At the Movies

AtMoviesfacebookuse ‘Bullitt’ wasn’t the only movie filmed in San Francisco to include a chase scene. In the upper left side of this movie collage is a chase scene from Buster Keaton’s 1922 film, ‘Daydreams’. In a Keystone Cop-like scene, San Francisco police chase Buster north on Powell Street across Washington on the edge of Chinatown. This spot looks, remarkably, the same ninety six years later! In the upper right hand corner, Jack Lemmon squeaks his Thunderbird past a cable car at the Taylor and Bay turntable in the 1964 movie, ‘Good Neighbor Sam’. The view is blocked now, but a 76 gas station is still on the right side corner, and it you look close, you can see the Cost Plus Imports sign, still in business here, behind the gas station. At lower left is a chase scene down the Alta Plaza steps from the 1972 movie ‘What’s up, Doc?’ with Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal. This scene was filmed without the permission of the City of San Francisco, and caused damage to the steps, still visible today. At lower right, probably, my favorite scene from a Clint Eastwood movie. Clint runs into the old Fort Mason train tunnel carrying ransom money in the 1971 movie ‘Dirty Harry’ and encounters three hoods who try to rob him. Big mistake! “You don’t listen, do you, ass++++!” The old train tunnel is now closed off.

Catching rays between drops

jacksonsquareuse The historic Jackson Square in the 1950’s: “We’re number one!” So, there’s the little guy who invented that! (Phil Palmer) 802montgomeryuse Montgomery and Jackson in the 1920’s. A Globe Beer sounds good!bakerstuse Baker Street from the Palace of Fine Arts Lagoon in the 1950’s (Phil Palmer)  Ybuena1971 “The light at the end of the tunnel.” Coming west out of the Yerba Buena Tunnel in the Summer of 1971.


Super Sunday soon! Alamo Square: San Francisco is getting ready for the first Bay Area Super Bowl in thirty one years.

‘Dark Passage’

DPassageGGBridgeuse I’ve covered this film before, but I watched it again the other night, and it always reminds me of what a pleasure this 1947 movie is for San Francisco lovers! It’s not, necessarily, a well made movie, some of the scenes are, downright, weird, and the doctor who does the plastic surgery on Humphrey Bogart is creepier than Freddy Krueger, but for vintage San Francisco locations it’s at the top of the list.

dpassagetoll Near the opening scenes, Lauren Bacall picks up an escaped murderer from San Quentin, nicknamed, “Mad Dog” Parry, in her woodie and believing in his innocence, sneaks him across the Golden Gate Bridge to her apartment on Telegraph Hill. People end up dead around Bogie all through this movie, and Bacall, trustingly, continues to believe his innocence. Why can’t I meet a girl like that! Here, she smuggles him through the old Art Deco toll booths, (now obsolete) past a police roadblock.

Dpassagethillredo Bacall pulls up to her apartment at 1360 Montgomery Street. A number of scenes were filmed in and around this building for the movie. It is said that Lauren Bacall lived in these apartments before breaking into the movies.

Dpassageblogone Near the end of the film, a small-time blackmailer tries to kidnap Bogart, who drives the hood to a spot under the Golden Gate Bridge to…… straighten things out. This spot is now off limits to the public since the 9/11 attacks.

Darkpassageggbcliffuse After a struggle for a gun with the blackmailer causes the punk to fall from the bluff under the bridge, Bogie looks down reflecting that he now knows who killed his wife and framed him, sending him to prison; it’s Agnes Moorehead. “Oh, darn it, Tim; you spoiled the ending for us!” Well, of course, it’s Agnes Moorehead, it’s not going to be Lauren Bacall!

dpassagegreenwich After he accidentally kills Agnes Moorehead, (There seems to be a pattern here!) Bogie hops on a speeding cable car at Hyde and Greenwich. A cable car’s top speed is about nine miles an hour, but he still makes his getaway. “Mad Dog” Parry has a rendezvous with Lauren in South America where they lived happily ever after. I hope he didn’t accidentally kill her too!

More San Francisco in 1949

1949horsetradersuse Putting on the feedbag with a few horse traders at the Stock Exchange Building at Sansome and Pine Streets:  1949Fifiuse “Now, stay there, Fifi!”
As if “Fifi” wasn’t bad enough, it’s a boy! The now closed Xanadu Gallery in Maiden Lane is the only building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in San Francisco.  1949spotsuse “Nice looking dog! Let me guess, its name is “Spot”. Right?”
“No, “Checks”. Did I make a mistake?”
1949SunYetuse I love this picture; a couple of bobby sox artists near the statue of Sun Yat-sen in St. Mary’s Square.  Crosbyuse The following were some of San Francisco’s prominent 1949 visitors.
Bing: I don’t think anybody ever gave San Francisco a nicer comment!  Hopeuse Bob: The same in real life as he was in his movies!  Elenoreuse Class is where you find it.  Cantorusetwo Old Banjo-Eyes was a little weird!  Wrightuse He was a great architect, but he sure wasn’t very imaginative when it came to verbal praise!

San Francisco in 1949

1949copterlonguse “Look, it’s a UFO!”
“No honey, that’s a helicopter.”
Ocean Beach in 1949: The Playland Roller-Coaster was where the condos are behind the yellow pedestrian crossing sign.  1949cliffhouseuse A 1949 color (sort of) photo of the Cliff House. It’s more popular now than ever, and the food is good, but, to me, there’s something missing since the remodeling of 2002. The consensus is that it’s for the best, but when the sun rises on one side of the world, it sets on the other. Hmmm, I’m getting a little too profound here!  1949sutrosuse This discarded 1949 San Francisco News edition at Sutro Heights reads, “IT’S 92! HOTTEST DAY OF THE YEAR.  1949coitbloguse A Columbusless Coit Tower: There’s that helicopter again. Hey, don’t follow me, I’m not Sean Penn! 1949kearnybloguse “Hey Mister, wash your car?”


