Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Filtering by Tag: Manhattan

The House Across The Bay - A Harsh Sentence

   Steve Larwitt (George Raft), known in the press as the King of Broadway, has clawed his way up from humble East Side New York origins to become the wealthy owner of nightclubs, gambling dens and more.  He has just married Brenda Bentley (Joan Bennett), one of his chorus girls; everything looks rosy until a fellow racketeer tries to bump him off.  It's a near miss and Brenda is convinced they will try again.


    She has a plan - she knows the IRS are investigating her husband's personal finances and she also knows he's been short-changing them.  She quizzes their crooked lawyer Slant Kolma (Lloyd Nolan) to find out what sort of sentence he might get if caught.  When he tells her "Some dough and one year in prison ... max",  she figures the trade-off is worth it to keep him safely out of harm's way.  So she quietly mails some incriminating evidence ...


   The New York footage was primarily interior scenes filmed at a Southern California studio but two exterior shots were used to set the location ...

Then ...  Larwitt's stomping ground was seen in this night-time view looking south down Broadway towards Times Square from W. 49th St (map).  The swanky Yoeng's Chinese-American dining and dancing place (formerly Churchill's) is at far right at 1609 Broadway and two blocks down, on the corner of W. 47th St. at 1579 Broadway, is the Strand Theatre.  Partially visible at upper left of center is the vertical Loew's State Theatre sign at 1540 Broadway.

... and Now,  it's no surprise that three quarters of a century later such an entertainment mecca would bear little resemblance to its former self.  Yoeng's, the Strand and Loew's State Theatres are long gone.


Then ...  Larwitt takes Brenda and Slant for a day out at the races.  While he's watching the action from the grandstand two G-men show up from the FBI to pull him in on tax evasion charges.

... and Now,  obviously the director just used some handy stock footage because this is the Santa Anita race track in Arcadia, California, the nation's first horse-racing track (it opened on Christmas Day, 1934).  In this recent photo taken at a summer concert the left end of the grandstand is the same section as in the Then image above.  The grandstand has over the years been significantly upgraded and extended to almost 300 yards in length.

... from a vintage postcard ...  this postcard image shows the grandstand as it was back in 1940 when the movie was released. A pedestrian footbridge (also visible in the Then image above) can just be seen linking the grandstand to the adjacent Clubhouse on the left.


   At the trial he is sentenced to ten years at Alcatraz and Brenda is furious when she realizes Slant had deliberately bungled the defense because he was in love with her and wanted Larwitt out of the way.


Sudden Fear - Train Ride West

  After Myra's play has become a huge hit she decides she needs a rest and catches a train to her hometown San Francisco.

Then ...  She is seen off at New York's Grand Central Terminal at tracks 24/25.

... and Now,  this wonderful Midtown Beaux Arts building at 42nd Street and Park Avenue (map) still operates as a rail terminal.  It has hardly changed over the years, attracting tourists as well as travelers.  Here are those same doorways in a recent photo.


  On the train who should show up but Lester Blaine (Jack Palance) who Myra had fired for not being romantic-looking enough for her new play.  For the duration of the cross-country journey Lester turns on the charm, seeming to harbor no grudge whatsoever.


Then ...  They board the luxury California Zephyr at Chicago and share a quiet moment in one of the Zephyr's Vistadome viewing cars.  In a great irony Myra finds herself falling for him.

  But hang on ... reader CDL has informed CitySleuth that the Vistadome car seen above with square, angled windows was never used on the California Zephyr; its domes were styled with rounded windows (see below left).  Next to it is the same style dome railcar as used in the movie, pictured at San Diego's ATSF Depot.  Apparently the movie train scenes were filmed in Southern California using an available railcar.

... and Now,  the Zephyr was inaugurated in 1949 but suffered severe passenger fall-off in the 1960s from airline and bus competition and was retired from service in 1970.  The only way to enjoy it these days is to take one of the occasional nostalgia rides as did the folks below on last year's annual Feather River Express in a car matching the one used in the movie.


Then ...  Speaking of the Feather River, Myra and Lester's train is seen below snaking its way through the Feather River canyon in Plumas County, Northern California, a route chosen to take advantage of a low pass through the Sierra mountains.  Note the five (including the rear car) Vistadomes gleaming from the reflected light.  Today only freight trains ply their way along this route.

... and Now,  here's a recent photo of the scenic Feather River canyon looking in the opposite direction in late summer when the river flow was down to a trickle.


As acknowledgement of the importance of the canyon passage to the California Zephyr experience the Western Pacific engines incorporated a feather into their front logo.


Then ...  Their train, pulled by Western Pacific engine number 805-D, arrives at its western terminal at the Oakland Pier, aka Oakland Mole.  From here Myra and other ongoing passengers would walk to a waiting ferry to complete the journey to San Francisco.

