San Francisco movie locations through the decades

A journey from 1906 through the 1980’s to some of the San Francisco film locations that I’ve covered on my blog.

decadestripmarketuse decadestripdowntwouse 1906 – ‘A Trip Down Market Street’: The start of the historic film of a cable car ride down Market Street. The Flood Building can be seen on the left in both images at the top. The film ends at the Ferry Building after traveling slowly down Market Street, and includes wonderful images like the bottom picture just past where 3rd Street and Kearny meet Market then known as “Newspaper Row”.

decadesfattymableuse 1915 – ‘Wished on Mabel’: A happy ending for two lovers, Mabel Normand and Fatty Arbuckle at the bottom of Huntington Falls on Strawberry Hill at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park.

decadeschaplinuse 1915 – ‘A Jitney Elopement’: Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance race north past Golden Gate Park on an unpaved Great Highway attempting to elope. Sutro Heights can be seen in the distance.


decadesnavigatetwouse 1924 – ‘The Navigator’: Millionaire Buster Keaton leaves his mansion at Divisadero and Broadway in Pacific Heights for a long drive, (across the street) to propose to his girlfriend. Keaton’s mansion is gone now but the stone gates are still there and can be seen in the modern picture. When she rejects him, he tells his chauffer that he needs a long walk, and crosses Divisadero back to his house. The building on the northwest corner of Broadway and Divisadero is still there.

decadeslottasuse 1936 – ‘San Francisco’: The opening scenes of the granddaddy of all disaster movies starring Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, and Jeanette MacDonald takes place on December 31st 1905, three and a half months before the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, with champagne being served out of Lotta’s Fountain. They did a good job at replicating the historic Fountain on Market Street for the movie.

thinmanparking 1936 – ‘After the Thin Man’: Nick and Nora Charles, (William Powell and Myrna Loy) arrive at their stately home in San Francisco which was actually Coit Tower. The exterior of the home was never shown. The bottom of the staircase that leads to Coit Tower is on the left in both images.

“Nicky, what’s that portable bathroom doing in our front yard?”

decadesbbridgeuse 1940 – ‘Cavalcade of San Francisco:’ The Bay Bridge near the last western tower is shown in James Fitzpatrick’s travelogue complete with the old riveting.

decadesbornkilluse 1947 – ‘Born to Kill’: “The way of the transgressor is hard.” So quotes the philosophical detective Walter Slezak at the foot of Market Street after reading in the paper that his main antagonist, Claire Trevor has been murdered by her lover and partner in crime Lawrence Tierney. The film ends as he saunters across the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building to catch a ferryboat home.

decadesdpassageuse 1947 – ‘Dark Passage’: Humphrey Bogart climbs down the fire escape of the Tamalpais Apartments on Russian Hill after accidentally killing Agnes Morehead. The lower portion of the escape is gone now, but where it was secured into the wall can still be seen.

decadesmamause 1948 – ‘I remember Mama’: The hustle and bustle of the northern end of the Ferry Building in 1910 from a scene in the film. At first I thought it was a backdrop, but that looks like the corner of Pier 1 at the left front of the movie image.

decadessfearuse 1952 – ‘Sudden Fear’: Romance on Lombard Street, “The Crookedest Street in the World”, between Joan Crawford and Jack Palance. Not really because Jack Palance is planning to kill Joan for her money. When she finds out about the plot “Mommie Dearest” punishes Jack good!

decadespaljoeyuse 1957 – ‘Pal Joey’: Frank Sinatra dodges the cops at the southern wing of the Ferry Building. The bus in the background of the film was loading passengers for the Cliff House.

decadesonbeachuse 1959 – ‘On the Beach’: Gregory Peck’s view through his submarine periscope up Hyde Street from beneath San Francisco Bay proves that everybody in San Francisco has been killed by radiation fallout from a nuclear war.

decadestgardenuse 1960 – ‘Portrait in Black’: After conspiring together with Anthony Quinn and killing Lana Turner’s husband they meet in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Lana’s not dealing with this too well so, naturally, Anthony’s going to have to kill her next.

decadeswinerosesuse 1962 – ‘Days of Wine and Roses’: Lee Remick chases after Jack Lemmon in front of the PG&E Building on Market Street to apologize for hurting his feelings.