Boy, the waves were crashing on Seal Rocks today! I was lip guitaring the surf rock song ‘Pipeline’ when I snapped this.  1949mapuse This old 1949 cartoon map of San Francisco is fun to look at. I like the Coit Tower and Mount Davidson Cross being dragged into place. From day one until I lost him, Danny loved chewing on my books and magazines, anything paper. It looks like he got to this one too. I hope I didn’t bawl him out too much!  1949beachuse Speaking of Danny, days like this on Ocean Beach make me miss my little man so much! (Vintage photo, Robert L. Fraser)


Funny Money!

Stagecoachuse A couple of years ago, I stopped into the Wells Fargo History Room on Montgomery. They have an authentic stagecoach from the old West on display there. It, probably, was never robbed by Black Bart nor had John Wayne riding shotgun, but it’s neat to see.  Funnymoneyuse They also used to have a contraption there where you could have your picture put on phony money images. This is what they gave me when I asked the government for bail out money a few years ago!oldmintuse Speaking of money, This is where some of the hard earned tax dollars that you give back to the government used to come from; the old San Francisco Mint at 5th and Mission Streets, seen here after the 1906 Earthquake. This building has caused some controversy because there are swastikas at the base of the old lamp posts in front of it, placed there before the swastika was notorious. Of course, I don’t mean to be insensitive or offensive to people bothered by this symbol, but it is a, relatively, unknown San Francisco fact, so I’ve posted a picture of one of them. At the far right in the modern picture of the Mint is the corner of the old Pickwick Hotel, where Sam Spade stashed the stolen bird statue when it came in to his possession in the Maltese Falcon.  swastikause

The Chinatown chase scene in the 1949 movie ‘Impact’

Impactposteruse Sometimes, these things are nothing but fun! Here’s the set up; Brian Donlevy is on trial at the old Hall of Justice Building on Kearny for murdering his unfaithful wife’s lover. (He’s innocent) Anna May Wong has information that may save him but will not testify, although she comes to the courthouse out of guilt. Ella Raines, Donlevy’s new squeeze, spots her and the chase is on. Follow me now as we trail these dames through Chinatown.

Impactcgase1use It starts at Kearny and Washington as Anna jumps into a cab, and turns to head up Washington Street.

Impactchase2use Ella grabs a cab and follows her.

Impactchase3use They race up Washington past Portsmouth Square to Grant.

Impactchase4use Turning left on Grant, they drive south toward Clay Street.

Impactchase5&guse  Anna May looks back to see if she’s still being followed.
“Yeah, I’m still on your ass, sweetheart!”

Impactchase7use There’s an old axiom that I just made up that says that you can’t have a movie chase scene without breaking up the continuity. In the next scene they’re back to a point in the chase that they were beyond in the previous scene. Now they’re back at Grant crossing Washington!

Impactchase8use Now the chase turns into Ross Alley from Washington, another impossibility considering the way they were going, but I’m not complaining, I’m just enjoying the ride.

Impactchase9use They stop part way down the alley where an old passageway leads to Old Chinatown Alley.
“Darn, I hope I don’t lose my hat!”
“Excuse me lady, are either of you two going to pay?”

Impactchase10use Stretching her dress to the limit, (I held my breath at this point, but it didn’t rip) Ella chases Anna May down the passageway.  The passage is closed now.

Impactchase12use They enter into Old Chinatown Alley, and Anna May runs into the house of her father to hide, behind where the pallet jack and the boxes are today.

Impact13use When confronted in the house, Anna May explains that she was only afraid that her testimony would have hurt Donlevy who she cares a great deal about, and agrees to testify. Everybody lives happily ever after except Donlevy’s wife who goes to jail.

The Richmond District

Alexandriabloguse The old Alexandria Theater at Geary and 19th in 1943: The ‘Government Girl’, I saw that just recently on Turner Classic Movies! It was terrible! (Actually, I liked it.)

washingtonexpuse My doctor, the eminent Dr. Donald Knotts, tells me he was among the students walking along the street at George Washington High School when this scene where Lee Remick drops her sister Stefanie Powers off in the 1962 film ‘Experiment in Terror’ (One of my favorite SF movies) was shot. Maybe he knew the girls standing by the car. I’ll have to ask him. Other prominent people who went to this high school, include Johnny Mathis and Danny Glover. The link below that I posted several years ago shows a brief synopsis of the movie along with the soundtrack from the opening credits.

patty1use In April of 1974, the Symbionese Army, who two months earlier had kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst, robbed the Hibernia Bank at 22nd and Noriega in San Francisco. Bank surveillance film showed Hearst participating in the robbery. All of the Symbionese Liberation Army members involved in the robbery died the following month in a fiery police shootout in Los Angeles except Patty Hearst who was captured in September of 1975. The producers of the 1988 film ‘Patty Hearst’ used the corner of 38th and Balboa in the Richmond District to reenact the incident. The Hibernia Bank, named Hibernia Savings in the movie is the Bank of America branch at this corner. The bank robbers pull up to the location in a station wagon and enter the bank from Balboa Street.

pattyblog2use  pattyblog3useThe Balboa Theater, in business since February of 1926, can be seen as the gang enters the bank. A view from the opposite angle shows them making their getaway.


The actual bank robbed by Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army is at this location in the Sunset District. Here’s the surveillance video from the famous robbery.