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.

One thought on “San Francisco movie locations through the decades

  • The Old Band Concourse at Golden Gate Park is puzzling. I could not match the elms of the recent picture to the old picture. I know that some are gone, but I could not even match those that are there. These pictures are so fascinating. You know, I have never seen ‘Butterflies Are Free’. Actually, I have seen none of these movies. ‘Butterflies Are Free’ happens to be a movie that I want to see.

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