the houses on either side at the top of the hill are the same as those seen above.  To film that panorama the elevated camera was set up just behind the car.  


    And so the movie ends as Katrin recites the best-known line from the novel, the Broadway play, and the movie...  "But first and foremost, I Remember Mama".


>   Previous Location

Harold And Maude - Demolition

    Maude wants to know what Harold does when he isn't visiting funerals?  Cut to a construction site where a wrecking ball is demolishing a building;  They watch intently from a balcony across the way.

    But where was this filmed?  The only skimpy clue that may still be around is that house on the right; CitySleuth has yet to find the location and appeals to his readers for help ...


Then ...  They move on to a scrapyard, fascinated by the clattering sounds of recycling at work.  In this view from the crane's cab there's a message emblazoned on the hillside in the distance proudly proclaiming 'South San Francisco - The Industrial City'.  It enabled this location to be pinpointed.

... and Now,  here's that site today, a bare lot next to Exelixis, a genomics company seen on the right at 170 Harbor Way in South San Francisco.  This map shows its location with a red marker and, in blue, the hillside sign location, on the aptly named Sign Hill just below Sign Hill Park.  If you compare these Then and Now images closely you can match up some of the pylons of the PG&E substation across Gateway Boulevard.  

    This recently taken aerial photograph gives us a closer look at the Sign Hill slogan.  First appearing in 1923, the letters were made permanent in 1929 using gunite, a new material back then, now widely used for forming swimming pools. Cleverly, to compensate for hillside changes in slope, the letter heights vary so that from ground level perspective they appear the same.  The city of South San Francisco has morphed over the last century from heavy to light industry,  in particular establishing itself as a biotechnology center.


Then ...  Back to the scrapyard; this time the camera looks in the opposite direction across Harbor Way.

... and Now, from the same spot today we see a covered bridge crossing Harbor Way, linking two Exelixis buildings.


Then ...  But rather than witnessing things being destroyed Maude's preference is watching things grow.  In a greenhouse she explains to Harold how the plants represent an affirmation of life - the gospel according to Maude, one might say.

   CitySleuth came across an unconfirmed claim that this was filmed at the Avansino-Mortensen Nursery in San Bruno (this map shows where it was).  If so, it would have been one of the cluster of greenhouses seen in this c. 1950 aerial photo of the nursery in its prime.  Sneath Lane separates the greenhouses from the Golden Gate National Cemetery on the right and across El Camino Real along the bottom that's the Tanforan horse-racing track.  Its grandstand is partially visible on the left.

... and Now, two new freeways meeting at the 280/380 interchange now dominate this same aerial view.  The nursery served the Bay Area's flower market for 45 years from 1929 until it was dismantled in the 1970s.  Tanforan racetrack, opened in 1899, was replaced by a shopping mall in 1971.


The Laughing Policeman - Tailing Camerero

Then ... Larsen has been assigned to tail suspect Camerero, beginning at a small gym alongside the bay.

... and Now,  the gym, still there, belongs to the South End Rowing Club and the Dolphin Swimming and Boating Club at 500 and 502 Jefferson Street at Aquatic Park (map).  On the right, above, the schooner moored at the Hyde Street pier is the Wapama; it has since been dismantled and in its place, below, we now see the square-rigged sailing ship Balclutha.  On the left, there's a small jetty...

    ... here's a view of the gym in a recent photo looking back from that jetty.


Then ... next up, an energetic game of handball.

... and Now,  the court, in the same building, continues to keep club members on their toes.


Then ... Camerero moves on to a hairdressers with a window view that identifies this location... that's Fredericksen's venerable Cow Hollow hardware store across the street.

... and Now,  the same view from inside the store that currently occupies this site.  To the left it has since been expanded into the  store next door.

    The store is currently the Simply Chic boutique at 3038 Fillmore (map) but back then it was a men's hairstylist called Forum II.

   Fredericksen's has been serving the Cow Hollow neighborhood at 3029 Fillmore since 1896.  In this recent photo the part of the store visible through the hair stylists' window in the Then image above is outlined in yellow.


Then ... The surveillance continues in a parking garage as the suspect walks to his car.

... and Now,  this was filmed on level A of the underground garage of One Embarcadero Center in the Financial District.


