Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

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.


The Exiles - A Walk Through Town

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

Then ...  After the movie Yvonne leaves the Roxie Theater not expecting her husband Homer, out drinking with his buddies, to pick her up.  She heads to a girlfriend's place and as we shall see, her route through town jumps all over the place as director Kent MacKenzie chooses locations that look good onscreen in high contrast black-and-white.

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... and Now,  the dilapidated theater, at 518 S. Broadway, speaks volumes about the fate of this formerly resplendent theater and the downtown neighborhood around it.  No longer playing movies for the public, its lobby now sells bargain clothes.  But the mosaic sidewalk pattern lives on.

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Then ...  On the way she browses at a department store's street-side arcade.  Opposite is the flashy marquee of the Los Angeles Theatre at 615 S. Broadway.  The stores next to it are Eastman Linens at 611 and Mode O'Day at 609 (click image to enlarge).

... and Now,  here's the same view across the street to the theater; it's still in business.

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... in 1939 ...  The store where she window-shopped was Desmond's at 616 S. Broadway, seen in this vintage photo.

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... and Now,  the venerable store now has unused upper floors and several retail stores on the ground floor level, including a Payless Shoe Source branch.

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 Next she passes a bar alongside a parking lot, the Brass Rail, perhaps wondering if Homer is in there.  CitySleuth has yet to find this location - he would appreciate hearing from any reader who may know the answer.

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Then ...  Here she passes a doughnut store (click image to enlarge).  In voiceover she tells how she always wanted to get away from her people on the reservation and is glad to be in L.A.

... and Now,  Cooper's Donuts was at 316 E. 5th Street.  It was razed in the 1960s to make way for San Juan Park, a patch of Green in Los Angeles' skid row, below.  The surviving building next to it at 308 - 310 E. 5th, the old S C Dodge building (it was just off to the right of the image above), has survived - it was the Florence Hotel back then.


Then ...  This is W. 3rd Street at Figueroa.  Lucas Union service station is across the street at 255 S. Figueroa, the neon-signed Fig Leaf Cafe at 833 W. 3rd is on the corner behind her and she is walking by Eddie's Loans at 831 W. 3rd.

... and Now,  could this be the same place?  Yes it is!  There goes the neighborhood!


Then ...  Now she turns from Main Street into W 3rd Street.  Across the road we see the Gloria Cafe at 109 W. 3rd Street.  She muses how she always wanted to marry in a church, have a nice house and raise four kids.

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... in 1959 ...  this vintage photo taken shortly after the movie was filmed gives us a better look at the cafe.

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... and Now,  the building, above, has been replaced by another structure, below, currently housing an Immigration Services office at the 109 W. 3rd Street address.  Architecturally speaking, class to crass.

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Then ...  Yvonne crosses 3rd Street at the lower terminus of the Angels Flight funicular on Hill Street alongside the 3rd Street tunnel.  Pregnant with her first baby, she wonders if he (Homer) will change for the better when he sees the child - she knows he likes kids.

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... and Now,  this corner too no longer resembles its predecessor after the 1960s makeover of the Bunker Hill neighborhood, although the tunnel is still in use.

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Then ...  A steep set of narrow concrete steps scales the hill alongside the funicular.  She climbs them and turns onto Clay Street to cross over the tunnel entrance.  3rd Street stretches out to the east below her.

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... in 1970 ...  Angels flight was removed in 1969 - this vintage photo was taken shortly after, coincidentally from the exact same spot.  The truck in the foreground is parked on Clay Street.

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Then ...  She crosses over the tunnel on Clay and climbs a few more steps leading to the upper veranda of the Sunshine Apartments where her friend had a room inside at #14 (click image to enlarge).  The friend's boyfriend is also on an all-nighter with the boys and since becoming pregnant Yvonne often sleeps over with her for companionship and security. To the left is part of the 'Hillcrest Hotel' sign next door.

... in the 1950s ...  the arrow indicates that same veranda in this vintage photo of the Sunshine Apartments as viewed from Clay Street.   The man in the right foreground is descending the steps that Yvonne took on her way to the apartments' entrance stairway.

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... and Now,  an office building has replaced Clay Street above the 3rd Street tunnel - over to the right it sits where the Sunshine Apartments used to be.

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The Man Who Cheated Himself - Hideout at Fort Point

  With all roads out of the city blocked off by the police Cullen decides their best option is to hide out at Fort Point until they can  sneak out after dark.  The sequence that follows plays out to the lonely sound of the moaning wind but has suspense aplenty.  Even better for location buffs it's a record of the old Fort as it was over 60 years ago.

