Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Filtering by Tag: Ocean Beach

Play It Again, Sam - Fearful

Over coffee Allan cannot stop thinking about his affair. He rationalizes that Dick is sophisticated enough to accept that his wife might fall in love with his best friend…

Other than the smiley face poster, (does it read ‘Chuckburger’?) there aren’t enough clues here to figure out where this cafe was.


Then … But then, alarmed, he worries that Dick might be driven to suicide once he finds out, imagining him marching to his demise into the swirling surf at Ocean Beach at the westernmost edge of the city (map)

… and Now, the tide is out in this recent view looking south from near the Cliff House. (That’s one of Golden Gate Park’s windmills on the left).


Then … But wait, it could be worse … perhaps it will be Allan’s life at risk - the sight of an Italian movie poster prompts him to imagine an enraged Dick on a vendetta.

… a vintage photo, he was passing the Palace Theater, opposite Washington Square park at the junction of Columbus and Powell in North Beach (map). This is an image of how it looked when the movie was filmed at which time it was also showing Chinese movies and was known as the Pagoda Palace.

After being closed for years the theater was demolished in 2013 when it was deemed the ideal spot to extract the two boring machines that had dug the twin Central Subway tunnels extending the T-Third Street line from near the Giant’s ballpark 1.7 miles north into Chinatown. (Read more about that here). The photo below captures a piece of one of them being hoisted from the retrieval shaft in 2014 at the old theater site. (Watch a time-lapse video of both machines being removed here).

… and Now, a new retail/condominium structure has been built on the site retaining the blade sign as a reminder of its historic past.


Then … Allan pictures himself as a bakery worker being attacked by fellow worker Dick, first amusingly with bread dough then, more seriously, with a knife. Behind him there’s a turn-of-the -century Italian baking oven, a clue as to the location.

CitySleuth is often asked how he finds a location. His search for this one is but one example, involving many dead ends but at each one finding a further lead to pursue.

In the 1970s the North Beach neighborhood was home to a host of bakeries, a good place to start looking. CitySleuth visited them all: the Liguria Bakery at 1700 Stockton is still there but their oven doesn’t match this one; Danilo’s at 516 Green, now Baonecci’s, also still has its oven but again, different; the Italian-Swiss Bakery, most recently Sylvia’s Pastry, at 1501 Grant was gutted just weeks ago and its oven removed but an unearthed vintage photo showed it also to be different. CitySleuth spoke to the owner of the Victoria Pastry Co. that back then was at Stockton and Vallejo but he ruled it out as the place. The store at 1351 Grant that once housed Figoni Hardware still has ovens downstairs, unused for decades, but they don’t match either. Finally, a hot lead: at the venerable Gino and Carlo bar the owner pointed CitySleuth across the street to where Cuneo Bakery used to be.

… and Now, the Cuneo Bakery site was at 523 Green Street; it’s now a Copy Center and sadly its old ovens are no longer there. CitySleuth was referred to Mark Sodini, owner of Sodini’s Restaurant across the street who used to work at the bakery. He confirmed that the movie scene was filmed at Cuneo; what’s more, he was upstairs in the building while the scene was being shot downstairs. Cuneo Bakery relocated years ago to South San Francisco where it continues as a wholesale business. The current co-owner Wendy Mallegni is the daughter of the family who owned and operated the North Beach site and she too confirmed that the scene was filmed here at 523 Green.

With the movie oven gone a matching photo isn’t possible but the extant example across the street in the basement of Baonecci’s at 516 Green is very similar, possiby the same manufacturer, and is offered here as consolation. Compare it to the ‘Then’ image above.

17 - fearful 7 (danilos, now baoneccis.jpg

Harold And Maude - Uncle Victor

Mother has had enough and announces to Harold that he is to be inducted into the Army.  She dispatches his Uncle Victor (Charles Tyner), a rabidly patriotic, one-armed career General, to take him under his wing.

Then ...  To make a good impression on Harold Uncle Victor picks him up in his personal chauffeured limousine.  At a veterans' convalescent center they stroll around the grounds while he extols the virtues of military life.  This was filmed in San Francisco's Sutro Heights Park at Land's End on the edge of the Pacific Ocean (map), the former estate of silver baron Adolph Sutro.

... and Now,  they were approaching the only surviving structure from the estate.  No, it's not a gazebo ...

