Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Filtering by Tag: Alcatraz

The House Across The Bay - White Knuckles

    Tim persuades Brenda to go up with him for her first ever flight.  Below, they are above Treasure Island (map), newly built on silt dredged from the Bay in 1936 to host the Golden Gate International Exposition, a World's Fair celebrating, in part, the opening of the Bay Area's two great bridges.  The movie was filmed during the fair (1939 -1940) and the island is packed with Exposition buildings.  The elevated approach from Oakland to the eastern section of the Bay Bridge is visible at far right.

 Then ... Brenda is tense and white-knuckled as her relaxed guide points out the Tower of the Sun, the Exposition's 400 foot tall centerpiece.

 ... in 1939 ...   this contemporaneous image gives us a closer look at the Tower Of The Sun.   The theme of the Exposition was 'Pageant Of The Pacific' highlighting the culture and architecture of the countries surrounding the Pacific Ocean.  As an example the colossal Elephant Towers flanking the approach to the Tower Of The Sun incorporated both Oriental and Mayan elements.  Check out the informative newsreel footage here and chuckle at the stridently hyperbolic commentary so popular at that time.

    This wider view shows the full expanse of the Exposition and the entire eastern section of the Bay Bridge can be seen, connecting to Yerba Buena Island on the right.

... and Now,  the same aerial view today courtesy of Google Earth.  The original cantilever bridge is partially dismantled after been replaced in September 2013 by a new causeway and single tower suspension bridge.


 Then ...  The sightseeing flight continues across the Bay to San Francisco.  In this shot the clock tower of the Ferry Building is dead center on the Embarcadero - beyond it is the western section of the Bay Bridge.

... and Now,  the bridge and Ferry Building remain the same but over 60 years of rampant development has transformed the Financial District.


 Then ...  They swing back across the Bay and Brenda is brought down to earth, so to speak, at the sight of Alcatraz below them.  She is yet to reveal her past to Tim who doesn't know she has a husband nor that he is incarcerated on The Rock. 

... and Now,  the prison block itself is unchanged (other than closing down in 1963) but a close comparison of the Then and Now images does reveal some additions and subtractions on the island.


The House Across The Bay - Rock Widows

    The Rock Widows, "Jennies with a Johnny on the Rock", take a ferry over to Alcatraz (mapto visit their man.  Brenda joins them for the first of what she assumes will be many visits.  She and Steve share small-talk and it's clear he misses her very much.


Then ...  After departing from the slip alongside the large building on the right the ferry sails around the southeastern tip of the island on its return trip.

... and Now,  the most striking difference in today's view is the missing and damaged staff buildings alongside the lighthouse - they were destroyed by fire during the 1969 -1971 occupation of Alcatraz by a group of tribal Indians.  The large building seen at far right above is still there, behind the trees.

... a vintage image ... This photo, taken the year after the prison closed during a brief Indian protest in 1964, gives us a clearer look at those ill-fated buildings.  The Indians were staking their historic claim to the ownership of the island.

   ... and here the buildings go up in smoke in 1970.


Then ...  The rock widows look back to the side of the island that faces San Francisco.  It's sobering to think that when this was filmed the prison was jammed with high-risk maximum security inmates.

... and Now,  the same view today, but the dreaded penitentiary is now a tourist attraction.  The water tower is not in the image above; it was built in 1940 shortly after the movie was released.


Then ...  One of the women, Mary (Gladys George), notices Brenda standing alone and walks over to talk to her.  A cigarette breaks the ice and pretty soon they become fast friends.  Behind them Russian Hill rises above Fort Mason.

... and Now,  Development on Russian Hill has changed its skyline; also downtown on the left where high-rise office buildings are pulled in close by the telephoto lens.  Nearer shore, Ghirardelli Square sits just above the Art Deco Bathhouse and the adjacent Fire Department pump house at Aquatic Park.  Fort Mason's Pier 2 and 3 are on the right and Pier 4, the Alcatraz Pier, is on the left in front of the pump house - it's marked by the red-roofed building at its end (click the image to enlarge).


Petulia - Day Trippers

  Archie takes his boys out for a day trip, starting with a ferry ride to Alcatraz.

Then ...  They are at the ferry terminal at Pier 43 1/2 near Fisherman's Wharf where Archie's two sons pester him while he makes a quick call to Petulia.

... and Now,  the ferry to Alcatraz still leaves from here.  CitySleuth even arranged for what could be the same ferry boat to be there when he took this photo!  (Just kidding, pure happenstance).


Then ...  They approach Alcatraz Island, below.  The bleakness of 'The Rock' as it was known gives visitors the shudders as they approach.  It was a military prison site from 1861 when it housed Civil War prisoners, was extended in 1909 with the addition of the main cell block then operated as a federal penitentiary from 1934 to 1963.  Notorious inmates during that period were Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly and Robert Stroud, the Birdman of Alcatraz.

... and Now,  looking just the same today.  Since 1963 it has been a museum and well worth visiting, as Archie did.


Then ...  They return to shore and head over to Fort Point, a historic military fort which has stood prominently at the edge of the San Francisco Bay since 1861 (map).  Inside the fort the Golden Gate Bridge looms over the fort's venerable lighthouse, in bad shape after being unused since the Golden Gate Bridge was built.

... and Now,  the lighthouse tower is in better condition now after major refurbishments.


Then ...  Archie and the boys run amok in the fort, having a great old time, allowing director Richard Lester to revisit his madcap moments seen earlier in the Beatles' Help!

... and Now, these visitors have no idea George C. Scott ran by them 45 years ago!


Then ...  The kids rush through the officers' quarters on the 2nd tier.

... and Now, this location is a popular photo-snapping destination for today's visitors.


Then ...  Dad looks like he's worn out.

... and Now, the fort offers a photo op everywhere you look.

12b fort point 4 now.jpg

  Here's a panoramic perspective of the old fort today at the end of Marine Drive in the Presidio with the lighthouse visible above the roof line.  The bridge's steel arch was a late addition to the design, added to allow the fort to avoid the wrecking ball, a commendable decision.

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