Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

The Laughing Policeman - Shootout

    The police get a call from somebody claiming to be the bus murderer.  What's more he has hostages holed up in an old house ...

Then ...  The cops converge on the house, in the heart of Japantown in the Western Addition.  This is the view west from Laguna down Bush Street towards St. Dominic's Catholic Church at Steiner, top left.

... and Now,  more trees certainly, but the main difference here is the tower of St. Dominic's, redesigned and rebuilt following serious damage from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.


Then ...  A heavily armed response team takes up position at the southwest corner of Laguna and Bush outside the K & F Drayage Trucking Co. building at 1899 Bush.

... and Now,  another structure has since taken its place.


Then ...  The suspect's house is at 1727 Laguna Street (map).  As Jake and Larsen observe it one of the hostages seeks escape by unwisely clambering out of a 3rd floor window ... "Don't do that, lady ..."

... and Now,  the house has long since been demolished, one of the many victims of the Western Addition's ethnic cleansing program.  The building on the right, next to it and under construction during the filming, is still there today, the Konko-Kyo Church of San Francisco.


Then ...  The unfortunate hostage slips and falls.  Across the street is another view of the Drayage Trucking building on the corner of Bush and next to it one of the twin towers of the Bush Street Temple, built in 1895.  In 2003 the temple became the Kokoro Assisted Living Center.

... and Now,  the new building on the corner was built as an extension of the Kokoro Center.


Then ...  Apparently hostage negotiation was not part of the Police Department's job description in the 1970s - a fierce firefight ensues with multiple fatalities on both sides ending only when the suspect is shot.  Across the street an ambulance pulls up to 1727 Laguna where we see that it had a store, Coast Camera & Radio, on its first floor.

... and Now,  there's a church parking lot with a gated entrance where the house used to sit.


    It turns out the suspect was a deranged vet with a prosthetic leg; he couldn't have been the bus murderer who was witnessed climbing off the bus and walking briskly away.  Another lead bites the dust.


I Remember Mama - Uncle Chris Comes To Town

   Uncle Chris, The de facto head of the family,  drives down from his ranch a couple of times a year to visit Mama and family.

Then ...  A closeup of the Ferry Building clock tower announces his arrival in the city.

... and Now,  a sense of survival prompted CitySleuth not to stand in the identical spot to duplicate this shot;  the docking slip from whence it was filmed has been demolished.  From the nearest dry spot behind the Ferry Building this is close enough (map).  Note that in the movie there's some sort of temporary cover shrouding the topmost cupola.


Then ...  The camera makes a rapid pan from the tower to the incoming ferry where we see Uncle Chris's car at the head of the line.  But note the dreadful lack of historical accuracy - no effort has been made to hide the Bay Bridge, completed in 1936, even though the story is set in 1910.  There are more accuracy faux pas here; the ferryboat is the Sierra Nevada, not built until 1913; what's more it wasn't converted to an auto ferry until 1947.

... and Now,  the docking slip above has been demolished since the bridge opened.  In this recent photo the ferry Mendocino is berthed at the adjacent Golden Gate Ferry Terminal.


Then ...  Uncle Chris and his traveling companion roll off the ferry in his horseless carriage ahead of the horse-drawn cart, already a dying breed.

... a vintage photo ...  here's the Sierra Nevada at the Ports Of Call Village in San Pedro where it spent its final years as a tourist attraction before succumbing to its worst fear, sinking in a 1978 storm.


Then ...  The Embarcadero bustles with activity as Uncle Chris drives past the Ferry Building and through the throng .  This time history is respected - either the Bay Bridge has been painted out in the center background, replaced by ships' masts, or a pre-bridge skyline was used.

... and Now,  the bridge's roadway span can clearly be seen in the background from here.  The building with the gabled red roof structure sitting atop it is the Embarcadero YMCA.  It's visible in the movie view above but the gabled part is missing. 


Then ...  But in the next shot where Uncle Chris spooks a passing horse we do see the gabled structure on the Y. This time the moviemakers used a contemporaneous 1940s skyline but, in deference to the story, painted out the bridge. 

... in 1945 ... and in case you were wondering what the unretouched skyline looked like when the movie was filmed, here it is - bridge, YMCA, and all - brought closer by telephoto lens in a scene from the 1945 movie The Falcon In San Francisco.


I Remember Mama - First and Foremost

    Mama and Papa Hanson (Irene Dunne and Philip Dorn) are Norwegian immigrants bringing up their family in 1910 San Francisco.  Every week they sit down in their modest home with their four children and Mama carefully divides the meager family income between the household expenses.  "Is good", she would then say ... "we do not have to go to the bank", greeted all around by smiles; once again they have scraped by.


    The eldest daughter Katrin (Barbara Bel Geddes) had always dreamed of becoming a successful writer.  In a flashforward she has just completed her first manuscript, a story about her own family.  She reads aloud ... "For as long as I could remember, the house on the Larkin Street hill had been home"...  then she describes each family member, concluding with... "But first and foremost, I remember Mama".   (On a trivia note the original book 'Mama's Bank Account' had the house on Castro Street and in the play it was on Steiner Street).


Then ...  The view from her attic window, above, looks out through the fog to the Ferry building and waterfront but was it taken from Larkin Street?  No way.

Then ...  more of the same view is seen later as Mama hangs out the washing on her balcony.

Then ...  and the part of the view obscured by the washing on the right hand side, above, is revealed  from inside the house, below.

... a vintage photo ...  So where was the window view taken from?  This vintage postcard photo (pre Bay Bridge) reveals the answer ... this is the view to the east from Nob Hill's Fairmont Hotel at California and Mason.  Even the shadows cast across California Street, right of center below, are identical.  We conclude then that the house scenes were filmed on a studio set using this view as a background to imply the location.

... and Now,  more than eighty years later from the Fairmont's Tower annex the same view is unrecognizable because of the vast transformation of the Financial District.  The Bay Bridge has since 1936 reached over to Oakland via Yerba Buena Island and the Ferry Building is still there but hidden from view.  One structure visible Then and Now is the Old Cathedral of Saint Mary (arrowed).


    Old Saint Mary dates from 1854 and has functioned as a church on California at Grant since 1891 after its cathedral status was transferred to a site at Van Ness and O'Farrell (a glimpse of that was seen in this post from The Conversation).


The Conversation - Meltdown

    Back at his apartment at 700 Laguna Street (described in an earlier post) Caul turns to his saxophone to distract his churning mind.  While playing along to a Gerry Mulligan track his unlisted phone interrupts ...


    It's Stett.  By now it's clear he was part of the plot to kill the Director.  "We know that you know, Mr. Caul ...  For your own sake don't get involved any further ... we'll be listening to you."


Then ...  The bugger is now the bugged.  The very thought drives him nuts and sends him scouring his apartment for the bug.  Behind drapes, inside lamps, the phone, everywhere.

... and Now,  the window view looks west across Laguna along Birch towards distant apartments on Buchanan Street.  Viewed at street level, below, the matching top story of those apartments can be seen above a newer building (map, red marker on the apartments, blue marker at Caul's place).  The building across Laguna has since been built on the newly cleared empty lot visible above.


    Caul is rapidly losing it.  Everything in sight is ripped apart, even the floorboards.


       His meltdown leaves the apartment demolished without revealing the bug.  Perhaps it exists only in his imagination.  He seeks solace the only way he knows how and as the movie's end credits slowly pass on by to the plaintive sound of his sax it is left to us to unravel the unanswered questions.


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