Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Filtering by Tag: Oakland

I Remember Mama - Street Posters

    Back around 1910 when this movie's story was set mass media entertainment as we know it today did not exist.  Radio didn't become widespread until the 1920s; television the early 1950s.  Even silent movies, initially individually shown in nickelodeons, didn't take off until the advent of luxury movie theaters beginning in 1915.  So where could the Hanson family and their contemporaries go out for entertainment?  Well, they could see live performances at one of the many vaudeville theaters across town, visit Playland-At-The-Beach, go swimming at Sutro Baths, or go skating at a rink.  The bold amongst them could place bets at the races.  These and other forms of entertainment were widely advertised across town by large eye-catching posters, some of which we get a glimpse of in the background of scenes from I Remember Mama.

    When Mama and Katrin were out shopping the keen of eye would have noticed the posters plastered on a door across the street, partially hidden by the flower stall canopy.  One advertises the Pantage Theater and the other Skating at the Coliseum.

    A small theater, the Empire at Sutter and Steiner, was renamed the Pantage from 1908 to 1911 but that poster would be advertising the much better known 1800 seat Pantage vaudeville theater that opened in 1911 at 941 Market Street.  Here's a postcard image, viewed south from 5th Street, showing how it looked before being converted into a department store in 1926.

... coming soon,  at the site today the ground has recently been broken for a $150 million, 250,000 square foot urban mall to be called Market Street Place, the latest contribution to the ongoing Mid Market revival.  Here's a rendering of how it will look.


    In this shot there's another Coliseum poster and one advertising the Orpheum Theater.  The Coliseum poster clearly shows the address as Baker and Oak Streets.

... a vintage photo ...  the Coliseum roller skating rink, pictured here in 1913, spanned the Baker Street block between Fell and Oak opposite Golden Gate Park's panhandle in the Upper Haight.  As an added attraction evening sessions there would sometimes include ragtime dancing on skates.  A monument to President McKinley,  erected in 1904 three years after his assassination, faces the entrance.

... and Now,  the Coliseum is long gone; its site today is occupied by San Francisco's DMV office (map).  The McKinley statue is still there, a constant target for graffiti tagging, the irksome malaise of modern times.


... a vintage photo ... The Orpheum advertised in the movie image above was the 2300 seat theater at 147 O'Farrell Street near Union Square (map), pictured here in 1910 after it was rebuilt following the great earthquake.  It was renamed the Columbia Theater in 1929 but was torn down in 1937, a victim of the Great Depression.

... and Now,  the Ellis - O'Farrell parking structure is at this site today.  The same building on the right however is still there, newly refurbished - how nice to have these century-old architectural reminders dotted around town.


    During a walk on Telegraph Hill Katrin and her sister pass by a poster for an amusement park, Idora Park (the poster showing the full name can be seen in the on-location still included in the previous post).

... a vintage photo ...   Here's a panorama of Idora Park taken in 1910.  The Victorian era entertainment park on 17 acres opened in 1904 and closed in 1929.  Trumpeted as one of the Wonders Of The West, it offered numerous rides including a roller coaster, a skating rink, a shooting gallery, a stadium for 5,000, an opera theater, picnic grounds and much more.  If you full-size the image (click or swipe it) perhaps you can find the Hanson family amongst the crowd - then again maybe not since they had so few pennies to rub together.

    The park was bounded by Shattuck, Telegraph,  56th and 58th in North Oakland (map).  It's at the center of this 1912 map detail.


    The girls walked past another poster, this one exhorting folks to come place their bets on the horses at the New California Jockey Club.

   The New California Jockey Club was the name given in 1896 to the renovated Oakland Trotting Park which had been open since 1871 as a mile-long racetrack for harness and thoroughbred racing.  Unfortunately for them horse racing was banned by the State in 1911 and after trying out automobile and airplane racing the track was demolished in 1915.  This 1912 map shows the track, still referring to it as the Oakland Trotting Park.  The site is now an industrial zone; today both the Novartis Research Institute and Pixar Animation Studios overlap the site of the old racetrack, centered at Hollis and 53rd in Emeryville (map).  


Pal Joey - West Coast Arrival

  Joey Evans' one-way ride takes him to the west coast; here it arrives at the Oakland Pier (aka Oakland Mole) train and ferry terminal which no longer exists, having been demolished in the 1960's to make way for the Port of Oakland's container ship facilities.  It was located at the west end of 7th Street in Oakland (map).  This movie preserves some rare video footage of the terminal.


Then ...  Joey nonchalantly carries his raincoat over his shoulder (that used to be cool) as he leads the passengers up the ramp to the San Francisco ferry.  For another glimpse of this part of the terminal from a different movie (Sudden Fear) and for more on the location, go here.

... a vintage photo ...  most likely from the 1940s or 50s.  It shows the same Oakland pier clock , below, captured in the movie, above.  At that time the San Francisco sign was mounted on the front of the balcony and there wasn't a Coca-Cola sign over the kiosk.


Then ...  Joey's ferry, the Berkeley, pulls out of the slip with Yerba Buena Island and the San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge ahead.  San Francisco itself can be seen in the distance at far left.

... and Now,  cranes have replaced trains in the same view below looking west from 7th Street across the port facilities that now occupy the terminal site.


Then ...  On the ferry Joey seems more interested in eyeing the pretty ladies (a recurring theme throughout the movie) than the fine view past the Bay Bridge to the hills of Marin County.  Yerba Buena island is on the right and the Golden Gate bridge is in the upper left corner.