... a vintage photo ...  this was in fact the estate's well house, captured here circa 1890 (note too the horse hitching posts, essential back then).  The bases of the decorative finials on the roof can still be seen, above.

    The estate did have a gazebo but it's long gone.  Here it was in 1890.


Then ...  They walk on past the well house, an opportunity for director Hal Ashby to include a sight gag behind them - a doddering vet slowly keels over and does a face plant in the scattered leaves.  Irreverent, if not irrelevant.  Oblivious, Uncle Victor patters fervently on with his sales pitch.

... and Now,  with the help of facelifts the structure is in remarkable condition given its age of 130 years.


    Local history buffs will know that Sutro's mansion was the crown atop the estate.  Complemented as it was by extensive gardens, statuary, a carriage house, a conservatory, an observatory and a crenellated parapet with spectacular views of the ocean and along the Great Highway, it delivered the highest quality of life for Adolph and his family.  Built in the 1880s, the home was demolished in 1939, by then in a state of deterioration, following the death of its last resident, Sutro's daughter Emma.

   The mansion enjoyed a westward view down past the parapet to Seal Rocks and the Cliff House, a  Victorian-style dining, dancing and entertainment chateau built by Adolph in 1894 (the photo above was taken from the Cliff House).  The mammoth structure was destined to be very short-lived; it remarkably survived the 1906 earthquake but, like the original Cliff House before it, burned to the ground a year later.  By this time Adolph had died but daughter Emma kept the Cliff House tradition going by replacing it with the third incarnation, a more modest structure sensibly built of concrete.

... and Now,  Three's a charm as Emma's Cliff House underwent a number of remodels over the years but is still going strong 110 years on.

    To the north was Sutro's Baths, built by Adolph in 1896, viewed here from the estate across Point Lobos Avenue in a 1950s photo.

... and Now,  the 70-year-old public bath complex succumbed in 1966 to an arson fire (but not before it was fortuitously used for scenes in the 1958 movie The Lineup).  The ruins today are a nostalgic reminder of its grandeur and caught the eye of director Ashby who chose the sprawling, crumbling site for Uncle Victor's next stop. 


The Lady From Shanghai - Magic Mirror Maze

  CitySleuth is more than a little bummed to reach the final location post from this, one of his all-time favorite movies.  The intersecting lives of Elsa the scheming seductress and O'Hara the hapless drifter rendered in innovative high contrast black-and-white cinematography delivered entertainment of the highest order.

Then ...  Inside the Crazy House O'Hara trips and falls down a long slide to the Magic Mirror Maze, a room packed with replicating and distorting mirrors.  Suddenly Elsa appears, admitting she shot Grisby after he messed up her plan to do away with her husband Bannister.  The mirror maze sequence, as illustrated by the composited image below, was a highlight of the movie.

... in 1949 ...  Below, visitors of all ages enjoyed the real Hall of Mirrors in the Fun House at Playland-At-The-Beach (the inspiration for the movie's Crazy House).  The movie however used an elaborate set built at the Columbia Ranch back lot, with more than 100 plate-glass mirrors, some of them two-way to let the camera shoot through them.


  Now it's Bannister's turn to show up - he knows she was planning to have him killed and tells Elsa she would be foolish to fire her gun -  "... these mirrors - it's difficult to tell - you are aiming at me aren't you?  I'm aiming at you, lover!

  Bullets fly and mirrors shatter as they desperately target each other's multiple images.  The dramatic footage includes this chilling view of the ice-cold femme fatale.

  Both Elsa and Bannister are hit.  " I don't wanna die!! " she screams, but die she does.  Bannister too, leaving O'Hara unscathed but in a state of numbed shock.  In this scene, director Welles was unhappy with the studio's addition of crashing background music.  He felt (CitySleuth agrees) that the gunfire and breaking glass alone would be more effective and realistic.


Then ...  He exits the Crazy House.  This was filmed on location at the Fun House at Playland-At-The-Beach during the winter when the amusement park was closed for the season.

... in 1972 ...  23 years later, just before the closing and demolition of the amusement park, this vintage photo was taken of the Fun House, next to the Merry-Go-Round carousel.

... and Now,  the Ocean Beach Condominiums at 825 La Playa Street covers this spot , in the process eliminating the alley that ran between the Fun House and the carousel (map).


