Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Walk A Crooked Mile - Bus Ride

The search for the FBI agent’s killer is on. When O’Hara hears that Anton Radchek, a communist sympathizer seen hanging around Lakeview, has bought a bus ticket to San Francisco, he decides to tail him there hoping he might lead him to bigger fish.

Then … The bus approaches San Francisco, interestingly seen here on Yerba Buena Island looking down on the western span of the Bay Bridge (map). Was there a bus service back in the 1940s from Southern California to San Francisco that traveled via Oakland with a stop on Yerba Buena Island? Or was this simply directorial artifice to include a scenic city approach in the movie?

… and Now, viewed from that same stretch of road. The new Salesforce Tower at far right, over 1000 feet tall, now dominates the San Francisco skyline.


Then … They take the access road onto the bridge towards San Francisco. Just 12 years old when this was filmed, the bridge at that time had two-way auto traffic on the upper deck while autos and trains shared the lower deck.

… and Now, the bridge today is auto only: the upper deck is one-way west and the lower deck one-way east.

Here’s a vintage photo of the one of the trains on the lower deck. They were part of the Key System, a privately owned company. The rail service was discontinued in 1958.

In this 1946 photo of a State Belt Railroad diesel train, one of many used to shuttle goods along the Embarcadero, a lower deck train is seen passing by on the bridge.


Then … Back to the story - looking out from the bus we see part of Yerba Buena and Treasure Island on the right with Angel Island on the left.

… and Now, it’s just the same 70 years later.


Then … As they approach the city shoreline O’Hara has a view of piers aligned along the Embarcadero as well as Coit Tower atop Telegraph Hill. The Ferry Building is just out of view beyond the left side of the image.

… and Now, these piers to the north of the Ferry Building, the odd-numbered ones, are mostly still there - unlike their even-numbered counterparts to the south, many of which have not survived.

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Then … The bus heads to the terminal via the first San Francisco exit, signposted to Fifth and First Streets. (CitySleuth is curious as to the purpose of that kiosk).

… and Now, the same exit today has been rebuilt and widened and is now signposted to Fremont and Folsom Streets.


From the bus terminal the suspect takes a cab to a rooming house in an older section of the city (to be revealed in the next post).


Walk A Crooked Mile - Red Scare

Walk A Crooked Mile is a communist-spy-hunt thriller filmed during the post-war red scare era. It is mostly set in San Francisco but it begins in Southern California …

Then … As the movie opens, a narrator (Reed Hadley) intones in a stern authoritarian delivery meant to deter all of us from ever breaking the law. His stentorian cadence informs us that this is Lakeview, California. Note the Thomas College sign across the street which threw CitySleuth off in hunting down this place until fellow location sleuth John Bengtson I.D.’d it for him).

… and Now, Lakeview was a fictitious name; this was actually filmed looking north on Brand Boulevard between Broadway and Wilson Avenue in the central business district of Glendale, California (map). In this shot only the end building down the block on the right on the Wilson Avenue corner has survived as it was.

… a vintage photo … here’s a photo taken in the same decade of the same block, and then some. It reveals that the Thomas College sign in the movie view referred to a beauty college, not to an establishment of higher education. The wide thoroughfare accommodated the Pacific Electric Red Car trolley lines that passed through town beginning in 1902. Here, car number 667 is seen heading toward its subway terminal destination in downtown Los Angeles.

Sadly the rapid growth of automobiles and freeways brought about a decision to close down this efficient mass transportation system. Dumb, in retrospect. The iconic cars ended up on the scrap heap, literally so in this 1961 image.


The narrator next introduces us to the Lakeview Research Laboratory of Nuclear Physics , a top-secret government facility where each worker “must be first an American of proven loyalty”. A view of the entrance and another in the opposite direction are seen, shown below.

CitySleuth is still searching for this location. It looks like an energy plant of some kind. So far he has drawn blanks with the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power and with Southern California Edison, both of whom ran many energy plants in the 1940s. Any suggestions, dear readers?


Then … The voiceover continues over a shot of the recently built (1940) Los Angeles Federal Courthouse and Post Office, telling us that the task of guarding projects at such top-secret facilities is entrusted to the FBI. In an timely coincidence, shortly after this movie was filmed, the House Un-American Activities Committee met here to gather information on Hollywood personalities suspected of Communist involvement.

… and Now, the building is still there, at at 312 N. Spring Street (map), now used as a County Superior Courthouse. Farther south down the road is the Art Deco styled City Hall .


And finally we are introduced to the special agent in charge of the Lakeview security detail, Daniel F. O’Hara (Dennis O’Keefe). We are assured that he works long after regular hours, night after night, vetting anyone connected to the LakeView Research Laboratory, especially those with a suspicious past.


Then … During a call from one of his agents tailing a known communist party member he hears shots fired, and races through the city, here passing an auto dealer, only to find the agent has been shot point blank in the telephone booth. Killing an FBI agent? This is serious stuff.

The 1940 Los Angeles city directory provided two locations for this auto dealer of which the 1220 - 1234 S. Figueroa address is the one seen in the movie.

… and Now, the auto dealer is long gone and a modern building with a parking garage sits on the site. On the other hand the building farther down the block appears to be the original. Note too the absence of the tram tracks. All too familiar in many cities today, what once was a bustling downtown street is now a lonely shadow of its former self.


Invasion Of The Body Snatchers - No Hope

When next we see Elizabeth in the microbiology lab where she and Matthew work (also seen earlier in the movie) she and her zombie-like colleagues have all fallen prey to the alien invaders. But what about Matthew?

He walks in and looks at them; impassive. He may of course be faking it, in survival mode as it were.


Then … The movie’s blood-chilling final scene unfolds when we see him again, in the Civic Center Plaza behind City Hall (map).

… and Now, those same pollarded trees are 41 years sturdier now. Somebody has a secure job trimming them back every winter. A re-gilded dome on City Hall enhances its grandeur.


Then … another view reveals behind him the low walls that defined an extended pool that used to run down the spine of the Plaza.

… and Now, but it was replaced years ago by a gravel walkway. McAllister Street in the background borders the north side of the plaza.

This vintage 1973 photo shows the pool as it still was when the movie was filmed in 1978.


Then … “Matthew? … Matthew!” - Nancy Bellicec has managed to stay one step ahead of the aliens and, incredibly relieved to see him, calls out his name.

… and Now, the Civic Center South Playground today occupies this corner of the Plaza.


But as she approaches him with a knowing smile he points at her and emits the blood-curdling scream that identifies humans to nearby alien converts. Now we know it; he too has succumbed and there’s no hope, for Nancy or indeed for the entire human race.


Invasion Of The Body Snatchers - Suffer Little Children

Then … We think Matthew has eluded the pod people and is still in human form, but we can’t be sure. Here we see him watching a pod delivery taking place.

… and Now, this alley is on the south side of Market Street between 8th and 9th (map).


A group of the converted carry the pods into a side door that leads into a hotel; each pod is destined for a targeted victim.


Then … He walks east along Market where we see that the hotel is the PSA San Franciscan at 1231 Market. PSA Airlines leased the San Franciscan in 1968 as part of a diversification into the car rental and hotel business. Never profitable, the venture lasted only until 1979.

Uh, oh … those children’s buses outside … say it ain’t so!

… and Now, the hotel is still there, now called the Whitcomb. The entrance to Beppino’s restaurant has since been closed off and merged seamlessly with the exterior but there’s still an eatery inside - the Market Street Grill.


The alien takeover continues on plan as the children are led into the hotel for a rendezvous with the pods.


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