Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Filtering by Tag: Presidio

The House Across The Bay - Alcatraz

    Prisoners on their way to Alcatraz embarked from a small pier at Fort Mason, adjacent to Aquatic Park (map).  (Fort Mason had its own pier numbering system independent of the city's waterfront Embarcadero piers).  The sign informs us that these boats also supplied Fort McDowell on Angel Island .


Then ...  Larwitt is driven to the pier down a narrow boardwalk alongside the Aquatic Park municipal pier.  At far right is the newly built (in 1939) bathhouse building and behind it the Ghirardelli Square clock tower.  Coit Tower atop Telegraph Hill is there too, hiding behind the wooden post.

... and Now,  the Alcatraz Pier has survived but in poor condition and is now off-limits to the public.  CitySleuth captured this matching view from the municipal pier ... considering the passage of 70-plus years it's remarkably similar from here except for the TransAmerica Building on the horizon to the left of the extant clock tower.  Coit Tower is clearly seen and in both Then and Now images you can make out the white speaker tower behind the bleachers, one of a pair erected on either side of the bathhouse.

... and Now,  taken through the locked gate, here's a recent photo of the Alcatraz Pier.  Alcatraz Island is out of the picture to the right.


    In this great image Larwitt, flanked by and handcuffed to federal guards, gets his first glimpse of his future home - he won't be needing that natty attire for the next ten years.  The bathhouse and the second speaker tower are seen behind him.  (This closeup was filmed in a studio with a photo plate backdrop).


Then ...  What he sees is Alcatraz sitting there, imposing, intimidating, awaiting.

... and Now,  the federal prison was operational only from 1934 to 1963 and is but a part of the history of Alcatraz Island.  In the recent photo below, with the Alcatraz Pier in the foreground, a few changes can be seen, including the water tower built in the same year (1940) the movie was released.  The island today is a huge tourist destination hosting a million visitors annually. 


Then ...  The feds lead him down the gangway but a knowledgable observer would recognize that this isn't the same pier, in fact Fort Mason is two miles away, visible from here in the distance just right of center.

... and Now,  this was filmed at the small coastguard pier near Crissy Field in the Presidio.  A second shed alongside the smaller square one has since been added and an adjacent pier on the right is gone.

    On a trivia note here's the same location from the 1958 movie The Lineup by which time that second shed had been built (in fact it was already built by 1947 as seen, together with the adjacent pier, here in the movie Dark Passage.

    The red and white markers on the map below show the locations of the two piers relative to each other.


    ... but as the boat pulls away we are back at the Fort Mason Alcatraz Pier.


Then ...  The next shot looks back towards the bathhouse and speaker tower.

... and Now,  1939 coincided with the tail end of the Art Deco period and its Streamline Moderne influence on the speaker tower and bathhouse are clearly evident.


    CitySleuth couldn't resist including this cute vintage photo taken the year the bathhouse was built.  Intended primarily to broadcast sports events, the speakers went silent decades ago.


    Brenda has witnessed the prisoner transfer - the poignant sight of her husband's slowly receding boat heralds a significant life-changer for them both.


The Man Who Cheated Himself - Fugitives

   Ed Cullen's younger brother Andy has figured out that Lois Frazer was responsible for the murder of her husband and that Ed had covered it up.  Putting aside family loyalties he informs the authorities and an all-points bulletin is put out for their arrest.  The lovers hear it over the radio as they try to flee the city.


Then ...  They make a quick U-turn and head for the nearest city exit, the Golden Gate Bridge, seen in the distance.  (Click the image to enlarge it).

 ... and Now,  hardly changed in over 60 years, this is in the upscale Sea Cliff neighborhood on El Camino Del Mar near Sea Cliff Avenue (map).  (Click the image to enlarge it).


Then ...  Now on Doyle Drive, aka highway 101, they are approaching the bridge toll booths.

... and Now,  the bridge is way busier than it was in 1950.  The toll booths are just off the picture on the left.


Then ...  Uh - oh, the cops have beaten them to it and have the bridge closed off.

... and Now,  some changes have taken place at the toll booths since then the biggest of which is the absence of toll-collectors, displaced in 2013 by Fastrak sensors and license plate cameras.  But there's still a clock mounted in the center.

... a vintage photo ...  here's a contemporaneous c. 1950 photo that adds color to the same location.  Note the black-and-whites at far right.


Then ...  The last San Francisco exit, into the Presidio, is right before the toll booths and Cullen takes it to avoid the roadblock.  They decide to hide out at Fort Point and he is next seen heading there, turning into Long Avenue from Lincoln Boulevard (map).  A sweeping vista of the Marina district and the City beyond catches our eye.