Fort Point (map) was constructed between 1853 and 1861; its armaments were initially designed to defend against possible Confederate attack during the Civil War.  The fort never was fired upon throughout its 150 year existence but dodged a significant bullet when the original plan to demolish it in the 1930s to make way for the Golden Gate Bridge was reversed by  the bridge's chief engineer Joseph Strauss.  Instead, he designed a steel span to arch over the fort.

Then ...  Dust swirls as they approach the sallyport, the only way into and out of the fort.  It's on the south side, known as the gorge, considered the front of the structure.  The post and platform structure at right appears to be bringing in temporary electrical power.

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... and Now,  one might expect a National Historic site not to show many changes over the mere half-century of our Then and Now comparison and this indeed turns out to be the case.  Those openings in the gorge wall were originally narrow rifle slits but were later widened.

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Then ...  When Cullen's 1950 Nash Ambassador pulls up in the interior courtyard the shot of the sleek fastback with its skirted wheels could double as a car advertisement (click image to enlarge).

... and Now,  the courtyard used to be the parade groundThe gorge on the left housed military quarters and magazines; it was accessed via balconies supported by fluted cast iron columns.  In the corner (the west end of the fort) is the tower enclosing stairs #1, one of three circular masonry staircases connecting all levels, topped by a wooden penthouse (click image to enlarge).


 Then ...  Cullen finds a concealed spot for his vehicle and they consider where to hide out.  The sound of an approaching car sends them scurrying to the lighthouse on the roof.

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... and Now,  visitors are not allowed into the lighthouse for safety reasons but here, taken from the rooftop, is a recent photo of its view.

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Then ...  It's Cullen's brother Andy in the car (a 1950 Nash Rambler convertible).  He recalls they played at Fort Point as kids and decides on a hunch that it might be their refuge.  This is his first case and he is determined to see justice done.  He pulls into the courtyard, also viewed from the rooftop of the fort.

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... and Now,  the fort is open two days a week for visitors; as a result safety railings have been added or repaired.  Back then, above, it was soldier beware!

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Then ...  As he stands in the courtyard wondering where they could be we see the hiding place on the roof in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge's arched span.

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... and Now,  this lighthouse dates back to 1863.  It was deactivated in 1934 when the  new bridge towers, a more effective beacon for mariners, were built.  But the lighthouse structure - it sits atop stairs #2 - has survived thanks to major restorations in 1973 and 1992.

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Andy disregards a note left by his brother implying the two miscreants had abandoned their car and fled.  Instead he methodically searches the fort one tier at a time, in a way taking  us on an extensive tour of the historic structure.

Then ...  He walks the length of the officer's quarters on the 2nd tier where the corridor splits each room via central receding doorways.  Not much privacy for the officers!

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... and Now,   the shouts and footfalls of the officers have now been replaced by the sound of visitor's camera shutters.

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Then ...  Still on the second tier he is next to the doorway leading to stairs #3.  Note the absence of safety railings.

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... and Now,   the same spot today, with railings.  Can't have those schoolkids falling over the edge can we?

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Then ...  At the other end of the second tier he walks the length of the brick casemates that originally housed a battery of cannons arrayed along the left (north) side with their muzzles facing out through reinforced embrasure openings.  There are 30 casemates on each of the first three tiers.

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... and Now,  another photographer's haven.

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Then ...  On the roof, viewed from inside the wooden penthouse that covers stairs #1, Andy runs to the lighthouse.  Will he find the crouching couple?

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... and Now,  the roof, known as the barbette tier, wraps around the perimeter of the fort.  Its deck, concrete now but grass when it was first built, was originally designed with cannons mounted on exposed pedestals to augment those in enclosed casements on the lower tiers.  The lighthouse, despite periodic maintenance, is again showing signs of rust.

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Then ...  Andy climbs the spiral staircase into the lighthouse but they are not there, having crept out ahead of him onto the balcony.  He appears to give up and returns to his car but not before a moment of suspense when Lois's scarf is whipped away by the wind and wafts slowly down tantalizingly close to him as he heads to the sallyport exit.  But it goes unnoticed and he drives off.

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... and Now,  in this matching courtyard photo CitySleuth was fortunate to catch Civil War re-enacters performing drill.  The gorge's balconied tiers behind them each have a stairway at far left, known as stairs #4.  Unlike the other three they are metal and straight, not masonry and circular.

