Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Filtering by Tag: Jackson Square

The Penalty - Murder At The Hippodrome

Then ...  The Barbary Coast is not a place for the faint of heart, nor the overly inebriated, as this unfortunate imbiber is about to find out.  He makes the mistake of accepting an offer from a shady lady, Barbary Nell, to join her for a drink.  He's so out of it that she practically has to carry him into the bar.

    Lon Chaney and director Wallace Worsley returned to the same location in 1922 to film Voices Of Spring.  Here they are on the sidewalk next to the same sign seen above.

... a vintage photo ...  This 1920s photo reveals where this was filmed - at the entrance vestibule of the Hippodrome dance hall at 560 Pacific Avenue (map).

... and Now,  the building, constructed in 1910, has since been modernized and rebuilt into offices.  But note the narrow building on the right - it still retains its original exterior.  This mix of cheek by jowl old and new typifies today's Jackson Square neighborhood.


   When the drunk passes out she helps herself to the contents of his wallet and stuffs it into her stocking...

    ... but as she sneaks out an unsavory addict known as Frisco Pete (perennial villain James Mason - the other one) demands the spoils.  She resists, a fatal mistake ... he callously thrusts a knife into her. 


 Then ...  The crowd on the dance floor, alerted by Nell's screams, take off after the fleeing killer.

... and Now,  Were these interior scenes filmed inside the Hippodrome?  In hopes of finding the answer CitySleuth is searching for but has yet to find a contemporaneous photograph that may show that stage as confirmation.  But, just in case, here's the hip interior of 560 Pacific Avenue now.


Then ...  The pursuers rush out into the street between the twin columns that flanked the Hippodrome's entrance.

... and Now,  in the same view today the yellow-capped parking meter stands where the columned entrance used to be.  During the Barbary Coast era the older building on the left at 574 Pacific - with an exterior retaining its original character - was Spider Kelly's Bar Room.


The Penalty - Years Later

Then ...  The caption moves the story to its next phase where the camera looks towards the Ferry Building on the left then, slowly panning to the right, reveals the Financial District.

... and Now,  the city today is even richer.  Both panoramas, facing east across San Francisco Bay, were taken from the Fairmont hotel on Nob Hill (map).  (The reverse view from the bay was seen earlier in the previous post).  Note the Bay Bridge below, at upper left; the movie image above, filmed early in 1920, preceded its opening by 16 years.  Old St. Mary's Church tower in the center foreground is a common denominator in both images.


    The amputee is now an adult, known only as Blizzard (Lon Chaney), with an enormous axe to grind, intent on avenging the malpractice inflicted on him as a child.  He makes his entrance, below, a little later in the movie.  To get in character Lon Chaney doubled his legs back, strapped his ankles to his thighs then attached specially designed wooden stumps.  It was painful; he had a limited time for each scene before having to take them off.  An oversized coat hid his legs and he wore padding beneath his clothes to maintain proportion.  Quite the sacrifice, making his remarkable performance even more so.


Then ...  The city panorama is followed by views of contrasting neighborhoods that illustrate the socially opposed lives of the movie's main characters.  First we see the now successful and respected Dr. Ferris being chauffeured  from an enclave of exclusive homes.

... and Now,  this is Presidio Terrace on Arguello Blvd at Washington at the edge of the Inner Richmond district (map). The gated (but it's always open) community of 36 luxury homes, most of them built between 1905 and 1920, has been home to the city's smart set ever since.

... and Now,  in this aerial view the mostly Beaux Arts, Mission Revival and Tudor Revival homes flank a circular road.  When the enclave opened, its advertised policy reflected the blatant discrimination of the time ... "There is only one spot in San Francisco where only Caucasians are permitted to buy or lease real estate or where they may reside. That place is Presidio Terrace."    Many dignitaries over the years have lived here including Senator Dianne Feinstein whose former home was 30 Presidio Terrace, the English Tudor at far left above.  Typical sales prices for these homes are in the $5 - 10 million range.


Then ...  Next, a street in a shabbier neighborhood, Blizzard's stomping ground.  The pagoda-like tower in the background suggests this is Chinatown, mostly rebuilt since its devastation by the 1906 earthquake and fire only 14 years earlier.

... and Now,  sure enough, this is Chinatown's Grant Avenue looking south from Clay (map).  The pagoda belongs to the Sing Chong Building on the corner of California Street.  The neighborhood, because of its tradition, resistance to change and absence of trees, has maintained its look and feel for over a century.  Long may that continue!  And what if the old man crossing the street above were time-transported into the scene below?  He might be forgiven if he thought the lady on the left was nursing an earache and the man on the right was reading his own palm.


Then ...  And, at the far end of the social scale, the infamous and licentious Barbary Coast where the two sailors entering the Diana Hall saloon are oblivious to the  policeman harassing a couple of prostitutes in the street.  The bar next to it is Spider Kelly's, and next to that (with the columns) the Hippodrome, a drinking and dancing establishment which will play a part as the story unfolds.

... and Now,  This is the north side of the 500 block of Pacific Avenue between Montgomery and Kearny (mapin what is today known as the Jackson Square neighborhood having traded its early 20th century pimps, prostitutes and bartenders for lawyers, interior designers and high-end office and boutique workers while still retaining its old commercial character.


