‘Good Neighbor Sam’; “The movie that dares to use the Lansing Street, Guy Place curve around for a setting!”

That probably wouldn’t have been a very good promo for a film, but it is an interesting and off beat  location as part of a wild car ride scene, the highlight of the 1964 movie, ‘Good Neighbor Sam’. It’s only two and half stars on the must watch list, but the wild car ride in a Ford Thunderbird is as inconsistent and almost as fun to watch as the chase scene in ‘Bullitt’. Jack Lemmon takes a private eye who’s been spying on him for a crazy ride around San Francisco that takes in the cable car turnaround at Bay and Taylor Streets, the old Belt Line Railroad on the Embarcadero, the SOMA Area, Lombard Street and the Lansing Street, Guy Place curve on the western side of Rincon Hill, among other places. (Thumbnail images)

Sam and Minerva Bissell, played by Jack Lemmon and Dorothy Provine, get mixed up in shenanigans involving their next door neighbor, Janet Lagerlof, (Romy Schneider). It’s a little too complicated to explain, but Sam has to pretend that he’s Janet’s husband rather than Minerva’s so Janet can collect a fifteen million dollar inheritance from a deceased uncle. Things get even more complicated when Janet’s estranged husband, Howard Ebbets, played by Mike Connors, shows up. In the above pictures, Sam drops Howard off to work in Howards Thunderbird at Mason and Sacramento Streets.

Earlier in the movie, Sam, Minerva, and Janet go out for a night on the town to celebrate Sam’s promotion at work due to an advertising tip he gives to a prospective client, Simon Nurdlinger, played by Edward G. Robinson. They end up in the Fairmont Hotel Lobby, with Sam completely hammered by this time.

Sam ends up rolling down the Fairmont’s marble stairway, knocking over several people. They don’t have the red carpet on the stairs anymore.

Now we come to the main reason to watch the movie. Sam is confronted by a private eye who mistakenly claims to have positive proof the Sam is, in fact, Janet’s husband, Howard Ebbets! This plays out perfectly for Sam because Janet has agreed to give Sam and Minerva one million dollars of her fifteen million dollar inheritance for helping her. Sam agrees to give the detective a ride home. However, the advertising company Sam works for has also mistaken Janet for Sam’s wife, and has placed billboards up all over town with pictures of Janet and Sam, identifying them as Mr. and Mrs. Sam Bissell. Don’t ask, it’s too complicated to explain. Here, Sam and the private investigator exit the St. Mary’s Parking Garage, across California Street from old St. Mary’s Church, and head up Nob Hill.

Sam spots one of the billboards on the corner of California and Powell Streets.

Sam takes a sharp left on Powell to prevent to investigator from seeing the billboard. Several years ago, I did a comparison of this scene when the old Crest Garage was still there. The garage was demolished in 2018; here’s the view today.

Sam heads down Powell Street. In the far back is the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, blocked from the view here today by the San Francisco Marriott Hotel. I think you can see some of the construction on the Marriott Hotel to the left of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in the film shot. Also the flag on the Francis Drake Hotel is at half mast. The movie was released in July of 1964, but possibly the car ride scene was filmed when flags across the country were flying at half mast due to the November 22, 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The billboards have been placed up all over San Francisco, and Sam constantly has to make fast turns and maneuvers to prevent the investigator from seeing one. Here, Sam guns the T-Bird past a cable car turning around at Bay and Taylor Streets. This spot has changed drastically since 1964, although the 76 Gas Station on the right is still there today. You can also see the Cost Plus World Market sign on the right in the movie scene. The Cost Plus here closed in 2020.

Lansing Street and Gulf Place curve around the western side cliff of Rincon Hill, cut off due to excavation of this part of the hill that would eventually be the Fremont Street freeway off ramp from the Bay Bridge. The Clock Tower Building at Bryant and 2nd Streets can be seen on the right in both images. I’m a little further up Gulf Place in my picture because I wanted to get some of the beige house on the left in the film shot and still on the curve, although partially blocked by a newer building today.

Sam races down Gulf Place toward 1st Street, causing another car coming up the hill to crash into a pile of boxes. You could still see the Bay Bridge from here in 1964.

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