Heart of the City Archives

Our cinematic City, always ready for its close-up
by Hank Donat

As was first reported in the Examiner last month, the film industry in San Francisco is foundering. It is not the first time for a recession in Cinematic City, so I am optimistic about a rebound. They'll be back, unless some rogue director thinks he can recreate the Palace of Fine Arts with pixels. Fat chance.

With some books forthcoming about movies and television shows made in San Francisco, following is a roll call of some well known favorites, in addition to unique and long lost locations brought to you exclusively by Heart of the City.

Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 thriller "Vertigo" is inexorably connected to San Francisco. Hitchcock used many of the best known City landmarks including the Legion of Honor, Fort Point, and the Presidio. When Jimmy Stewart shadows Kim Novak, a client's wife, he follows her into Podesta Baldocchi on Grant Avenue through a side entrance on Claude Lane. (Claude Lane is actually a few blocks away from the Baldocchi location, but not in the movies!) The Jimmy Stewart residence is 900 Lombard Street. Vertigo made its public debut on May 9, 1958 at the Stage Door Theatre, 420 Mason Street.

"Woman on the Run" is one of the very best San Francisco movies and one of the least seen. Ann Sheridan stars in the 1950 noir story about a sensitive man with a heart condition, the only witnesses to a mob murder, who goes into hiding. His estranged wife, Sheridan, is not sympathetic to the police, whose previous witness was the victim! So, you have the police, a murderer, and a woman, all running around San Francisco in search of the missing man. Major landmarks such as Washington Square, Union Square, and Market Street abound. The apartment of the woman on the run and her husband is a hybrid location named "136 Alta Linda Apt. 4D" in the script. The Alta Linda scenes were filmed at 819 Mason Street and 1801 Laguna Street.

The Streets of San Francisco is perhaps the best known television series filmed in the City. The crime drama was filmed entirely on location here, from the waterfront to the Sunset, including stake-outs at real addresses as well as regular use of the City's neighborhoods and, as the title suggests, streets. In the episode, "Commitment" from 1974, Karl Maldin lives with his daughter at 768 De Haro Street in Potrero Hill. Michael Douglas lived at the corner of Union and Montgomery.

Union and Montgomery may be one of the most photographed un-famous San Francisco landmarks in cinema. It also appears in Vertigo, The Woman in Red, The Midnight Story, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and The House on Telegraph Hill to name just a few.

The spot where Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry seethes the words, "Make my day," in Sudden Impact is one that people who write about San Francisco cinema locations usually get wrong because they don't bother to visit the location in person. The McDonald's at 701 Third Street is the correct site. Some movie guides incorrectly give the McDonald's address as 695 Third Street and state that the location was a Burger Island restaurant at the time Eastwood filmed there. However, Burger Island is alive and well at 695 Third Street to this day. Burger Island occupied 701 Third from 1991-1996 before moving to its current location at #695.

In the film "Dirty Harry," the opening sniper sequence takes place on the rooftops of the Bank of America Building and the Chinese Cultural Center/Holiday Inn. Harry Callahan lived at 1501 Leavenworth. Steve McQueen's cinema cop "Bullitt" lived on the other side of the hill at 1153 Taylor Street.

The 1985 stinker "Maxie," starring Glenn Close is redeemed by the fact that it serves as a cinematic archive of both the old rectory at Grace Cathedral and the card catalog room of the old Main Library. Close's character and the ghost Maxie live at 722 Steiner Street on Postcard Row.

The Tanner family of "Full House" also lives on Steiner's Postcard Row, but their TV house is really 1709 Broderick Street. "McMillan & Wife" live at 1132 Greenwich Street. "The Real World" cast bunked at 949 Lombard Street in 1994, while the beleaguered Salinger sibling of "Party of Five" nested at 2311 Broadway. Loni Anderson lives at 2301 Scott Street and has a detective agency with Lynda Carter at 2898 Vallejo in "Partners in Crime." Those are nice digs, considering Anderson's character is an aspiring musician. The "Crazy Like a Fox" detective agency is located in the Flatiron Building at 540 Market Street.

"North Beach: The Movie" from 2000 is finally out on DVD. The indy film has the neighborhood well covered while it proves the stereotype that San Francisco is filled with raging heterosexuals.

"Family Plot" is Alfred Hitchock's underappreciated final film. Though the story is set in an unnamed, unidentifiable city, Hitchcock uses a pastiche of San Francisco and Los Angeles locations. The "Adamson Mansion" is the apartment building at 2230 Sacramento Street. It's identified as "1001 Franklin St." in the film. The rising stairs and shadowy trees at 2230 Sacramento are visual suggestions that evoke the house from Hitchcock's "Psycho." A garage on the Buchanan Street side of the so-called "Adamson Mansion" is a pivotal location and San Francisco's second notorious cinema garage. The other is at 100 St. Germain Street, where Lee Remick is cornered by a stalker in Blake Edwards' "Experiment in Terror."

The Tamalpais Building, 1201 Greenwich Street is a triple threat. It's the home of George of the Jungle, Agnes Moorhead in "Dark Passage," and the ingˇnue in Joan Crawford's "Sudden Fear."

The film that young people most often email me about is the awful 2001 comedy "The Princess Diaries." In it, Anne Hathaway lives at the former firehouse #43 at 724 Brazil Avenue and goes to school that's a hybrid of schools in Pacific Heights and the property at 2601 Lyon Street at the bottom of the Lyon Street Steps. Mayor Willie Brown appears as himself in a gala scene in the film's last act. A reporter asks the mayor if it looks like rain. Perhaps alluding to his Teflon political career, the mayor answers, "It never comes down on Willie Brown."

Directed by Garry Marshall from the Meg Cabot novel, The Princess Diaries includes an appearance by Laughing Sal, our famous mechanical clown and a remnant of Playland at the Beach. Laughing Sal appeared 50 years earlier in "Woman on the Run," giving him a career that's twice as long as today's Hollywood automatons.

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Copyright 2004 Hank Donat
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