“Okay, I’m sorry! I’ll become an alcoholic with you.”

decadespointblankuse 1967 – ‘Point Blank’: Double crossed by his wife and her lover, Lee Marvin is shot and left to die in an old prison cell on the then deserted Alcatraz Island. Marvin swims back to the mainland from Alcatraz to seek revenge. Below is the view of San Francisco from Alcatraz Island today.

decadesplaysamuse 1972 – ‘Play It Again, Sam’: Woody Allen and Diane Keaton on their way to beginning an extra marital affair in a scene at the benches of the old Band Concourse in Golden Gate Park.

decadesbutterfliesuse1972 – ‘Butterflies Are Free’: Goldie Hawn and her blind neighbor, played by Edward Albert, pass by the City Lights Bookstore before turning into the now named Jack Kerouac Alley.

decadestuckeruse 1988 – ‘Tucker: The Man and His Dream’: Although it is supposed to be in Chicago, Jeff Bridges victory parade traveled down Telegraph Avenue past the old Oakland Fox Theater, closed for many years at the time of the filming. Since 1988, the Fox has been restored and reopened, and is now one of the best places in Oakland to catch a show or concert. Notice how the filmmakers changed the engraving on the left side of the marquee from FOX-OAKLAND to FOX-OAKLANE for the movie.

decadespattyuse 1988  ‘Patty Hearst’: The notorious April of 1974 bank robbery by the Symbionese Liberation Army that Patty Hearst participated in is reenacted in this scene from the movie. The Hibernia Savings was actually named Hibernia Bank at the time. The scene was also filmed at 38th Avenue and Balboa Street in the Richmond District rather than at 22tnd Avenue and Noriega Street in the Sunset District where the actual holdup took place.

A twilight cable car ride

A twilight cable car ride to Fisherman’s Wharf at Christmastime: The weather really warmed up last night in San Francisco; if I would have done this a few nights ago I would have froze my little trolley off!

twicable1 Hardly any line for the cable cars:

twicable2 I always take the “Hyde Street Grip” from here; it’s a more scenic ride.

twicable3 We’re off, past Union Square! I had to knock a couple of kids off to get the front spot, but they’ll get over it.

twicable4 Heading up Nob Hill:

twicable5 Once over Nob Hill the car turns and heads up Russian Hill by way of Jackson Street.

twicable6 Cable cars are the only National Monument that moves, and the conductor doesn’t dick around with anyone who holds up the ride. He got off here to tell that driver to move his truck or he would!

twicable7 Zooming past Lombard Street: I would have liked to get a clearer picture, but we were going about a hundred miles an hour and the cable car didn’t stop!

twicable8 The Buena Vista Cafe was full up when we got to the Bay, so I stopped in a cocktail lounge at Tarantino’s for some refreshing medicine before heading back.

twicable9 I took the Bay Street run back. It’s a beautiful ride too, but not as many hills. I didn’t fight for the front spot this time.

twicable10 Back where I started at a darker Union Square: There was a reassuring police presence all around Union Square last night because of what happened in Berlin a couple of days ago.


Four wheels and the City

I ran my car into God today,

I thought I had the right of way.

He says He’s suing after all

Can you believe the Almighty gall!

(Roshni D’Souza)

carssearsuse Two vintage beauties, three if you count the cable car and I will, on Powell Street between Bush and Pine Streets: Sears Restaurant is still around, but it’s one block down Nob Hill from here between Bush and Sutter Streets now.

cars19thavebloguse The 19th Avenue entrance to Golden Gate Park, looks like the late 1940’s or early 1950’s: They’re still kind of snotty about that left turn. I guess they thought I was a panhandler when I went out on the medium to get my picture because people in passing cars kept handing me money. I made a fortune! (San Francisco History Center)

carstlodgeuse The old Travel Lodge at the Lombard Street entrance to the Presidio: Next to it is the now closed due to a fire Liverpool Lil’s Restaurant. I used to go to Liverpool Lil’s when I had a date and was in the area, but I’ve never been to the Travel Lodge next door. Hmmm, there’s probably something subliminally suggestive in that last line so I’d better take a closer look at it.

carschouse3use The Cliff House from Sutro Heights in the 1920’s, the 1950’s and last week: You can’t see cars, the road, or even much of the Cliff House from here anymore.

carswaverlyplaceuse On April 1st 1953, illegally stored butane gas in the basement of a building on Waverly Place in Chinatown exploded injuring ten people and destroying the building. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the building was on the southeast corner of Waverly Place and Washington Street which would be where the Lucky Dragon Gift Shop is today. The car with the dent in the back to the left of the fireman in the middle appears to be a circa 1950 Ford. This was the kind of car driven by the police inspectors in the old 1950’s television series ‘The Linup’ also know as ‘San Francisco Beat’. I think that this was the best on location television show ever made, and I wish that episodes of these could be found and restored. There is a grainy collection of about seventeen episodes available on DVD and they are wonderful to watch, including episodes where a woman threatens suicide by jumping into the ocean from behind the Cliff House, a serial killer is taken down by the police in front of #9 Fishermen’s Grotto, and a lunatic threatens to blow up Seals Stadium with a bomb.

