Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

The Penalty - Barbara's Studio

    Dr. Ferris's daughter Barbara is an artist, seen here working on a sculpture in her studio.  The nude model raised few eyebrows in 1920, more than a decade before the industry's Production Code censors would react otherwise, especially (gasp!) when she steps off the dais and walks offscreen.


Then ...  The interior above was a movie set but the exterior was real, seen below as Ferris drops off his assistant Wilmot Allen, who has taken a fancy to Barbara, in front of her studio.

... and Now,  it was referred to as 32 Institute Place in the movie; the actual address then was 32 Middle Street, now named Orben Place (map), a narrow street running between California and Pine in the Western Addition's Japantown.  


Then ...  Judging by the sign, the house was available for rent when the filming took place (the British term 'To Let' was still in use back then).  Dr. Ferris's fine limousine is a symbol of his elevated social status.

... and Now,  Despite changes the entrance of 32 Orben Place has managed to retain a somewhat similar appearance.

   Tangential trivia 1 ... In the 'To Let' sign in the Then image above, the renting company was Madison and Burke at 80 Post Street.  This was a real company, listed in San Francisco's 1920 city directory.

   Tangential trivia 2 ... this restored example of the same limousine model as Dr. Ferris's, a 1917 Packard Twin Six 2-35 All-Weather Landaulet, sold at the 2011 Pebble Beach auction for $192,500.  Compare it to the Then image above - it's identical.  It was powered by a V-12 424 cubic inch engine producing nearly 90 horsepower.  Remember, this was 1917; it hadn't taken the auto industry's engineers long to get into their stride.


Then ...  When the limousine pulls away from the studio we see the other half of Middle Street (seeing the cable car heading down California Street helped CitySleuth track down this location).  Another prominent Madison and Burke sign on the right makes CitySleuth wonder if this was an early example of subliminal advertising in a movie?

... and Now,  the same view down Orben Place today.  It's hard to see from here, but the partially obscured house facing us beyond the stop sign is an example of one that has changed very little over the past century.  On the other hand, cable cars no longer traverse California Street west of Van Ness Avenue.


    In the studio, Wilmot (Kenneth Harlanurges Barbara (Claire Adams), portrayed here at her winsome best, to give up her bohemian ways.  She tells him she will but only after she takes on one last challenge: "...I'm going to do 'Satan - After the fall'... if I fail, I'll marry you".  But if she succeeds? ... it's left unsaid but in the male-centric 1920s this is one lady who won't be pushed around.

   She posts an ad; Blizzard sees it and realizes this is his chance to use her in his revenge plot against Ferris.  He applies, making sure his henchmen scare away the other applicants.

Then ...  When he arrives at the studio Orben Place reminds us that this was the overlap period between horse and horseless transportation.  Despite Barbara's trepidation over his appearance, or perhaps because of it, or even that he was the only applicant, he gets the job.

... and Now,  many but not all of the houses in this neighborhood  have modernized exteriors today.


    Who better to pose as Satan than Lon Chaney?  But as fierce as he is while posing he turns on the smiles in the breaks between, gradually charming his way into her good graces.


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