Here’s another great film noir chase scene located in Chinatown from the 1947 film classic ‘The Lady from Shanghai’. I’ll set the situation up for you; Orson Welles plays a man being held in the old Hall of Justice on Kearny Street accused of murder. He fakes a suicide attempt by taking a number of pills, and escapes the building in the confusion. He flees into Chinatown trailed by his lover played by Rita Hayworth. Follow along as these two culprits race toward a movie theater encounter that would eventually lead to a denouement that’s one of the most famous scenes in film noir history.
Welles bolts across Kearny Street toward Portsmouth Square. Notice the buildings in the background on Clay Street; they haven’t changed a bit in seventy years!
Rita Hayworth follows him through Portsmouth Square. The short and taller buildings behind her can be seen in the center of my picture. The Medusa effect has turned a lot of San Francisco’s public squares to stone instead of grass, and Portsmouth Square is no exception. That block of stone on the right in the movie image is the Robert Louis Stevenson Monument which was in the center of the square at that time.
Welles looks back on the corner of Grant Avenue and Pine Street to see if he’s being followed. The pills he took in his phony suicide attempt are beginning to take effect. You can still see the Chop Suey sign today in the center of the middle picture. I moved over to the storefront to try to get the mirror image of the Sing Fat Building like the movie scene. I don’t have Orson Welles skills, but it wasn’t a bad try.
Orson passes the old Shanghai Low Club, seen in a vintage picture from the 1930’s in the middle. The long gone Shanghai Low Club became the Lotus Garden for a number of years, but the building is now empty. The lower portion of the red Lotus Garden sign at the top of my picture was once the Chop Suey sign seen in the previous picture.
Beginning to lose consciousness, Welles ducks into the old Mandarin Theater on Grant Avenue. The Mandarin Theater is now the Sun Sing Center Gift Shop, but if you peek through the curtains in the back of the shop you can see where the stage used to be.
This is where the Mandarin Theater once was.
Lovely Rita, not the one from the Beatles, follows Welles into the theater in an effort to convince him that she’s trying to help him. Before Orson passes out here, he realizes who the real murderer is. The next and final scenes would be out at the Funhouse at Playland-at-the-Beach for the famous hall of mirrors scene.
This vintage San Francisco Call newspaper photo from the San Francisco History Center was taken in front of the Mandarin Theater in 1944, three years before ‘The Lady from Shanghai’ was filmed. The fellow on the right is going into the theater. There was a lesser known but just as fun to watch chase scene that I covered in January of 2016 from a 1949 filmed called ‘Impact’ Click on the link below if you’re interested in seeing that one too.