‘Race Street’ – Who were the Dons?

Real dedicated football fans will know the answer to that, but I had to do some checking. More on this later. I really enjoy finding a film noir movie I’ve never seen with great San Francisco on location scenes. ‘Race Street’ from 1948 isn’t any movie masterpiece, I give it two and a half stars, but for terrific location shooting in the City it’s tops. The movie is about a mob syndicate extorting protection money from San Francisco business owners. When they tangle with George Raft’s bookie business they have a problem. It’s not the best DVD restoral and some of the movie scenes are a grainy captures, but you can see the locations okay.

RaceRaftuseThe film stars George Raft. Raft originally made it on the map with his coin flipping gangster scene in the in the 1932 movie ‘Scarface’ with Paul Muni. Check out Bugs Bunny’s George Raft impersonation on the link below.


Race Maxwell useRaft’s girlfriend is Marilyn Maxwell, who helped introduce the song ‘Silver Bells’ with Bob Hope in ‘The Lemon Drop Kid’ from 1951.

Race MorganuseThe film also co-stars Harry Morgan, probably most famous as Colonel Potter in the television show ‘M*A*S*H’.

RaceBendixuseBut to me the star of the movie is the character actor William Bendix. I like him in everything he was in. His best role was probably Gus in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1944 film ‘Lifeboat’. “Give us a kiss, toots.” Gus says to Tallulah Bankhead as she’s about to assist in amputating his leg. (She does) Bendix plays a nice guy cop trying to keep Raft out of trouble.

RaceopenuseRaceopen2useRaceopen3useThe movie shows a panoramic sweep of San Francisco from Twin Peaks behind the credits.

RaceTPeaksuseThe view from Twin Peaks now:

RaceTopMark1useThe movie opens up with a 1948 view from the Top of the Mark.

RaceEddyuseThe story starts out showing a number of San Francisco locations. This is the cable car turnaround at Powell and Market Streets looking toward Eddy Street. The building with the Gray’s Suits advertisement was demolished and Eddy no longer cuts through to Market Street. This is where Hallidie Plaza is now. You can see the old JC Penny’s Store building on the corner of 5th and Market Streets in both pictures.

RaceMontgomeryuseThis is Montgomery Street at Market Street looking north.

RacePostuse The action starts with a customer going into the clothes store front for Raft’s bookie business on Post Street across from Union Square. The building the clothes store was in was demolished in the 1980s and is now where the Saks Fifth Avenue Building is.

Racecourt1useRacecourt2useRaft’s squeeze, Marilyn Maxwell, lives in the Stanford Court Building on Nob Hill on California Street. Here, they’re leaving the courtyard, still there but not as fancy.

RaceStanforduseThey merge onto California Street across from the Fairmont Hotel.

RaceCalifPowelluseThey cross Powell Street at California Street, the only place where the three remaining cable car lines cross each other.

RaceCrestuseThe two head down California Street past the old Crest Garage, demolished in 2018.

RaceCrest2useThe view down California Street from here now:

RaceJonesuseRaft lives on Nob Hill too at an apartment building on the southwest corner of Jones and California Streets. The tall building in the far background is the old Empire Hotel Building in the Civic Center area. You can just barely see it through the rainy mist in my picture.

RaceRaftsaptuseHe drives down the west side of Nob Hill and turns into his parking garage.  RaceRaftAptuseI’ll have to ask my arborist friend, Tony, if that could possibly be the same hedge that was growing there in 1948. He’ll probable think that’s a ridiculous question, but I have vines growing in the back yard of my house that go back to the 1960s.

RaceCHouseuseRaceSRocksuseThe movie even takes a trip out to the Cliff House where Raft has lunch with his sister who is worried about his prospects for bucking the mob. Seals Rocks are in the background of the lunch scene.

Racemob1useRacemobuseI’ll close with a few of the scenes filmed at night. Refusing to be intimidated by the mob, Raft is intercepted by one of “the Boys” going into his apartment. I’ll bet he has a gun in his pocket! I’m bright about things like that.

RaftrideuseRaft gets taken for the proverbial ride. It’s never a good sign when one of the hoods gets in the back seat with you and not in the empty front seat.

RaftblindfolduseMr. Big, played by Frank Faylen, tells Raft he had better get in line. This would certainly persuade me! Raft plays along with him to bide time, although they rough him up pretty good.

RaceGGateuseIn one scene, Bendix tries to talk Raft out of taking the mob on without involving the police as they cross Market Street from 6th Street toward the Golden Gate Theater, at that time owned by Howard Hughes’ RKO Movie Studio.

RaceDonsuseRaft and Bendix cross Taylor Street toward Golden Gate Avenue. The newspaper box next to them is advertising a football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Dons. These were the Los Angeles Dons, a pro football team that existed from 1946 until 1949. The move ‘Race Street’ was released on June 22nd 1948, so the football game had to be played during a season prior to 1948. It looks like it says Sunday the14th of a month I can’t make out, but I can’t find that game on any of the two Dons seasons before 1948. The only game the 49ers played the Dons at Kezar in 1947 was September 7th, unless it was an exhibition game. I wonder if it was just a movie prop! The newspaper box would have been about where the walk signal is on this side of Taylor Street in front of the Golden Gate Theater.

