San Francisco in Cinema: The Princess Diaries
The property at 2601 Lyon Street at Green, with its distinctive entry, plays the exterior of Grove High School in the 2001 comedy The Princess Diaries. In this movie for young girls, Julie Andrews is Queen Clarisse Renaldi of Genovea, who comes to San Francisco to teach her granddaughter the fine art of being a princess. Because the girl, Mia, played by Anne Hathaway, is socially awkward and invisible to her classmates, the obvious humor revolves around Mia's attempts to cope with her newly discovered royal status and the expectations of her grandmother. This film was criticized by some who said it reinforces stereotypes about the importance of being pretty and popular. While The Princess Diaries will never play at feminist film festivals, it should be noted that Mia is just as clumsy and insecure after her makeover as she is before it, and all the "beautiful" young people in the movie are mean and unhappy. At the climax of Mia's ascension, she's rain soaked and is rambling in her speech, but reborn with confidence in herself because of her father's love. Mia and her mom live in the former Chemical Engine Company 43, a two-story Mission Revivial style firehouse in the the Excelsior. The retired firehouse was sold at auction in 1976. The private residence still retains a large hose drying tower in back. Many other City locations are found including Pacific Heights, Russian Hill, and Seal Rocks. 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 eluding 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. Watch for Sandra Oh as Vice Principal Gupta. San Franciscans will recognize Oh from her role as Bambi Kanetaka, Armistead Maupin's version of local TV reporter Wendy Tokuda, in Further Tales of the City.

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