Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Thieves' Highway - Ferry Building

   Nick calls his fiancé Polly (Barbara Lawrence) and asks her to join him in San Francisco.  When she arrives by ferry she is somewhat taken aback to find that Nick, who is still groggy from his mugging, has sent Rica to meet her.

Then ...  Polly arrives at the Ferry Building whose clock tower was inspired by the 12th century Giralda bell tower in Seville, Spain.  The view below must have been filmed from the rooftop of the Wellman Peck Coffee building on the corner of Jackson and Embarcadero (see it here).  It's interesting to see the north entrance to the underpass that ran below the the Ferry Building plaza - it opened in 1925 but has long since been filled in.

... and Now,  the exterior hasn't changed (below) but the interior recently underwent an ambitious four year renovation which has reinvigorated the building into a bustle of upscale food stores, restaurants and offices as well as a still operational ferry terminal.

... from 1965 ...  in between 'Then' and 'Now' as shown above, the Ferry Building went through a dark period when a double-decker freeway was built, isolating it from the city (below) - what were the city planners thinking?  (Providentially the 1989 earthquake damaged and doomed the freeway and it was pulled down.  Nature rules!).


Then ...  Polly descends the central main stairway of the building and anxiously looks outside for Nick ...

... and Now,  the same spot viewed from the street.


Then ...  She is still looking for him as Rica approaches.  Behind them, across the plaza, is the start of Market Street.

... and Now,  the plaza used to be a turnaround for Market Street streetcars.  Today the Muni E-Embarcadero, F-Market, N-Judah and T-Third trams run along the Embarcadero.

... from 1956 ...  this archival photo, taken from the Ferry Building seven years after the movie was released, shows a wider view across the plaza, including the streetcar turnaround.  The arrow-straight Market Street disappears into the distance and at far left you can just see part of the south entrance to the plaza underpass.


... on location ...  Here's a fun photo of Barbara Lawrence and Valentina Cortese acting out this scene in front of a gawk of onlookers.


  Rica takes Polly to see Nick but when she learns that he has been robbed of all of his money she storms out of his life.

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