Then ... But when Camerero exits the garage, this isn't One Embarcadero Center...

... and Now,  instead, it's the Clay Street exit of the Golden Gateway Garage across the street from One Embarcadero Center (map), viewed from a pedestrian bridge spanning the road.


Then ...  Jake follows him to a narrow street and watches him pull up outside a club where an awning marks a discreet entrance.

... and Now,  this is Ritch Street, an alley in the SoMa South Beach neighborhood close to AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants (map).


Then ...  As Camerero enters the club the awning displays the address - 330 Ritch Street.  This was the Ritch Street Health Club, one of the many bath houses that catered in the pre-Aids era to the gay men's community before they were all shut down by the City in the interest of public health.

... and Now,  that same doorway has since been re-addressed as 360 Ritch Street.  Comparing the Then and Now images you can see the identical outline of the bricked-in former windows next to the doorway.  Today retail and commercial businesses occupy the building including the Little Skillet whose Southern Comfort food serves an eager lunch crowd daily from the shuttered window on the left.


  Here's a vintage poster advertising the club that left no room for the imagination as to the activities inside.


Then ...  Inside the club entrance a stairway draped with a colorful tapestry leads up to their "exciting psychedelic 3rd floor".

... and Now,  a storage closet has been built under the stairway at left and plain white walls make for a more appropriate approach to the offices above.


Then ...  Another day but still tailing.  Larsen tries his best to look inconspicuous when Camerero walks right by him after exiting the narrow alley flanked by the pair of concrete bollards.  Note the vertical sign - 'Poster Alley'. 

... and Now,  this is Union Street in Cow Hollow - Larsen was sitting at the steps of 1960 Union Street (map) in the center of the seven-block stretch that back then was a much-touted tourist shopping favorite.  Poster Alley ran alongside the Artisans poster and framing store at 1964 Union, there since the early 1950s.  Customers could view posters and prints hanging in the alley and buy them in the store.

    Artisans is still in business but recently moved to the Sunset district.  In a sign of transition the photo below taken in January 2016 pictures the empty store up for lease.  The bollards are still there on either side of the garage door that now blocks access to the old Poster Alley.


I Remember Mama - Quid Pro Quo At The Fairmont

    Katrin has been sending stories to a long list of publishers.  Thoroughly devastated after the tenth rejection, she declares it would be a waste of time going to college because she will never be a writer.  But when Mama reads that the famous author Florence Dana Morehead is in town staying at Nob Hill's Fairmont Hotel (map), and that she is also passionate about gastronomy, she has an idea ...


 Then ...  We next see her, clutching some of Katrin's stories under her arm, in the hotel lobby.  This shot was reflected in a mirror; CitySleuth has reversed the image in order to compare it with the Fairmont's lobby now.

... and Now,  those beautiful marble Corinthian columns have been standing there for over one hundred years.  But in the movie, above, there are less columns in the back corner than there should be.  Also, the column flanking the far side of the  staircase on the left, below, is missing, above.  Clearly the lobby scenes were filmed on a studio set, not on location.  One wonders if the hotel denied the moviemakers permission to film in the lobby (unlike 20 years later when the opening scene of Petulia was filmed here). 


 Then ...  she waylays Mrs. Morehead near the revolving door of the lobby's main entrance.  The author is not interested in reading Katrina's stories but when Mama tells her she has a secret recipe for Lutefisk and Koetbullar - Norwegian Meatballs in Cream Sauce - her curiosity is piqued.

... and Now,  the real Fairmont's main entrance.


 Then ...  they sit down in front of the registration desk and Mama offers to write down the recipe while Mrs. Morehead reads Katrin's stories, an offer the gourmand cannot refuse.

... and Now,  the set designers did an excellent job simulating this part of the real lobby but there's a tell-tale difference - the ingrained patterns of the marble columns, the one thing that would never change over the years, don't even come close to matching, more confirmation that the scene was filmed on a set.


    Back home Mama finds Katrin in her attic room dejectedly tearing up all of her stories.  She tells her about her visit, how Mrs Morehead found the stories too formulaic but nevertheless recognized a gift and suggested Katrin write about something or somebody she knows really well then to send it to her agent.  Mama suggests she write about Papa.


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