Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

The Lady From Shanghai - Crazy House

  The movie's final scenes were filmed at San Francisco's beloved amusement park Playland At The Beach, located along the Great Highway just south of Sutro Heights (map).  The first ride at the site appeared as early as the 1880s and by the 1920s Playland was fully established with multiple rides and hundreds of concessions, drawing huge crowds daily from noon to midnight.

... In the 1940s ...  In this vintage aerial photo Playland is seen spread over most of four blocks.  At the top (north end) is the wildly popular double-ramped Shoot The Chutes attraction and at the south end the Big Dipper roller coaster.  Next to it, fronting the Great Highway and the Pacific off to the left, is the circular Merry-Go-Round carousel.  The northwest corner of Golden Gate Park, including one of its two windmills, is visible at the bottom.

and Now ...  the amusement park, sadly, is gone, demolished in 1972 to make room for condominium complexes.  In this recent Google Earth satellite view a number of the adjacent houses can still be recognized, as can the windmill in Golden Gate Park.  The large white-roofed building is the Safeway supermarket at 850 La Playa.


  The color and buzz of the amusement park was nicely captured in this Noal Betts watercolor.


Then ...  The hapless, comatose O'Hara is carried by Elsa's servant into the Crazy House at the amusement park.

... in 1972 ...  the scene above was filmed in the studio using a painted backdrop but the Crazy House was based on the Fun House at Playland.  Below is a photo of the Fun House taken in 1972 shortly before the park was razed - its similarity to the painted representation above is readily apparent and the actual Fun House exterior will appear in the movie's final shot.

... In the 1940s ...  here's a closeup from the aerial photo above showing exactly where the Fun House used to be.  This is now the site of the Burnham Building, 825 La Playa Street, part of the Ocean Beach Condominiums.


  O'Hara comes to inside the Crazy House.  For these scenes Orson Welles built an elaborate set at Columbia Studios with a 125 foot long winding slide and fantastical props painted by Welles himself.

  As he stumbles from one bizarre sight to the next he voice-overs his realization of the murder plan -  Elsa had planned to have Grisby kill Bannister and split his money.  But she also meant to double-cross Grisby later and kill him, an act accelerated by Grisby going off half-cocked by killing Broome, not part of the plan.  She shot him to make sure the cops didn't get to him first which could have implicated her.  "And I was the fall guy" O'Hara said, as he plunged down the slide.

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