RacecloseuseThe movie ends back where it began at the Top of the Mark for a nighttime view of the City, and closes out overlooking the Embarcadero and the Bay Bridge.










Pictures I’d like to redo

Some of my pictures here may be slightly outdated now and some would just be fun to redo, but these are on my list of comparison pictures I’d like to do again.

RedoBBridgeTManuseNick and Nora Charles getting pulled over on the Bay Bridge while they were heading east to the Golden Gate Fields in Albany in the 1941 film ‘The Shadow of the Thin Man’. A lot of new buildings have sprung up in SOMA since I took this picture about 7 years ago.

RedoBBlanketuseI should redo this one I did in 2013 in honor of the closing at the end of this year after running for over 45 years of the San Francisco musical ‘Beach Blanket Babylon’.

RedoNoeuseI’d like to redo this 1920’s photo from the Image of America Series taken at the top of Duncan Street in Noe Valley just to go there again.

RedoMarketStreetuseMarket Street at Powell Street in the 70s: Ah, if only the vintage F Line streetcar behind the number 7 Muni bus would have been the one in the lead!

RedoTIslanduseI was leaving Treasure Island with friends in October of 2014 when this view of the eastern span of the Bay Bridge being dismantled reminded me of a fuzzy picture had in my computer of the bridge being built from this angle. I snapped a quick picture as we passed. I’d like to redo it, but never will.

Redo3rduseLooking south toward the old Southern Pacific Train Depot and the Lefty O’Doul Bridge from Brannan Street in the 1940’s: I’ll have to borrow someone’s crane if I’m going to get this one accurate in a redo.

RedoBBridgeopenuseThe opening of the Bay Bridge in November of 1936: As I mentioned in the opening picture to this post, a lot of new buildings have sprung up in the background since I took this picture in January of 2015.

RedoExAlcatrazuseThe old Montgomery Barracks in a scene from an odd 1950 film called ‘Experiment Alcatraz: Here, prisoners from Alcatraz Prison are being transported by the army to a location in the Presidio to participate in a medical experiment that may earn them their freedom. To me, the star of these pictures is my old truck that still runs. This area is all grass now, and more visitor friendly than when I took the original picture.

RedoGreeduseI should probably redo this one on a regular basis to see if this building on the corner of Hayes and Laguna Street continues to survive. This was where the dental office of John McTeague was located in the 1924 film ‘Greed’, a movie that is considered one of the greatest films of all time.

RedoTHilluseAlmost a perfect matchup, except that I’m 210 feet higher than from where the vintage postcard was taken: I’ll redo it from the Coit Tower parking lot instead of at the top of the tower after they cut back all of those trees blocking most of the view from the parking lot nowadays.

RedoDannyuseBuffalo Bill at the Cliff House: I’d give anything to redo this one if my best friend could be in it again.

OrangeFBuildingThe Ferry Building on Halloween, 2010: No, that orange wasn’t for Halloween, the Giants were just about to win their first World Series in San Francisco. I’ll redo it again the next time they win the World Series.

SFRStocktonuseRedoUSquareeastuseLast February I mentioned that someday I’d like to redo the top then and now picture I posted of the east entrance to the Union Square Garage taken during the 1940s. The source of the vintage picture was the Facebook page San Francisco Remembered. The Stockton Street construction on the Muni Metro extension to Chinatown made for a poor comparison picture back then. They’ve finished this portion of the new rail line and I was able to get a better then and now picture in between rain showers today. Back in the 40s Union Square had four entrances and exits; north, south, east and west. Today, there’s only the north and south drive-through on Post Street and Geary Blvd.



Getting ready for Christmas 2019 around Union Square

They’re putting on the finishing touches, like tinsel on the Christmas tree, around Union Square for the holiday decorating, but it’s still pretty quiet because of the rainy weather. I had a couple of good days without rain this week to go around and take some pictures.

CMasGrantuseWith lower Stockton Street open again after so many years they’re not about to close it again, so they moved the street mall to Grant Avenue between Geary Blvd. and Post Street, and Maiden Lane. The vintage picture here on Grant Avenue is from 1960. (Source, opensfhistory.org)

CMas2016StocktonuseThe pedestrian mall used to run along Stockton Street from Market Street to Geary Blvd for years. This picture of mine was taken in 2016 between O’Farrell Street and Geary looking toward the old Macy’s clock. The vintage picture is from the 1940’s.

