I’ve done posts in the past on this scene from an old grainy version of the film that I have on DVD, but I decided to redo these with a newer and clearer print that’s now available on DVD. The Trafalgar Building was where the parking garage for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Stockton Street is now. This is on the south side of California Street near Grant Avenue. A pretty lady named DeAnna from Security at the hotel allowed me to go upstairs with her to try to get comparison pictures with the scenes of Bob Hope looking down to California Street from the Trafalgar Building, but trees block the view now. Still, it was a nice thing to do, and this is for her. Personally, I think ‘My Favorite Brunette’ from 1947 is Bob Hope’s funniest film and it holds up pretty well today. You also have Dorothy Lamour, Peter Lorre, and Lon Chaney Jr., Alan Ladd, and even Bing Crosby thrown in for good measure, and they’re all great in this film. Here’s a recap up to the point of this scene filmed in and around the old Trafalgar Building on California Street between Grant Avenue and Stockton Street. Bob Hope is about to be executed at San Quentin for a murder he didn’t commit. (Bob Hope committing murder! The only things he ever murdered were film scripts with his ad-libs!) He explains to reporters how he got into this situation while working as a baby photographer in the Trafalgar Building, and the scene switches to California Street coming down from Stockton in a flashback.
The flashback opens up with the camera moving down California Street toward Chinatown from Stockton Street. Below, is this stretch of California today.
The camera turns and moves in toward the Trafalgar Building. An early postcard below shows the Trafalgar Building just behind the cable car on the right.
This Redwood Empire Association photo offers a clearer view of the Trafalgar Building at the right center.
A 1950’s photo shows where the Trafalgar Building stood; apparently, recently demolished: The building was behind where the HD Supply truck is in the modern picture.
The camera moves up to the top floor to the Ronnie (Bob Hope) Baby Photography shop. In the bottom picture, Ronnie is going down the hall to ask private eye Sam McCloud if he can become his detective partner. “It only took brains, courage, and a gun, and I have the gun!” he says.
Ronnie approaches Sam McCloud who is sweet talking on the telephone to a dame. McCloud turns around and it’s tough guy Alan Ladd! Sam pours himself a shot, and tells Ronnie, “Stick to “Watch the birdie.”, and you’ll die of old age.”
After McCloud leaves, Ronnie sits at his desk and fantasies about being a detective. In walks mysterious Carlotta Montay, (Dorothy Lamour) who mistakes Ronnie for Sam McCloud. She goes around behind the desk and begs him for his help. This happens to me all of the time in the tax office.
Ronnie learns to his disappointment that Carlotta is married. She tells him her husband has been kidnapped. “I’m in deep, deep trouble!” she says to him, and shows him a picture of her husband. When he asks about the wheel chair, she replies, “My husband is an invalid, he hasn’t been out of that chair in five years.” “You’re in trouble!” Ronnie agrees. That line alone is worth the price of the movie.
Always wanting to be a detective, Ronnie keeps up the charade and agrees to help Carlotta. All the while a creep named Kismet (Peter Lorre) is listening outside the door. She tells Ronnie where he can meet her later on.
When she leaves, Ronnie goes to the window of his photography shop and looks down to California Street.
A frightened Carlotta looks around, enters a taxi cab, and drives down California Street followed by Kismet.
Ronnie watches from the Trafalgar Building as they turn left onto Grant Avenue past Old Saint Mary’s. The convertible still parked on California Street is Ronnie’s.
Our hero, and I use that expression lightly, leaves the Trafalgar Building and jumps in his car to follow.
Ronnie pulls away onto California Street. I never let the next day’s garbage pick up or a tour bus stand in the way of a comparison picture. Notice the white framed entrance to the Sing Fat Building on the right in both images.
Ronnie Jackson, Private Eye, turns left onto Grant Avenue and for the rest of the movie gets himself into a world of trouble! Notice the Cathay House Restaurant sign on the left; I think they’re still in business.