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  When darkness falls Cullen and Lois sneak out of the fort straight into the arms and handcuffs of the waiting poiice.  Andy's hunch had paid off.  In a brief final scene their paths cross while they await trial and Cullen offers her a cigarette.  He had tried to cheat the law but ended up cheating himself. No words are spoken as they part but their expressions say it all - she acknowledging his sacrifice and he accepting his fate but with no regrets.

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Born To Kill - Sam calls on Helen

Then ...  After checking into a hotel in San Francisco Sam makes an unannounced visit to Helen's home, a very swanky mansion.

... and Now,  this was filmed not in San Francisco but in Southern California at the Villa Arden at 1145 Arden Road, Pasadena (map).  A great favorite with movie-makers over the decades, this residence has appeared in over 200 TV and movie productions including Dynasty, Remington Steele and Knight RiderMore shots of the home will be seen later in the movie.


  Surprised to see Sam, Helen introduces him to her fiance Fred (Phillip Terry) and her foster sister Georgia (Audrey Long).  Since they were about to go out dancing at a night club they feel obliged to invite him along.


Then ...  At the club the window view looks east down California Street and across the Financial District to the Bay Bridge and Ferry Building at upper left, revealing where this is - the popular Top of the Mark at the Mark Hopkins Hotel on Nob Hill (map).

... in the 1950s ...  here's a vintage photo snapped at the Top of the Mark not long after the movie was made.  It shows the same view in the left window pane but the different windows suggest that the movie scene was shot in a studio using a projected window view to set the location.  What's more, as we shall see in a later post, the same studio soundstage using those plants and flowers, above, will be used again to represent the Fairmont Hotel.

... and Now,  high-rise congestion in the Financial District offers visitors to the famous bar a different vista.  The tall building left of center is the formerly named Bank of America Building at 555 California Street.


  At the club Sam's blatant focus on Helen is rebuffed.  When the conversation turns to money he learns that Georgia is a rich woman having inherited her father's newspaper business and the palatial family home.  The schemer switches his attention to her and quickly senses that his macho swagger is drawing her in like a fish to a lure.


The Exiles - Joyride

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

  At the Ritz bar Homer's well-oiled buddies Tommy and Cliff pick up friends Claudine and Mary.  They hop into Cliff's car.

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Then ...  they pull out and head north on Main Street.  3rd Street crosses ahead of them. and the floodlit City Hall peaks (pun intended) over the building at upper left.

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... and Now,  the area has been completely rebuilt but City Hall is still there.

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  With the top down and wind in their hair they whoop and holler at high speed west through the 3rd Street tunnel.  Tommy has a bottle and cigarette in hand and is feeling no pain.

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Then ...  They exit the tunnel on the 700 block of 3rd Street.  On the far right is the narrow Cinnabar Street and further down the block we can see the lighted sign of Jack's Cafe at 731 W. 3rd.

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... and Now,  again, unrecognizable.  A major civic redevelopment in the 1950s and 60s transformed the vibrant if dilapidated area into a stretch of wide, soul-less streets and modern commercial buildings.  Cinnabar Street disappeared altogether, becoming a site housing a Veolia Energy facility (map) providing heating and cooling to private companies (on the right, below).

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... in 1952 ...  a few years earlier in the movie Sudden Fear Jack Palance prowled past this same Cinnabar Street junction looking for Joan Crawford, intent on killing her.  Compare it with the Then image above.

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  Some 3 miles on they pull into Hane's Magnum service station at 3510 W. Sunset Boulevard (map) and stop so suddenly that Tommy nearly tips into the front seat.  He speaks in voiceover, talking of how he likes to get high on drink ... "That's what drinks are for" ... and couldn't care less that it sends him in and out of jail.

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  The freeloaders hang back when the  attendant asks for the gas money, leaving Mary to pay it.  Then while she is in the restroom and after they pocket her change they impatiently take off, leaving her stranded.  What jerks!

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Then ...  As they leave we can't help but think that those gas prices were a better deal than today.  Sure enough, allowing for inflation, $0.28 then would be around $2.40 now, a price we haven't seen in California in years.  The cinematography effectively utilizes the symmetry of the gas pumps, lined up as they are in regimental ranks.

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... and Now,  this location has become a strip mall in which a restaurant, Alegria On Sunset, now owns the service station's 3510 W. Sunset Boulevard street address.

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