Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

I Remember Mama - Uncle Chris Comes To Town

   Uncle Chris, The de facto head of the family,  drives down from his ranch a couple of times a year to visit Mama and family.

Then ...  A closeup of the Ferry Building clock tower announces his arrival in the city.

... and Now,  a sense of survival prompted CitySleuth not to stand in the identical spot to duplicate this shot;  the docking slip from whence it was filmed has been demolished.  From the nearest dry spot behind the Ferry Building this is close enough (map).  Note that in the movie there's some sort of temporary cover shrouding the topmost cupola.


Then ...  The camera makes a rapid pan from the tower to the incoming ferry where we see Uncle Chris's car at the head of the line.  But note the dreadful lack of historical accuracy - no effort has been made to hide the Bay Bridge, completed in 1936, even though the story is set in 1910. Another accuracy faux pas - the ferryboat is the Sierra Nevada; it was originally designed to ferry horses and buggies across the bay but wasn’t launched until 1913.

... and Now,  the docking slip above has been demolished since the bridge opened.  In this recent photo the ferry Mendocino is berthed at the adjacent Golden Gate Ferry Terminal.


Then ...  Uncle Chris and his traveling companion roll off the ferry in his horseless carriage ahead of the horse-drawn cart, already a dying breed.

... a vintage photo ...  here's the Sierra Nevada at the Ports Of Call Village in San Pedro where it spent its final years as a tourist attraction before succumbing to its worst fear, sinking in a 1978 storm.


Then ...  The Embarcadero bustles with activity as Uncle Chris drives past the Ferry Building and through the throng .  This time history is respected - either the Bay Bridge has been painted out in the center background, replaced by ships' masts, or a pre-bridge skyline was used.

... and Now,  the bridge's roadway span can clearly be seen in the background from here.  The building with the gabled red roof structure sitting atop it is the Embarcadero YMCA.  It's visible in the movie view above but the gabled part is missing. 


Then ...  But in the next shot where Uncle Chris spooks a passing horse we do see the gabled structure on the Y. This time the moviemakers used a contemporaneous 1940s skyline but, in deference to the story, painted out the bridge. 

... in 1945 ... and in case you were wondering what the unretouched skyline looked like when the movie was filmed, here it is - bridge, YMCA, and all - brought closer by telephoto lens in a scene from the 1945 movie The Falcon In San Francisco.


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