... and Now,  one of those piers has been removed otherwise the marina looks as inviting as it always has.  The city skyline of course has seen many changes and the tall white tower in the upper left quadrant is the new Eastern Bay Bridge structure.

... in 1947 ...  coincidentally, or not, the same location was filmed three years earlier when Lauren Bacall drove Humphrey Bogart to her apartment in the movie Dark Passage.


Then ...  Long Avenue runs into Marine Drive which in turn dead-ends at Fort Point.  The camera pans from left to right, following them along Marine Drive.  (Click the image to enlarge it).

... and Now,  the same panorama today from the same vantage point.  The camera was set up in front of Fort Point (map).  (Click the image to enlarge it).

... in 1957 ...  Alfred Hitchcock must have seen this movie.  When Scottie follows Madeleine in Vertigo in the fall of 1957 the director used the identical panorama.  Note that the old lighthouse keepers' houses on the right seen in the Then image above and the Vertigo image below are no longer there.


Then ...  Cullen reaches his destination, old Fort Point, an army garrison once a proud lonely sentinel but now dwarfed by the towering Golden Gate Bridge.

... and Now,  it seems time has stood still here in the 60-plus years since the movie was made.


The Man Who Cheated Himself - Cover-up

  When Cullen arrives at his lover Lois's home she tells him her husband is planning to kill her for her money.  While he was at the airport on a business trip she had found his hidden gun but as they speak the husband sneaks through the back door intent on carrying out his plan.  She confronts him; the gun in her hand goes off and he falls dead.


Then ...  Cullen is a homicide lieutenant.  Does he arrest her?  No way, not in the noir world, instead he decides on a cover-up.  They load the body in his car and he drives off to dump it at the airport, then known as San Francisco Municipal Airport, a logical place given that he was supposed to be there.  (Coincidentally, this same terminal was also seen a year earlier in the movie Impact).

... in 1942 ...  this vintage photo gives us a better view of the terminal.  It was built in the 1940s and served passengers until the mid 1950s when a new terminal, named Central Terminal, was built nearby.

... and NowCentral Terminal was later renamed Terminal 2 and expanded over the years to the current structure shown below (map).  The original terminal above was torn down in the 1980s.  San Francisco Municipal Airport was renamed San Francisco International Airport in 1955.

  Cullen deposits the corpse at the airport and takes off, unfortunately for him witnessed by a couple in a parked car.


Then ...  He decides a perfect place to dispose of the murder weapon would be the deep waters of the San Francisco Bay under the Golden Gate Bridge.  But when he pulls up to the toll booth he is recognized by a fellow cop.  His plan is off to a rocky start ...

... and Now,  these north-bound booths (map) have been removed.  The south-bound are still there, retaining art deco design, but the toll-collectors were displaced in 2013 by FasTrak sensors.

Then ...  Later in the movie we get another, daytime, view of the toll booths.

... and Now,  there's still a clock mounted in the center.

  Cullen pulls over on the bridge (today's traffic wouldn't allow that) and throws the gun over the railing, into the bay.   Now he feels better; with no weapon any investigation will be severely hobbled.


Vertigo - Palace of Fine Arts

  Scottie and Judy begin dating.  Naturally, he takes her out to Ernie's for a meal (where he first saw Madeleine) and dancing at the Fairmont Hotel.  Both of those scenes were filmed on carefully recreated Paramount Studios sets, but their stroll alongside the Palace of Fine Arts was a location shoot.

Then ...  There was a glimpse of the domed Palace of Fine Arts earlier in the movie when Scottie was tailing Madeleine's Jaguar through the Presidio.

... and Now,  looking north on Presidio Boulevard near West Pacific Avenue (map).  The view is now mostly obscured by trees from here.


Then ...  A retreating camera dolly tracks them as they walk alongside the Palace - Judy is looking over to it off to the right.

... and Now,  this looks south along Baker Street from near Beach Street (map).  On the horizon Baker Street crests at Broadway in Pacific Heights.


Then ...  They pause a moment and admire the majestic edifice across its peaceful lagoon.  The Palace of Fine Arts is the only survivor, on its original site, of ten grand palaces constructed for the city's 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition.  For many years it housed art exhibitions but today is the home of the Palace of Fine Arts Theater and, since 1969 until its 2013 move to Piers 15 and 17, the popular Exploratorium museum.

... and Now,  the Palace looks unchanged, but back in 1964 in response to structural concerns it was demolished down to its skeletal steel supports and rebuilt with lightweight concrete materials.  They did a fine job.


... on location ...  this informal photo caught Kim Novak and Jimmy Stewart taking a break on the camera dolly used for the tracking shot shown above.

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