Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Pal Joey - International Settlement

  Where does an out-of-work, down-on-his-luck singer find a job?  Why, the infamous International Settlement, a single block chock full of clubs, bars and restaurants in the Jackson Square neighborhood of San Francisco.

Then ...  This is the place, Pacific Avenue between Kearny and Montgomery (map).  The camera looks east from Kearny Street and captures several of the red light hotspots.  On the left - Arabian Nights cocktail lounge, Gay 'N Frisky club, Hippodrome club, the Bella Pacific and Moulin Rouge.  On the right past McKale's 76 service station and the Toast of the Coast club we see the Barbary Coast sign just below the 'TT' on the entrance arch.  The director spiffed up the block to look like it was in its heyday, including clubs (Arabian Nights, Hippodrome) that used to be there but were closed by 1957 when the movie was filmed.

... and Now,  this block of mostly old brick buildings is today barely recognizable and not only because of the overgrown trees.  Many of the buildings have been replaced for seismic safety reasons and the illicit whiff of licentious providers and revelers has dissipated as architects, lawyers and interior designers have taken their place.  Look how the sunny side south-facing trees have outstripped their cross-street neighbors.

... from the early 1950s ...  This photo from the same spot was taken a few years before Pal Joey was filmed and shows many of the clubs in the movie.  An exception is the Bella Pacific whose site is occupied here by Lucca restaurant.  We see a better view of McKale's corner gas station and of the leggy Barbary Coast sign up there down the right side.  Note too the matching entrance arch at the far (Montgomery Street) end of the block.


Then ...  Joey first tries the Bella Pacific club at 560 Pacific, but the owner turns him away, saying ...  "I'm running a girl show ... legs, not tonsils".

... and Now,  the club site today, offices at 560 and 564 Pacific, has been significantly remodeled in the original building but past it the next door building, with the set-back entrance and fire escape balconies, has retained the original exterior.


Then ...  He next tries a club with a middle eastern theme but it has run afoul of the law and has been closed down.  This is the Arabian Nights, partially seen at far left in the first 'Then' image at the top of this post.

... from the 1950s ...  this mid '50s photo shows the same club, at 592 Pacific on the corner of Kearny.  The Gay 'N Frisky club is next to it at 590 Pacific.

... and Now,  the same corner building today, now re-addressed as 596 Pacific.


Then ...  Finally, he lucks out at the Barbary Coast club at 533 Pacific, hard to miss thanks to its neon sexy-legs sign.  The  bar next door at 539 Pacific, here called the Toast Of The Coast, was actually vacant when the movie was filmed.  It was previously the House Of Blue Lights.

... from the early 1950s ...  a photo of this part of the block shows the Barbary Coast and the clubs on either side of it, including the House of Blue Lights.  The archway at far left beckoned folks down Jerome Alley to the La Conga cocktail bar.

... and Now,  the muraled gable of the Barbary Coast building has been replaced by an extra floor and there's now an iron gate where the archway at Jerome Alley used to be.


  In the Barbary Coast Joey takes the stage and seems taken with one of the chorus girls, Linda English (Kim Novak).  He then entertains us with the first song of the movie ... "I Didn't Know What Time It Was".  Sinatra was at his singing prime back then and delivers superb performances accompanied by terrific Nelson Riddle arrangements.

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