... in 1931 ...  here's an early aerial photo of the Oakland Pier terminal with three ferries awaiting passengers.  It's not there any more having been demolished in the 1960s to make way for the Port of Oakland's container ship facilities.

... and Now,  where was the Oakland Pier?  To answer that, the aerial above has been superimposed onto the current map below at its original location- it was at the west end of 7th Street, not far south of the Bay Bridge.


  To see the California Zephyr in full color check out this 1950s or 60s photo of a train pulled by Western Pacific engine number 805-A leaving the Oakland Pier.

... and Now, containers and cranes block today's view from 7th Street.  The cantilever section of the Bay Bridge's eastern span can be seen in the distance in this photo taken just before it was pulled down, replaced by a new single tower suspension design.


Then ...  Myra is met by friends at Oakland and can't wait to introduce Lester to them, insisting they all go dining and dancing together that evening.  Note the 'To San Francisco' sign behind them with an arrow pointing to the right and the words 'Waiting Room' and 'Up Ramp' ...

... in 1957 ...  Five years after Sudden Fear was filmed Frank Sinatra arrived at the Oakland Pier by train in the movie Pal Joey.  In the panoramic image below from that movie we see the same sign; at far right is the referenced ramp.

Sudden Fear - Not Good Enough

  The movie starts with a rooftop panning shot of New York City.

Then ...  the pan begins at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at 301 Park Avenue (at upper right), takes in the Commerce Building at 708 3rd Avenue then scans down to the Chrysler building at 405 Lexington Avenue at 42nd Street (click image to enlarge).

... in 1939 ...  this vintage aerial photo of a DC-4 airplane over Manhattan just happens to reveal whence the panorama was filmed.  The camera was set up at the top of the 37-story Daily News Building at 220 E. 42nd Street near 2nd Avenue and panned from right to left between the arrows.

... and Now,  here's a recent photo of the same panorama through adjacent windows on the 26th floor of the Daily News Building.  Although taken 11 stories below the movie's vantage point, the twin bronze-clad cupolas of the Waldorf-Astoria can be seen above the skyline on the right with the Commerce Building just to its left and the Chrysler Building at far left (click image to enlarge).


  Those three buildings and the Daily News Building are still to be found at their original locations, proud ambassadors of the Art Deco era that spawned them.  Here they are today - from left to right the Chrysler Building, the Commerce Building, the Waldorf-Astoria and the Daily News Building.


  Cut to a street corner where the signs declare in two different ways that we are in the Theatre District at Times Square.


Then ...  just steps away, the camera closes in on the marquee of the Bijou theatre advertising a new play by Myra Hudson, a successful playwright and wealthy heiress from San Francisco.  Opposite and a little further down is another theatre, the Booth, where Jack Palance had his first stage role, a one-liner, in the comedy ‘The Big Two’.

... and Now,  the Bijou, at 209 W. 45th Street in Manhattan's Theatre District, had been there since 1917.  In 1951 it became a CBS studio and then a D. W. Griffith Theatre before reverting back to the Bijou in 1965 but was finally demolished to make way for the Marriott Marquis Hotel - the Bijou site is now covered by the hotel's garage.  In this west-facing view down 45th Street the hotel is to the right.  Across the street the Booth Theatre is still in business today (map) - note the billboard frame on its roof, still there 60 years on.


  During reheasals in the Bijou Myra (Joan Crawford) watches Lester Blaine (Jack Palance), the actor hired to play the romantic lead, and decides he is not suitable for the role, summarily firing him.  (Who can blame her - Palance's menacing visage usually brought him bad-guy roles).  Lester is not happy to get the news and lets her have it before storming out.

The Lady From Shanghai - A Fateful Meeting

  A horse-drawn carriage is next shown entering Central Park.... but, these scenes weren't filmed in Central Park at all.  The location was re-created on the Columbia Pictures' Columbia Ranch backlot in Burbank, Southern California.

Then ...  None of Central Park's entrances match up exactly with the view below - instead, these street blocks appear to be loosely based on Central Park South as viewed from the Merchant's Gate entrance near Columbus Circle with the 5th Avenue junction at far left.

... and Now,  the real Central Park South (part of W. 59th Street) looking east towards 5th Avenue from 7th Avenue.  Central Park is on the left.


Then ...  The carriage is carrying the stunning Elsa Bannister (the normally redheaded Rita Hayworth now with short platinum-blonde hair).  Michael O'Hara (Orson Welles), an Irish journeyman seaman with a philosophical take on life, is walking in the park and engages her in conversation.

... and Now,  today, carriage rides are a popular tourist attraction in Central Park but the drivers now are up front and sitting down.


  O'Hara is immediately smitten by the enigmatic beauty.  In Irish brogue voiceover he confides "That's how I found her and from that moment on I did not use my head very much, except to be thinking of her".  Neither is he fazed when she hints at a racy background, having lived in Shanghai (hence the movie name) and gambled in Macao.

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