Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Petulia - Viola Lee Blues Montage

    Director Lester simply had to include music from San Francisco's psychedelia phase somewhere in this movie.  He does it by having Archie visit a club where the Grateful Dead are playing.  As the group sings Viola Lee Blues a montage of short video clips is shown.  You might first want to watch the movie sequence here before reviewing the locations below, or you could go here and listen to an extended audio version of the song as you read on.

Then ...  In the club the band belts out the song ... clockwise from top left are Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, 'Pigpen' Ron McKernan and Bob Weir.  Behind Pigpen, Mickey Hart was on drums. 

    Where was this club?  Via a mutual friend CitySleuth recently asked Mickey Hart where the scene was filmed.  His telling response... "No one remembers"!  In an earlier scene the girl in the green dress standing next to Bob Weir is Rosie McGee.  She told CitySleuth that she was present at the shoot but to her recollection it was a much smaller place than the Fillmore, a favorite venue of the Dead at that time.  Reader Eric commented (below) that a 1967 Grateful Dead Fan Club newsletter reported that the band was shooting a scene for the movie 'Petulia' "live in a warehouse here in the city".  It was left to ReelSF readers Tom Ditto and Paul Hawken to finally reveal the location (see their comments at the bottom of this post) ... the scene was filmed at the closed-down Reno Hotel, at 252 6th Street in the SoMa district (map).  The hotel burned down in the 1980s but here's a 1938 aerial showing where it was.

... and Now,  the same aerial view today - the Gene Friend Recreation Center has been built on the site.

    By the 1960s the Reno Hotel had closed down.  It's 6th Street frontage was boarded up and the building was being used by a group of artists who entered at the rear at 69 Harriet Street,  referring to their space as The Warehouse or The Pie Factory.  The Petulia nightclub scene was filmed in 1967 in the basement space occupied by the Calliope Company, a music/light show production company.  Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters also hung out here around that time- this 1966 photo of their bus gives us a glimpse of 69 Harriet on the right.  

... and Now,  the line of palm trees at the rear of the Recreation Center delineates where the Reno Hotel used to be.


Then ...  We next see Archie with his friend May enjoying a cigarette and glass of wine on the balcony of, presumably, her house.

... and Now,  this fine Italianate Victorian is the historic Talbot-Dutton House at 1782 Pacific on the corner of Franklin (map), built circa 1869 by William Talbot, a lumber tycoon, as a wedding gift for his daughter Mary.  The house survived when the 1906 fire that ravaged the city stopped just one block away.  It still looks exactly as it did in the movie in 1968.


Then ...  During the montage several distant views of the city are shown, including this one ...

... and Now,  this was filmed from Conzelman Road in the Marin Headlands (map) looking south to the city skyline through the suspenders of the Golden Gate Bridge.  The yellow border in the recent photo outlines the movie view above.


Then ...  There's also a dreamlike crepescular image of Coit Tower and Telegraph Hill with one of the Bay Bridge towers visible at left.

... and Now,  snapped from a higher elevation in the Marin Headlands, here's almost the identical view.


Then ...  Next, Archie and his boys spend time at a park.

... and Now,  this scene was filmed at the Muir Woods National Monument redwoods park a few miles north of San Francisco in Marin County (map) .  Here's a recent photo of what could be the same redwood round display.


    Director Lester adds a trademark touch of whimsy when he shows Archie and his doctor friend Barney supervising bodypainting of a patient.   Hippie - i - ay!


Then ...  Archie and May are shown in a restaurant - in the twilight behind them the view looks east across the bay towards the Bay Bridge and Yerba Buena Island.

... and Now,  this is the view from the Julius Castle restaurant at the end of the Montgomery Street cul-de-sac on Telegraph Hill (map).  The restaurant has closed after 84 years of operation but the building survives and below is the same view taken from there.

... and Now,  Julius Castle today, an icon in search of a new owner.  Incidentally, this restaurant was featured as 'the house' in the 1951 movie The House On Telegraph Hill.


Then ...  And finally Archie and Petulia spot each other as their cable cars cross paths at a street junction.

Then ...  The next shot reveals the junction - Archie's red-roofed cable car is heading to the left down California Street and Petulia's to the right down Powell Street (map).  Note the cone-roofed cable car signal booth on the corner and behind it the Alta Casa Apartments which were featured in the 1950 movie Woman On The Run.

... and Now,  the signal booth, used for controlling the crossing of the two cable car lines, is still there but an empty lot is all that is left of the Alta Casa Apartments.

    Unrelated trivia ... back in 1935 the signal booth ended up in front of the Alta Casa Apartments entrance after an altercation with a passing motor car.


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