Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Born To Kill - Two visitors - Felton Hotel

  Mrs Kraft has checked into the Felton Hotel in San Francisco to find out how Arnett is doing in his search for Laury Palmer's killer.  When Arnett stops by to see her, he doesn't notice he is being followed by Sam's friend Marty; with revenge in mind they want to know who hired him.


Then ...  Once Arnett (and Marty) head up to Mrs Kraft's room the clear view outside gives us clues to the hotel's location.  The key one is the barely visible roadway and tower of the Bay Bridge way in the distance so this must look east down Broadway, the block across the street being the 700 block between Stockton and Powell.  The hotel though is a virtual location, shot in a studio using a projected background filmed from the northwest corner of Powell and Broadway (map).

... and Now,  in the same view today we can still see, in addition to the bridge, 705 Broadway (at left within the open doorway above) and 781 Broadway (at far right with the same exterior fire escape ladder).  Everything between them was replaced in 1961 by the second phase of Chinatown's Ping Yuen low income housing project.  In the center of the open doorway there's a cafe sign - not quite legible but it was the Jai-Alai Cafe at 761 Broadway.

... a vintage photo ...  in this 1940s photo there's a clear view of the Jai-Alai cafe sign at left on the 700 block  of Broadway.  Compare it to the distant view in the Now image above.

... and Now,  the real business currently at the virtual site of the Felton Hotel is Souffle's Cafe at 1401 Powell.  Note that it too has an entrance set at 45 degrees on the corner.


Then ...  Arnett's visit is short; he leaves after telling Mrs Kraft that he is getting close to identifying the killer.  Marty then knocks on her door, telling her he has information about Laury  which he will reveal if she meets him later that night.  She naively agrees ... (bad idea).  The view through the window is obviously a pier on the Embarcadero, but which one?  The building in front of it with the sloping roofline corner provides the answer ...

... a vintage photo ...  because this is the old Ferry Station Post Office on the corner of Washington, seen here at far left in a 1965 image of the ill-fated double-decker Embarcadero freeway.  So Pier 1 is the pier seen above, it is just off the left of the picture.

... a vintage photo ...  the arrow in this 1947 image taken from the Mark Hopkins hotel points to the Post Office and Pier 1 but Mrs Kraft's window view appears to have been taken from a lower, closer vantage point, perhaps from one of those buildings on the left.  In the real world this same view would not be seen from the virtual location of the Felton Hotel, several blocks to the north.

... and Now,  the Post Office is no longer there, it used to sit within what is now Sue Bierman Park.  But Pier 1 is still there, facing Washington Street (map).


The Exiles - The Morning After

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

  As the early morning light heralds a new day Homer and friends return from their all-nighter on Hill 'X' to his place on Clay Street, described here in an earlier post.

Then ...  They enter Clay from 2nd Street (crossing behind them), the men still sharing a bottle.

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... a vintage photo ...    in this 1950s photo taken from Hill Street we see where Clay began, tee-ing in at the far left above the 2nd Street tunnel.

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and Now ...  the Bunker Hill redevelopment project wiped Clay Street and all of those buildings above from the map.  Below, the upper section of the parking structure at left and the open space in front of the residential highrise encroach on where Clay used to be but the tunnel was spared, albeit without the fine masonry balustrade - it was replaced by nondescript chain link.

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Then ...  They walk along Clay towards 3rd Street passing the Sunshine Apartments perched on the retaining wall on the right.  Homer spreads his Indian blanket while Tommy, always the ladies man, needs a little support to aid his equilibrium.  In front of them they cross over the 3rd street tunnel where the tracks of the Angel's Flight funicular pass overhead.

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... in 1948 ...  a vintage photo captured the same view ten years earlier as Angel Flight's two rail cars change places on their short one block trip between Hill and Olive.

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  ... and here's another look in a scene from the 1955 film noir movie Kiss Me Deadly as Mickey Spillane's hard-boiled Mike Hammer approaches the Sunshine Apartments in his 1954 Corvette.

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  Homer's wife Yvonne has spent the night with a friend at the Sunshine Apartments; awakened by the noisy shouts of the group, she watches impassively from the bedroom window as they stumble on by.

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Then ...  Down towards the far end of Clay near 4th Street she sees them entering her place on the left at 334 Clay.

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... a vintage photo ...  this 1960s image offers a closer look at 334 Clay (on the left) as it was shortly before the houses were demolished.

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  And so the movie ends ... we have witnessed a typical day, and night, in the lives of the transplanted Indians and are left thinking that their next day likely will be the same, and the day after that, and ...


The Conversation - Harry Caul's Workshop

Then ...  Caul crosses a set of Western Pacific railroad tracks in what is now the Showplace Square (aka Design) District on the north edge of the Potrero Hill neighborhood.  He is on his way to his workshop in the old brick warehouse on the right (map).  In this south-facing view 16th Street crosses ahead of him at the stop sign and the tracks ahead end at 18th Street at the base of Potrero Hill.  In 1962 a tunnel that originally took the trains under the hill was filled in after catching fire and causing sinkholes above it.

... and Now,  quite a few changes.  The railway line has been discontinued; the tracks are gone and this section has become a parking lot reserved for the surrounding business tenants.  In the next block a modern building straddles the old line and the huge storage tank on top of Potrero Hill has been removed.


