Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Dark Passage - Madge's Apartment

  It's fascinating to see how the director filmed Madge's apartment house.  CitySleuth deduced that two different buildings on Russian Hill, several blocks apart, were used then seamlessly edited to appear as one.  Studio and location footage were intermixed and one of the scenes incorporated two concurrently running background projections.

  Based on a comment from Baker during their confrontation on the bluff, Parry suspects his jealous ex-girlfriend Madge Rapf (Agnes Morehead), who had testified against him in his wife's murder trial, was his friend George's killer.  He confronts her in her apartment where she flies into a rage, admitting she was the one who killed his wife for taking Parry away from her.  So Parry was innocent after all.


Then ...  In her confused state she stumbles against the drape and falls to her death out of the apartment window.  As the stunned Parry looks down we see the view from the window.  This was filmed from the penthouse suite of 1090 Chestnut Street, a 1927 co-op building on the corner of Chestnut and Larkin (map), and used as a backdrop during this studio scene.  The view is to the north - in the distance are Alcatraz and Angel Island and to Parry's right are the Cannery and Pier 45 at Fisherman's Wharf.

... and Now,  CitySleuth was able to gain entry (with permission!) to bring you the identical view from the same penthouse.


Then ...   Madge's fallwas filmed from the roof of 1090 Chestnut.  Directorial artistic license prevails because the window she falls through (above) faces Bay Street to the north but here we see her falling down the west side of the building to Larkin Street.

... and Now,  here's the view today from the same rooftop vantage point.

  The juxtaposition below matches up the falling body to the west side of 1090 Chestnut.  The screaming witness bottom left was leaning out of the lobby window.

         Then ...                                                                  ... and Now


Then ...   Parry, fearful he will be accused of Madge's death, bolts to the roof, oblivious of the glorious east-facing view to Coit Tower atop Telegraph Hill.  For this shot the camera was elevated to reveal more of the Telegraph Hill background.

... and Now,  the view today, regrettably, is obscured by 1080 Chestnut which in 1962 was built directly against the side of its neighbor.  No matter, it seems, that the architectural styles of the two buildings are as different as chalk and cheese.


Then ...  The next shot of Parry climbing down the fire escape was filmed in the studio with a projected background to simulate the location.  The view looks north from the same roof down to Bay Street.  But check out the scene through the escape ladder opening - close inspection reveals that this street and these houses are the same ones as those above them on Bay Street.  In the movie the cars on these streets passed by out of sync so as not to draw attention to the duplication.  To achieve this, two concurrently-running projected images from the same footage were used for the background, a lot of work for just seconds of action but brilliantly executed.

... and Now,  the same view of Bay Street.   Hyde Street crosses on the right.  Most of these houses are just as they were.


    Readers may be interested in the following piece of historical trivia.  An 1851 Swiss chalet-styled home built by respected civil engineer J. P. Manrow, was originally on the corner now occupied by the 1090 and 1080 Chestnut apartments.  Known locally as 'The House Of Demons', it was, according to many first-hand accounts, haunted by several spirits ranging from the benign to the violent.  Madge, now in their midst, should feel at home.


Then ...   He continues down the fire escape, but this is a different building, the Tamalpais Building at 1201 Greenwich Street, a few blocks away on the corner of Hyde! (map)

... and Now,  The same building, viewed from Hyde Street. 


Then ...   In a stroke of good fortune the next shot shows both of the buildings used to represent Madge's apartment.  Filmed from across Hyde Street, Parry is climbing down 1201 Greenwich on the left and on the right is 1090 Chestnut.  (The buildings are arrowed in red and blue on this map).  Note too the open reservoir next to 1201 Greenwich, and Sausalito and Mount Tamalpais are clearly visible across the bay.

... and Now,  the incongruity of the newer building dwarfing the classy 1090 Chestnut is plain to see from here.  How on earth was that approved?  The Alice Marble tennis courts at George Sterling Park have been built on top of the reservoir which is still there and in use, but safely hidden.


Then ...    Finally, Parry jumps down to Hyde Street.  He pauses in the middle of the road before completing his escape on a passing cable car.  In this great shot the quintessential San Francisco view behind him leads the eye east down Greenwich through North Beach then up again to Telegraph Hill.

... and Now

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