Pal Joey - Pet Shop

Then ...  Joey is enjoying a bright sunny day in the international Settlement when he sees Linda, the dancer from his club, cooing at a cute terrier through a pet shop window.  (A pet shop in a red light district?  Why not? ... "Get your hooch and pooch here!"). He craftily tries to score points with her, claiming he once owned and loved a dog called Snuffy.

... and Now,  this is Pacific Avenue, with Montgomery crossing at left.  The pet shop was at 517 Pacific (map).  The pet shop frontage, above, must have been built for the movie because street directories show that this property was vacant in the years leading up to the movie.  The tubular metal pillar on the corner of Montgomery that supported the 'International Settlement' sign is still there, partially visible below behind the tree at far left.


Then ...  Later we see Joey and Linda return, approaching the shop from across Pacific.  Across the street we can just make out (click on the image for an enlarged view) some of the hot night spots - the Moulin Rouge, Bella Pacific, Hippodrome and Gay 'N Frisky.

... and Now, all the clubs are gone.


Then ...  Linda spots the dog, still for sale, as they pass the archway entrance to Jerome Alley.

... and Now,  that archway has been taken down and admittance to the alley is now blocked by an iron gate.  The current tenant at the pet shop site is Thomas E Cara, purveyor of espresso coffee machines.


  Inside the store she persuades Joey to buy the cuddly canine as a replacement for Snuffy.  He's not too happy but how can he refuse?  This interior was obviously filmed on a studio set because in the real world there was an open parking lot opposite this location, not the Hippodrome club seen here which did exist but was further down the block at 574 Pacific.

... from the 1950s ...  here's a vintage photo taken from Montgomery that shows the pet shop location (arrowed) and the archway next to it, partially obscured by the street sign.  You can just see the parking lot opposite.

... and Now,  the Thomas E Cara shop is shown arrowed but Jerome Alley is hidden behind the tree and the trimming debris.  It's interesting that the tubular pillars have survived here but those at the other (Kearny Street) end of the block have not.

... a vintage photo ...  the photo below, circa 1970, looks across the parking lot to the pet shop building (arrowed), next to Jerome Alley.  Facing us at right is the muraled gable of the Barbary Coast at 533 Pacific, the club where Joey performed, which by this time had become the Little Fox Theater.

... and Now,  a recent view of the Thomas E Cara store and Jerome Alley.

Pal Joey - International Settlement

  Where does an out-of-work, down-on-his-luck singer find a job?  Why, the infamous International Settlement, a single block chock full of clubs, bars and restaurants in the Jackson Square neighborhood of San Francisco.

Then ...  This is the place, Pacific Avenue between Kearny and Montgomery (map).  The camera looks east from Kearny Street and captures several of the red light hotspots.  On the left - Arabian Nights cocktail lounge, Gay 'N Frisky club, Hippodrome club, the Bella Pacific and Moulin Rouge.  On the right past McKale's 76 service station and the Toast of the Coast club we see the Barbary Coast sign just below the 'TT' on the entrance arch.  The director spiffed up the block to look like it was in its heyday, including clubs (Arabian Nights, Hippodrome) that used to be there but were closed by 1957 when the movie was filmed.

... and Now,  this block of mostly old brick buildings is today barely recognizable and not only because of the overgrown trees.  Many of the buildings have been replaced for seismic safety reasons and the illicit whiff of licentious providers and revelers has dissipated as architects, lawyers and interior designers have taken their place.  Look how the sunny side south-facing trees have outstripped their cross-street neighbors.

... from the early 1950s ...  This photo from the same spot was taken a few years before Pal Joey was filmed and shows many of the clubs in the movie.  An exception is the Bella Pacific whose site is occupied here by Lucca restaurant.  We see a better view of McKale's corner gas station and of the leggy Barbary Coast sign up there down the right side.  Note too the matching entrance arch at the far (Montgomery Street) end of the block.


Then ...  Joey first tries the Bella Pacific club at 560 Pacific, but the owner turns him away, saying ...  "I'm running a girl show ... legs, not tonsils".

... and Now,  the club site today, offices at 560 and 564 Pacific, has been significantly remodeled in the original building but past it the next door building, with the set-back entrance and fire escape balconies, has retained the original exterior.


Then ...  He next tries a club with a middle eastern theme but it has run afoul of the law and has been closed down.  This is the Arabian Nights, partially seen at far left in the first 'Then' image at the top of this post.

... from the 1950s ...  this mid '50s photo shows the same club, at 592 Pacific on the corner of Kearny.  The Gay 'N Frisky club is next to it at 590 Pacific.

... and Now,  the same corner building today, now re-addressed as 596 Pacific.


Then ...  Finally, he lucks out at the Barbary Coast club at 533 Pacific, hard to miss thanks to its neon sexy-legs sign.  The  bar next door at 539 Pacific, here called the Toast Of The Coast, was actually vacant when the movie was filmed.  It was previously the House Of Blue Lights.

... from the early 1950s ...  a photo of this part of the block shows the Barbary Coast and the clubs on either side of it, including the House of Blue Lights.  The archway at far left beckoned folks down Jerome Alley to the La Conga cocktail bar.

... and Now,  the muraled gable of the Barbary Coast building has been replaced by an extra floor and there's now an iron gate where the archway at Jerome Alley used to be.


  In the Barbary Coast Joey takes the stage and seems taken with one of the chorus girls, Linda English (Kim Novak).  He then entertains us with the first song of the movie ... "I Didn't Know What Time It Was".  Sinatra was at his singing prime back then and delivers superb performances accompanied by terrific Nelson Riddle arrangements.

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