I grew up in San Francisco among its hills, its fog, its scenic bay, and its threat of imminent earthquakes, all of which played prominent roles in some of my favorite films set in my native city. Check out these favorites and share yours on the CBS San Francisco Facebook Page. – by Murray Schneider
The Maltese Falcon
The best movie filmed with a San Francisco backdrop is the noirish The Maltese Falcon. If John Huston ever made a bad movie, I never saw it, and his 1941 classic with Bogart, Greenstreet, Lorre and Astor ranks as one of his best. Sam Spade’s office, shrouded in San Francisco fog near the Stockton Street tunnel, still resonates. And when Miles Archer gets bumped off! Wow!
What would San Francisco be without an earthquake? You can find one in the 1936 MGM potboiler San Francisco. Clark Gable is still three years from whisking Vivian Leigh up Tara’s staircase to have his way with her, but he’s as rakish as ever, playing a Barbary Coast saloonkeeper. Jeannette McDonald hits all the high notes singing the title song and, of course, Spencer Tracy saves souls as a Catholic priest (again!) as the 1906 rumble tips the Richter scale.
Fog! Earthquakes! Must have hills in the city of St. Francis. Steep ones, too. Ask Steve McQueen, who starred in the 1968 vehicle, Bullitt. Lucky he drives a Mustang, because the charismatic McQueen careens down some of Russian Hill’s most precipitous inclines in an unrivaled celluloid car chase. McQueen’s biggest mistake in this flick isn’t closing the deal with Jacqueline Bisset, but ending up in Brisbane in less than two minutes, a cross- city ride that normally takes a bumper-to-bumper 40 minutes.
It Came From Beneath The Sea
Now would San Francisco be San Francisco without the Golden Gate Bridge? If you can’t walk or drive across this 1937 icon, you can watch a giant octopus destroy it in the mediocre 1955 sci fi flick, It Came From Beneath The Sea, starring the forgettable B-film duo of Kenneth Tobey and Faith Domergue.
Within sight of the Bridge and Fort Point, Jimmy Stewart jumps into the bay to fish out Kim Novak in Vertigo, a 1958 Alfred Hitchcock thriller.
Clint Eastwood barrels across the Golden Gate Bride in Dirty Harry, after an earlier scene in which the hard-boiled SFPD detective foils the villain at the base of the Mt. Davidson cross.
Escape From Alcatraz
Seven years later, playing against heroic type, Eastwood plays Frank Morris in another Don Siegel thriller, the 1979 Escape From Alcatraz. Eastwood’s character escapes from the rock, in the last scene swimming towards the Bridge that spans San Francisco and Marin County.
Birdman of Alcatraz
The only view of the Golden Gate Bridge Burt Lancaster ever had was from his Alcatraz exercise yard. His 1962 portrayal of Robert Stroud in the Birdman of Alcatraz earned him an Academy Award.
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