... and Now, the Oakland Pier is gone and the ferry now leaves from nearby Jack London Square but it plies the same route and enjoys the same view.


Then ...  The city draws closer with the clock tower of the Ferry Building, left of center, marking the ferry's destination.  Dead center on the hilltop skyline are the Mark Hopkins and Fairmont Hotels.  The Brocklebank Apartment building (featured in the movies Impact and Vertigo) is to their right.

... and Now, over sixty years later a thicket of Financial District highrises has transformed this same view.  At its zenith in the 1930s the Ferry Building was the second busiest terminal in the world until the two new Bay Bridges brought on its decline.  The busiest? ... Charing Cross Station in London.


Then ...  On arrival he passes through the Ferry Building's waiting room.

... and Now, the waiting room was at the south end of the second floor.  In 2003 the Ferry Building reopened after a huge renovation, magnificently transformed from a decaying structure into a popular public space.   That waiting area has been built into offices, preventing a matching shot.  The photo below shows the offices (on the left) as viewed from the adjacent Grand Nave.


Then ...  The lady at the Travelers Aid kiosk is not amused by Joey's risque wisecrack ...

      "Can I give you aid, young man?"

      "What did you have in mind?"

... and Now, this was right next to the central exit (map)- the Embarcadero (the main waterfront road) is through the arches on the right.


Then ...  Passengers spill onto the Embarcadero as Joey keeps clear of the two cops.  The Ensign Cafe across the way was on the corner of Market Street.

... and Now, the Embarcadero block housing the Ensign Cafe, Murray's Restaurant (also seen above) and numerous taverns was razed as part of the Embarcadero Redevelopment Project and is now an open plaza.  A throwback to the past though, captured in the recent view below, is one of the wonderful fleet of vintage streetcars that ply Market Street and the Embarcadero daily.

Sudden Fear - Train Ride West

  After Myra's play has become a huge hit she decides she needs a rest and catches a train to her hometown San Francisco.

Then ...  She is seen off at New York's Grand Central Terminal at tracks 24/25.

... and Now,  this wonderful Midtown Beaux Arts building at 42nd Street and Park Avenue (map) still operates as a rail terminal.  It has hardly changed over the years, attracting tourists as well as travelers.  Here are those same doorways in a recent photo.


  On the train who should show up but Lester Blaine (Jack Palance) who Myra had fired for not being romantic-looking enough for her new play.  For the duration of the cross-country journey Lester turns on the charm, seeming to harbor no grudge whatsoever.


Then ...  They board the luxury California Zephyr at Chicago and share a quiet moment in one of the Zephyr's Vistadome viewing cars.  In a great irony Myra finds herself falling for him.

  But hang on ... reader CDL has informed CitySleuth that the Vistadome car seen above with square, angled windows was never used on the California Zephyr; its domes were styled with rounded windows (see below left).  Next to it is the same style dome railcar as used in the movie, pictured at San Diego's ATSF Depot.  Apparently the movie train scenes were filmed in Southern California using an available railcar.

... and Now,  the Zephyr was inaugurated in 1949 but suffered severe passenger fall-off in the 1960s from airline and bus competition and was retired from service in 1970.  The only way to enjoy it these days is to take one of the occasional nostalgia rides as did the folks below on last year's annual Feather River Express in a car matching the one used in the movie.


Then ...  Speaking of the Feather River, Myra and Lester's train is seen below snaking its way through the Feather River canyon in Plumas County, Northern California, a route chosen to take advantage of a low pass through the Sierra mountains.  Note the five (including the rear car) Vistadomes gleaming from the reflected light.  Today only freight trains ply their way along this route.

... and Now,  here's a recent photo of the scenic Feather River canyon looking in the opposite direction in late summer when the river flow was down to a trickle.


As acknowledgement of the importance of the canyon passage to the California Zephyr experience the Western Pacific engines incorporated a feather into their front logo.


Then ...  Their train, pulled by Western Pacific engine number 805-D, arrives at its western terminal at the Oakland Pier, aka Oakland Mole.  From here Myra and other ongoing passengers would walk to a waiting ferry to complete the journey to San Francisco.

... in 1931 ...  here's an early aerial photo of the Oakland Pier terminal with three ferries awaiting passengers.  It's not there any more having been demolished in the 1960s to make way for the Port of Oakland's container ship facilities.

... and Now,  where was the Oakland Pier?  To answer that, the aerial above has been superimposed onto the current map below at its original location- it was at the west end of 7th Street, not far south of the Bay Bridge.


  To see the California Zephyr in full color check out this 1950s or 60s photo of a train pulled by Western Pacific engine number 805-A leaving the Oakland Pier.

... and Now, containers and cranes block today's view from 7th Street.  The cantilever section of the Bay Bridge's eastern span can be seen in the distance in this photo taken just before it was pulled down, replaced by a new single tower suspension design.


Then ...  Myra is met by friends at Oakland and can't wait to introduce Lester to them, insisting they all go dining and dancing together that evening.  Note the 'To San Francisco' sign behind them with an arrow pointing to the right and the words 'Waiting Room' and 'Up Ramp' ...

... in 1957 ...  Five years after Sudden Fear was filmed Frank Sinatra arrived at the Oakland Pier by train in the movie Pal Joey.  In the panoramic image below from that movie we see the same sign; at far right is the referenced ramp.

Click in this box to search this site ...