Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

The House Across The Bay - Alcatraz

    Prisoners on their way to Alcatraz embarked from a small pier at Fort Mason, adjacent to Aquatic Park (map).  (Fort Mason had its own pier numbering system independent of the city's waterfront Embarcadero piers).  The sign informs us that these boats also supplied Fort McDowell on Angel Island .

 

Then ...  Larwitt is driven to the pier down a narrow boardwalk alongside the Aquatic Park municipal pier.  At far right is the newly built (in 1939) bathhouse building and behind it the Ghirardelli Square clock tower.  Coit Tower atop Telegraph Hill is there too, hiding behind the wooden post.

... and Now,  the Alcatraz Pier has survived but in poor condition and is now off-limits to the public.  CitySleuth captured this matching view from the municipal pier ... considering the passage of 70-plus years it's remarkably similar from here except for the TransAmerica Building on the horizon to the left of the extant clock tower.  Coit Tower is clearly seen and in both Then and Now images you can make out the white speaker tower behind the bleachers, one of a pair erected on either side of the bathhouse.

... and Now,  taken through the locked gate, here's a recent photo of the Alcatraz Pier.  Alcatraz Island is out of the picture to the right.

 

    In this great image Larwitt, flanked by and handcuffed to federal guards, gets his first glimpse of his future home - he won't be needing that natty attire for the next ten years.  The bathhouse and the second speaker tower are seen behind him.  (This closeup was filmed in a studio with a photo plate backdrop).

 

Then ...  What he sees is Alcatraz sitting there, imposing, intimidating, awaiting.

... and Now,  the federal prison was operational only from 1934 to 1963 and is but a part of the history of Alcatraz Island.  In the recent photo below, with the Alcatraz Pier in the foreground, a few changes can be seen, including the water tower built in the same year (1940) the movie was released.  The island today is a huge tourist destination hosting a million visitors annually. 

 

Then ...  The feds lead him down the gangway but a knowledgable observer would recognize that this isn't the same pier, in fact Fort Mason is across the water in the distance, just right of center.

... and Now,  this was filmed more than two miles away at the small coastguard pier near Crissy Field in the Presidio.  A second shed next to the smaller square one has since been added and an adjacent pier on the right is gone.

    On a trivia note here's the same location from the 1958 movie The Lineup by which time that second shed had been built (in fact it was already built by 1947 as seen, together with the adjacent pier, here in the movie Dark Passage.

    The red and white markers on the map below show the locations of the two piers relative to each other.

 

    ... but as the boat pulls away we are back at the Fort Mason Alcatraz Pier.

 

Then ...  The next shot looks back towards the bathhouse and speaker tower.

... and Now,  1939 coincided with the tail end of the Art Deco period and its Streamline Moderne influence on the speaker tower and bathhouse are clearly evident.

 

    CitySleuth couldn't resist including this cute vintage photo taken the year the bathhouse was built.  Intended primarily to broadcast sports events, the speakers went silent decades ago.

 

    Brenda has witnessed the prisoner transfer - the poignant sight of her husband's slowly receding boat heralds a significant life-changer for them both.

 

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