  Fortunately for us the warehouse lives on at 1616 16th Street - built in 1912, it remains unchanged from the outside.  It was designed by G Albert Landsburgh, best known for his luxury cinemas and theaters up and down the west coast, and the early occupant was the Schlesinger and Bender winery and distillery.  The arrow shows us where Caul's workshop was, tucked into the corner of the top (3rd) floor.  The arrow also points to a window which was bricked up when the movie was filmed - it still is today.  (Click the images for a closer look).  Note too the gable-shaped windows on the 16th Street side - we will see them later from the inside.


Then ...  A documentary on the filming of the movie provided this image of Caul emerging from a freight elevator at the top floor.

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... and Now,  that elevator has since been walled off but the same call button is still there.

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Then ...  He steps out of the elevator into a wide open, unpartitioned space.  Note the dividing brick wall on the right with door-suspension hardware bolted to it at a filled-in doorway ...

... and Now,  this space has since been partitioned into offices and corridors.  On that brick wall the hardware now supports a sliding door and the doorway has been opened up to allow access to the other side.  The overhead lamps on the other hand seem to be the same ones.  The added steelwork was installed for seismic protection.

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  As Caul walks towards the far corner where his workshop is set up we can't help but admire director Coppola's location choice.   The array of floor-to-ceiling posts casts radial shadows across the dramatic side-lit space, the whole effect enhanced further by the sunlit gable-shaped windows along the 16th street wall.  It's a great shot which cannot be duplicated now that the floor has been subdivided into offices.


Then ...  The workshop is where Caul creates state-of-the-art electronic gear custom designed for his nefarious work - back then and perhaps even now this type of sophisticated equipment was not commercially available.  The bricked-in window seen earlier from the exterior is right of center next to the picture on the wall.

... and Now,  the studios of Dara Rosenfeld Design and Weisbach Architectural Design now share this space at 1616 16th Street, Suite 360. Here too, added steelwork reassures the occupants.

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  The bricked-in window is clearly visible in this shot as Caul and his assistant Stan (John Cazale) repeatedly play back the recording, constantly tweaking the equipment to boost the garbled voices over the background noise.  Slowly but surely the conversation begins to emerge ...


Born To Kill - Two meetings

Then ...  Helen wants to find out more about Marty and his relationship with Sam so she arranges to meet him in town.  Based on the window view looking east to the Bay Bridge they can only be at the Fairmont hotel atop Nob Hill.

  The same view was seen in the movie The Lady From Shanghai, below, released the same year.  From Nob Hill Sacramento Street runs down through the financial district just left of center towards the Ferry Building.

and Now ... in the Fairmont view today new highrise offices have replaced or hidden most of those buildings but the bridge is a constant and some of the foreground buildings are still there in Chinatown at bottom left.  The two tallest structures in the city are at far left (Transamerica Building) and far right (the formerly named Bank Of America Building at 555 California Street).


  Now this is interesting ...  Here's an earlier scene in the movie at the Mark Hopkins Hotel - in the window view the position of the Ferry Building tower relative to the bridge's central caisson is slightly different from the Fairmont's view (compare it to the top image), consistent with the one block separation of the two hotels.  But the waiters in each scene are wearing the same uniform (one waiter looks fatter than the other) and the potted plants are the same ones!  Clearly both scenes were filmed in the studio on the same soundstage but with different background projections setting their location.


Then ...  Helen next arranges a meeting with the detective Arnett.  She is torn; on the one hand she had tipped Arnett that Marty had visited Sam, on the other she wants to prevent Sam's arrest for murder.  They meet at a lonely spot near the Bay Bridge and once again Helen is wearing a stylish outfit (For a droll look at her wardrobe throughout this movie go here).

and Now ... This view of the bridge is from Yerba Buena Island to San Francisco glittering across the bay.  The scene took place in the studio using a background projection filmed from an access ramp alongside the bridge (map).


  Helen offers Arnett $5,000 if he drops his investigation.  Unscrupulous and wily, he first reminds her that convicted murderers in Nevada get the death penalty then demands $15,000.  She has no option but to agree.  As they part he leans over ...

"Has it occurred to you, neither of us looks like a scoundrel ... do we?"


The Exiles - Hill 'X'

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

  The bars have closed but the night is not over for the Indian community.  In a tradition known as a '49', they congregate at an out of the way spot to continue drinking, to meet old friends, to chant and to dance, to sing traditional tribal songs, to remember old times.

  A procession of cars makes its way up to the top of a hill they call Hill 'X'.  The carousers spill out and the party is on!


Then ...  In the glittering view across Los Angeles the City Hall tower, its upper portion illuminated, is the main feature at right of center and at far left is the dark outline of the downtown gasworks (click image to enlarge).

... in 1960 ...  this vintage photo shows us where they were (arrowed).  This is the Chavez Ravine hill (map) and even though this was taken only two years after the filming, the hill had already been transformed by the partially built Dodger Stadium with the Indians' former gathering spot now swallowed up by the stadium parking lot.  In the distance City Hall is dead center; the gasworks is to the left alongside the Los Angeles river.

... and Now,  in this recent aerial view the faintly visible City Hall is left of center but the gasworks is long gone.


  It doesn't take long for the music to begin.  For this shoot, director MacKenzie hired professional entertainer Eddie Sunrise, center, who was performing at Disneyland at the time.  As the night wears on everyone is drawn in by the drumming, becoming part of the singing and dancing.  Beer flows, skirmishes erupt, a good time is had by all.

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Then ...  Dawn finally breaks over the cool, grey city giving the worn-out celebrants a different, sobering view (click image to enlarge).

... and Now,  City Hall is still there but it's the towering downtown structures that now command attention from here.


  The party breaks up, people disperse and Homer and friends head for their cars to return to the real world.  Or is their real world the one they are about to leave?

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