CMasMLaneuseThere were a lot of Maidens in Maiden Lane in this picture from 1949. (opensfhistory.org)

CMas2019MagninsuseThe southeast corner of Stockton Street and Geary Blvd. in 1958, looking toward the old I Magnin Department Store: The vintage picture was taken near the entrance of the much loved City of Paris Department Store. (opensfhistory.org)

CMas2018CParisuseThe City of Paris seen from Union Square in the 1940s: Forsaking a rally to save the old landmark building, it was demolished in 1979. The Neiman Marcus Department Store is there today. (SF Chronicle)

CMas2019roofuseNeiman Marcus had the class to save the painted glass ceiling from the rotunda of the City of Paris, and you can step back in time for a minute when you go up to look at it. (SF Chronicle)

CMas2019StocktonGearyuseThe northwest corner of Geary Blvd. and Stockton Street looking toward Union Square during the 1950s: (San Francisco Pictures Blog)

CMasStocktonuseI’ve been waiting for awhile for them to clear the construction off Stockton Street from the MUNI expansion to Chinatown so I could get a comparison picture of this Charles Cushman Collection, looking past Maiden Lane toward Post Street in the 1950s.

CMasUSquareuseThe north entrance to the Union Square Parking Garage on Post Street in 1967: The vintage picture is a nice time capsule. (San Francisco Pictures Blog)

CMas2019PostPowelluseA gloomy 1987 picture along Post Street from Powell Street in 1987: San Francisco has had days like the older picture a lot recently, but yesterday was a little nicer. (San Francisco Pictures Blog, Rob Weststrate)

redoThe Ferry Building and the Ferry Building: The bottom picture is a gingerbread Ferry Building on display this season in the lobby of the Ferry Building







Winter weather at the Wharf

I know, winter is still three weeks away, and anyway I took these pictures the last week of November. Also, the aftcast of the weather conditions when I took most of these pictures, (I wonder if I made that word up) were sunny although chilly, which is more in line with fall. After I took my pictures, real winter weather did slam in hard by the end of November. Anyway, when I was 15 I fell in love with San Francisco, and the first two places I came to know well were Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf. They were both places of adventure at that age. At Fisherman’s Wharf my buddies and I would sometimes sit by the Bay smoking cigarettes we’d swiped from our parents, and watch ships coming in and going out of the Bay, from and to faraway places we said we’d visit someday and haven’t yet. I sometimes still get that long-ago feeling walking around Fisherman’s Wharf that I did when I was 15.

WharfTaylorJeffuseJefferson and Taylor Streets looking north, probably the most recognizable view of Fisherman’s Wharf and one of the most photographed intersections in the city: The vintage picture is from 1953. (San Francisco Pictures blog)

WharfTaylorNPointuseOne block south of the previous picture on Taylor Street in 1956: Somebody didn’t take very good care of this old picture.

WharfTaylorsouthuseLooking southwest along Taylor Street from Jefferson in 1963: The Z backwards K Gallery is where the old Sea Captain’s Gift Shop used to be. Personally, I think Fisherman’s Wharf lost a little of its atmosphere when that gift shop went out of business. (San Francisco Pictures blog)

WharfShedBusePier 45, Shed B at Fisherman’s Wharf in 1932: Those baskets on the pier in my picture are crab nets being stored on Pier 45 until crab season opens.

“Yea, ho, little fish, don’t cry, don’t cry.”

The vintage picture reminds me of the 1937 movie ‘Captains Courageous’. The guy with the cap on the right could be Spencer Tracy and the kid could be Freddie Bartholomew, except they were on a bigger boat in the movie. (The Fisherman’s Wharf Merchants Association)

WharfLagoonuseThe Fisherman’s Wharf Boat Lagoon in 1955: Now, you see, here’s the way my mind works; the vintage picture doesn’t say anything about who the three gentlemen on the left were, but I see three plain clothes cops investigating a crime scene. It could have been. Somewhere underneath all those crab nets in my picture are a fleet of fishing boats. (Opensfhistory.org)

WharfTaylor1930suseThe end of Taylor Street north of Jefferson in the 1930s: I had a better line up with the old picture here on Taylor Street, but then a line of vintage cars past by and I took this picture. I like the two sea gulls on either side of the procession watching the vintage autos pass; a couple of car buffs. (Opensfhistory.org)

WharfAlcatrazuseThe best views from land in San Francisco of Alcatraz Island are from Fisherman’s Wharf, seen in both these pictures from the very end of Pier 45. The vintage picture was taken in 1935. Al Capone and “Machine Gun” Kelly were on the island when the old picture was taken. The ferryboat was leaving from the Hyde Street Pier for Berkeley. . (Opensfhistory.org)

WharfCCaruseThree blocks south of Fisherman’s Wharf is the cable car turnaround at Bay and Taylor Streets, seen in 1964. It used to take only one person to push the car off the turntable back then. (San Francisco Pictures blog)

Wharfunsafe1useWharfunsafe2useAlthough there’s no geographical boundary I know of, the general rule is that the western side of Fisherman’s Wharf ends at the Hyde Street Pier. I wasn’t really going any further in this direction anyway. Still, I figured that I’d just shoot through the fence and tell people who worry about me that I ignored the sign.