Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Pal Joey - Vera Simpson's Mansion - 1

  The Barbary Coast bandleader tells Joey and Linda that they have landed a gig "at a society party on Nob Hill" at the mansion owned by Vera Prentice-Simpson (Rita Hayworth), a wealthy socialite widow.  (But as we are about to find out, it wasn't on Nob Hill ...)

Then ...  The guests roll up to the mansion by way of a large circular driveway with a grassy knoll in the middle.  In the distance off to the right are a cluster of buildings on top of a hill.

... and Now,  but this mansion doesn't exist and never has.  For the bottom half of the scene above the parking activity was filmed at the Coit Tower parking lot on Telegraph Hill then a sneaky matte painting of the mansion was added in the upper half.  The matching recent photo below of Coit Tower shows a statue of Christopher Columbus on the knoll (why? ... he never set foot in North America), erected in 1957 not long after the movie was filmed.

... an aerial view ...  this vintage aerial of Pioneer Park shows Coit Tower and the parking lot before the statue was installed.  As we will see later in the movie there's a scene on Mrs Simpson's patio that was filmed on the lawn to the right of the tower.  So the Coit Tower site itself (map) was the virtual location of Vera Simpson's mansion.


   What about those buildings off to the right in the first 'Then' image above?  Although they too were part of the painting, they were images of real buildings atop Russian Hill.  They can indeed be seen from Telegraph Hill - here they are below in a 1952 photo taken from the top of Coit Tower. The building on the left of the group is the prestigious 945 Green Street Apartments.

... and Now,  the same buildings viewed through a gap in the trees from the parking lot today.  Newer buildings intrude but the original three (arrowed) are still there.


  The society party is a fundraiser and after Joey sings a wonderfully relaxed 'There's A Small Hotel' he persuades Vera to reprise, for a generous donation, an act she used to do in her former life as a striptease performer.  In the number, titled 'Zip', Rita Hayworth spoke the lead-in lines but her singing voice was dubbed by Jo Ann Greer.

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