carsgalenuse A few vintage chassis on Stockton Street south of Post: No, I’m talking about the old cars! Because of the Stockton Street Metro Project my picture is a little closer to Post Street than where the ladies and the precursor to Shirley Temple were. The vintage photo is interesting because it’s difficult to tell if that’s the Stockton Tunnel in the far back of the photo. If not, then the picture predates 1914 when the tunnel opened. The Galen Building can still be seen peeking out in the center of my picture. (San Francisco History Center)

December people watching

peoplestocktonuse Same crosswalk, different people: This Stockton Street crosswalk on the south side of Geary Blvd. must have been the Designated Older People crosswalk in the 1950’s and the Designated Younger People crosswalk today! The landmark City of Paris Department Store where Neiman Marcus is today is behind the crossers in the vintage picture.

peopleridingcablecaruse Well, as long as nobody notices that the cable car was going up California Street at Grant Avenue in the vintage picture and down California Street at Grant Avenue in my picture, this will make a nice comparison.

peoplepowellmarketuse Sticking with cable cars here, you can’t ride on the cable car as it revolves on the turntable at Powell and Market Streets like those bored looking people in the 1930’s are doing. I wonder what football games were playing.

decjtgardenuse No people watching here anymore: The old and now closed entrance to the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, looks like the 1960’s, when it was free to get in.

decgeishause Two pretty geisha girls below one of the temples in the tea garden:

decteahouseuse The Tea Garden Pavilion, obviously, during the 1940’s or early 1950’s: The Japanese Tea Garden name was changed after Pearl Harbor to the Oriental Tea Garden, and was not changed back to the Japanese Tea Garden until 1952. The proprietor and caretaker of the garden, Takano Hagiwara, was interned in a Japanese relocation camp.

decghighwayuse Little people watching on the Great Highway from the top of Sutro Heights: It’s not an easy spot to get a comparison picture here today; you have to climb over a rather nasty fence and get close to the edge of the cliff to get this shot. I’m getting too old for this kind of stuff!

decnicoleuse I wonder if Nicole said yes.

A colorful city

colortriffiduse The northeast corner of 21st and Church Streets in 1952:

“Aw, Mom, we don’t want to go in that store, it’s creepy! There’s triffids in there!”

Actually, it looks like they lived in that place! I’m always, sort of, a proponent for preserving old San Francisco buildings, but this one, probably, had to go! (Cushman Collection)

colorstocktoncrosswalkuse Well, now you know what people looked like in the Market Street crosswalk at Stockton Street in the 1960’s as compared to today. So, that’s one less thing to wonder about!

colorleviplazause This once seedy looking area of Filbert Street beneath Telegraph Hill is now Levi Straus Plaza, one of the best spots for an outdoor lunch in Downtown San Francisco. (Cushman Collection)

colorconventionuse The Republican Convention at the St. Francis Hotel in 1964: Sorry guys, Johnson won. Cushman Collection)

colorchinatownuse I know, “Doesn’t he have anything better to do than to go around Chinatown taking pictures?” Well, the answer is….. “No, not really!”

colorpier26use Pier 26, directly under the Bay Bridge from a slide picture I took in 1983: Sometimes, being a colorful city doesn’t always mean San Francisco gets it right. Around that year somebody got the bright idea of painting all of the piers on the Embarcadero mellow yellow and baby blue.  I remember saying to myself back then, “What’s with that?” Of course, people didn’t say, “What’s with that?” in 1983, I probably said, “How grody!”

colorroundhouseuse The old Roundhouse Restaurant at the Golden Gate Bridge, built in 1938 and seen in several film noir movies such as ‘Dark Passage’ and ‘The Man who Cheated Himself’ eventually became a gift shop for a number of years, but closed prior to 2012. It is now reopened as the Roundhouse Cafe. What goes round comes round!

