In 1915, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, and Mabel Normand, two extremely popular stars of a relatively new pastime, going to the “flickers” made two short films in San Francisco. In the more famous of the two they visit the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition and tour the Downtown San Francisco area. The film shows a number of sweeping panoramas including the Fair, the front of the Ferry Building, Union Square, and the City Hall under construction. After opening scenes shot at the Fair, the film takes viewers to Downtown San Francisco starting at the Ferry Building, with the original 1915 numbers on the tower that were replicated in 2015. After the Ferry Building, the film follows traffic up Market Street. This is at Market Street just up from Grant Avenue. You can still see the columned building on the corner of Grant on the left today, and the building at the right center with the single row of windows, which is the Hearst Building. Next on the 1915 tour is the St Francis Hotel and Union Square. It’s ironic that scenes were filmed here; six years after this short movie was made a scandal at the St. Francis Hotel resulting in three rape trials would put an end to Fatty Arbuckle’s career. The film moves to the new City Hall Building, where Mabel and Fatty meet with Mayor “Sunny Jim” Rolph, San Francisco’s longest serving, and probably most popular in his time, mayor. On the steps of City Hall amidst construction debris, Fatty almost slips. I’m not sure if this was acting on his part or a real mishap. The attractive couple in my picture made it down the steps without any problem. After this scene comes a little comedy. One of the attractions at the time was an English prisoner ship ‘Success’ tied up at the Ferry Building. Mabel and Fatty visit the ship and one of its attractions, the “Iron Maiden”. Now, why do you just know that Mabel is going to go inside of it, and that Fatty will almost accidentally impale her on its deadly spikes! “It’s okay, go on in. We won’t let the door close!” Mabel just might be as dumb as she looks!
After nearly being spiked to death, Mabel slaps Fatty’s face. Of course, he does the natural thing and tries to push her back into the Iron Maiden Hey, girls can make you mad! The other movie, Mabel and Fatty made in San Francisco in 1915 was ‘Wished on Mabel’ shot entirely in Golden Gate Park. The film opens with Mabel, on the left and her mother sitting on a bench in Golden Gate Park where Fatty, who’s standing in front of the Conservatory of Flowers, notices her. The look on his face tells us right away that he’s smitten by her non obvious charms! A number of scenes were filmed at the old Stone Bridge that crosses Stow Lake to Strawberry Hill including these. At the upper left, a lecherous thief starts hitting on Mabel when Fatty comes to her rescue below. Mabel must have something going for her for these guys to be so hot on her! The thief has an encounter with another fellow at the same bench in the upper right photo. There’s still a bench at this peaceful location today, and I wasn’t going to start hitting on the girl there, I don’t want Fatty coming after me! A kiss near the end of the film between Mabel and Fatty near the stone path below the waterfall that runs down Strawberry Hill, and all’s well that ends well, but not in real life! Roscoe Arbuckle, whose career was ruined by the St. Francis Hotel rape scandal, died of a heart attack in 1933 at age 46. Mabel Normand had died of tuberculosis three years earlier in 1930, age 37. Even Mayor “Sunny Jim” Rolph died around this time in 1934. The rocks at the stone path here have been replaced during the last hundred years, but the spot looks pretty similar today. Incidentally, if you like the movies, click on the link below for a collection of film clips from movies made in San Francisco that I posted in September of 2015.