Real dedicated football fans may 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 restoration and some of the movie scenes are grainy captures, but you can see the locations okay.
The film stars George Raft. Raft originally made it on the map with his coin flipping gangster scenes in the 1932 movie ‘Scarface’ with Paul Muni. Check out Bugs Bunny’s George Raft impersonation on the link below.
Raft’s girlfriend is Marilyn Maxwell, who helped introduce the song ‘Silver Bells’ with Bob Hope in ‘The Lemon Drop Kid’ from 1951.
The film also co-stars Harry Morgan, probably most famous as Colonel Potter in the television show ‘M*A*S*H’.
But 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.
The movie shows a panoramic sweep of San Francisco from Twin Peaks behind the opening credits.
The view from Twin Peaks now:
The movie opens up with a 1948 view from the Top of the Mark.
The 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.
This is Montgomery Street at Market Street looking north.
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.
Raft’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.
They merge onto California Street across from the Fairmont Hotel.
They cross Powell Street at California Street, the only place where the three remaining cable car lines cross each other.
The two head down California Street past the old Crest Garage, demolished in 2018.
The view down California Street from here now:
Raft lives on Nob Hill as well 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.
He drives down the west side of Nob Hill and turns into his parking garage.
I’ll have to ask my arborist friend, Tony, if that could possibly be the same hedge that was growing there in 1948. He’ll probably think that’s a ridiculous question, but I have vines growing in the back yard of my house that go back to the 1960s.
The 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. Seal Rocks are in the background of the lunch scene.
I’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.
Raft 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.
Mr. 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.
In 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.
Raft 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. Looking close, it looks like the game was played on a Sunday with a two number day in the date; I can’t make it out on my DVD. The movie ‘Race Street’ was released on June 22nd 1948 before football season, so the football game had to have been played during a season prior to 1948. The only games the 49ers played the Dons at Kezar before 1948 were September 7th in 1947 and December 8th in 1946, unless it was an exhibition game. I wonder if it was just a movie prop, which doesn’t seem likely. The newspaper box would have been near where the walk signal is on this side of Taylor Street in front of the Golden Gate Theater.
The 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. The closing music even plays a little of ‘San Francisco’ from the 1936 movie.