colormalooneysuse Red Maloooooooooney’s: Kearny at Sacramento Streets, 1952: If you’re wondering why all the bail bonds places, the building with the arched windows to the right of Coit Tower was the old Hall of Justice, seen in many old movies and television shows before it was demolished in the mid 60’s for a Hyatt Hotel. (Cushman Collection)

colormarketleaventhreeuseA then, then and now! These are three images of where Leavenworth Street used to cut into Market Street. (It doesn’t anymore) The top picture is from the 1950’s; you can see Leavenworth coming in on the left. This area was right in the heart of where all the movie theaters, such as the Artists Theater were in operation for decades. The California Western State Life Insurance Company was occupying the David Hewes Building built in 1908. The Odd Fellows Fraternity Building, built in 1909, is on the corner of 7th and Market Streets. In the middle photo from 1967, Merrill’s Drugs, Fosters Restaurant, the Federal Hotel, and, of course, the inevitable buses are still around. Although, C.W.S.L Insurance, (easier to abbreviate) is gone, the David Hewes Building is still there, although extremely remodeled and green. The Artists Theater was then called the Centre. (I don’t know if that was pronounced Center or Centray!) In the modern picture at the bottom the Odd Fellows Building is still around, Foster’s and Merrill’s are gone, and the Federal Hotel is now the Aida Hotel. And, of course, the Market Street buses are still rolling.

Alioto’s and #9 Fishermen’s Grotto

aliotouse Had a birthday lunch at Alioto’s Restaurant in Fisherman’s Wharf this week. There isn’t a lot of tourists at this time of year so I got one of the best seats in the house overlooking the fishing boat lagoon. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a more scenic lunch. The restaurant has been remodeled since the vintage photo from SF Gate was taken, so I was sitting about where the Alioto’s sign was.

grottouse “A corsage, Madame, for your coat that so many little animals gave their all for!”

Stopped in at the Grotto first, but the waiting time was too long. The waiter at the door said, “We’ll call your name when there’s a table open.” When I asked how long it would be, he replied, “February.” Actually, the restaurant has changed ownership and it’s closed for remodeling at this time.

Pretty girls in the City

prettypinkuse Pretty in pink on Powell Street:

prettuusquareredo A bonus, six pretty girls from the 1960’s and one pretty girl from today at the southeast entrance to Union Square:

prettyballerinause “Officer, I’m telling you I’m not on drugs! I saw ten pretty ballerina girls dancing under the Golden Gate Bridge!”

“Get him out of here!”

prettygirlsmason Two pretty girls helping the old man up Mason Street on Nob Hill.

prettyferrywaveuse Pretty girls still wave goodbye to Ferry boats at the Ferry Building.

prettypalaceuse The Palace of Fine Arts during the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition, and a perfect location for a pretty girl picture:

prettynorause This one was, kind of, special. A friend of mine named Nora asked me if I could help her identify the location of a picture of her mom and dad in San Francisco at the end of World War Two. We worked together to find the spot here on Market Street, and it was fun to do.

“It’s beginning to look a lot like…..”

Christmastime in the City: Sometime it feels like I’m in an old movie when I go to Downtown San Francisco at Christmastime. I went over there last weekend to get into the spirit of the season. (Well, it’s possible!)


The northwest corner of Union Square in 1929, and yesterday after the rain: The old photo was taken from a building that was later demolished for the I Magnin building that’s now part of Macy’s. My picture was from the Cheesecake Factory. (Opensfhistory)


Here’s a great old picture; the hustle and bustle of Geary Blvd. and Stockton Street in the 1940’s, and the hustle and bustle and construction of Geary Blvd. and Stockton Street today. That’s the beloved City of Paris Department Store, demolished in 1981, in the background. Neiman Marcus is there today. You can see their Christmas tree in the entrance. There was a Salvation Army Band playing Christmas carols on the corner in front of Neiman Marcus that you can see in the modern picture, and they were great!  Opensfhistory)

2ndredo The Neiman Marcus Christmas tree is under the same rotunda as the City of Paris tree, seen above. Neiman Marcus kept that roof from the old department store. That old photo looks like some creepy ‘Twilight Zone’ episode where the mannequins come to life and chase you out of the store, or something!

cmas2016magninsuse Here’s another cool old picture looking down Stockton Street from Maiden Lane. I’m not going to get a really good comparison until they finish the Stockton Metro project.

cmas2016stocktonuse This one is a little further down Stockton Street from the previous one. Where were the concerned citizens when those two nitwits were dragging that kid through all that dangerous traffic in the 1940’s? That’s the old Macy’s Store clock in both pictures.


The northeast corner of Union Square in the 1960’s and last Sunday: “Hey everybody, here’s a crosswalk we haven’t checked out yet!” (Opensfhistory)

bvistause Eh, why not? (