Then ...  The camera tracks him, painting a panorama as he continues on.  At far right is the Laff In The Dark ghost ride; the twin tower structure at far left is the entrance to Shoot The Chutes (a boat ride down a steep chute onto a lake) alongside the Great Highway (click the image to enlarge).


... and Now,  the same panorama reveals that condominiums have also replaced this northern block of the park.  The Laff In The Dark location is now the end-of-line turnaround for the 5-Fulton and 31-Balboa Muni bus lines (click the image to enlarge)..


... a vintage aerial ...  the dotted line in the 1940s photo below traces O'Hara's short walk during this final scene.


Then ...  The camera follows O'Hara as he (appropriately for a sailor) heads towards the Pacific Ocean.  The early rising sun behind him casts long shadows, signalling the dawn of a new day, the chance for a fresh start.  His final musings close out the movie ...

  "Well, everybody is somebody's fool.  The only way to stay out of trouble is to grow old, so I   guess I'll concentrate on that.  Maybe I'll live so long that I'll forget her ... maybe I'll die tryin' ".

... and Now,  The condo at 798 Great Highway has usurped the Shoot The Chutes entrance and through traffic no longer runs along this block of Cabrillo Street.  The offshore Seal Rocks formation can be partially seen in both Then and Now images.

The Lady From Shanghai -  Magic Mirror Maze

The Lineup - Sutro's and Cliff House

  This location is especially interesting because it doesn't exist any more.  Long gone.  It's Sutro's Baths and Museum, built in 1896 by Adolph Sutro, which was located next to the Cliff House on Point Lobos Avenue at the north end of Ocean Beach (map).  Sutro's was in its heyday hugely popular as a go-to family entertainment place and featured seven different pools and a large concert hall.  By the time the movie was filmed in 1958 the pools had been closed to the public, replaced by an ice rink. 

Then ...  Dancer forces Dorothy and daughter Cindy to go with them to Sutro's in case the drug ring doesn't buy his explanation of why he failed to retrieve the drugs from Cindy's doll.

... and Now,   viewed from the same spot, Sutro's sadly is but a distant memory.


... in 1952,  here’s a vintage photo of Sutro's taken from Sutro Heights across the road.  Note the towers on the left flanking the entrance, removed by the time the movie was filmed six years later.

... and Now, only foundations survive after a suspicious fire destroyed the entire structure in 1966.  A 70 year old icon gone forever.


Then ...  A policeman cruising by on his motorcycle spots their parked car - he recognizes the plate number and pulls over to call in for reinforcements.  This shot looking south down the length of Ocean Beach gives us a good view of the Cliff House restaurant, situated right next to Sutro's (map).  The Cliff House has occupied this site in one form or another since 1863 having been rebuilt twice after devastating fires in 1894 and 1907. 

... and Now,  the always popular Cliff House with its lovely views of Seal Rocks and Ocean Beach is still in business.  Look at how much the beach has changed.

    This 1958 photo, taken the same year the movie was released, adds color to the movie view.  The beach ‘pier’, the intake for the Lurline Baths, was removed a few years after, in 1965.


  When the bulletin comes through Lt. Guthrie and Inspector Quine are driving north along Mason between Bay and North Point Streets.  They do a quick U-turn (below) and head post-haste for Sutro's.

Then ...  The Fairmont and Mark Hopkins hotels can be seen at the top of Mason on Nob Hill.  

... and Now,  the Fairmont Tower extension, built after the movie was filmed, is on the horizon on the left.  The highrise in the center, also post-movie, is the Royal Towers Apartments at 1750 Taylor on Russian Hill.


  Inside Sutro's, Dancer, instead of dropping the drugs in the hiding place and leaving as instructed, hangs around until the drug ring's head honcho 'The Man' (Vaughn Taylor) shows up, in a wheelchair.  Dancer's attempt to explain the failed third pickup falls on deaf ears.  Director Siegel's cinematography from these scenes fortuitously left us with rare video footage of the interior of Sutro's.

  When 'The Man' tells him his days are numbered Dancer flies into a rage and pushes him to his death through the railing to the skating rink below.  He then rushes with the drugs up the stairs to the street exit where he and his cohorts flee from the police with the terrified mother and daughter cowering as hostages in the back of their car.

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