San Francisco Noir – Part 1

“It’s an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco. It must be a delightful city and possess all the attractions of the next world”

Los Angeles and New York come immediately to mind when we think of film noir; locales like San Francisco have nonetheless done much to contribute to the film noir genre.

There’s something about San Francisco that makes it the quintessential setting for a certain kind of film noir. In no other city (except perhaps for New Orleans) are good times and tragedy so closely interwoven in the civic self-image. Exquisite taste reigns, and might be reduced to rubble at any moment. Social circles are small and insular; who knows who lives in those big Pacific Heights mansions, and who cares? And as far as dark and sinister urges are concerned, everything here is permitted – and more often as not takes place in a quaint Victorian flat. Make no mistake, though. For all its picturesque “views,” this is a town where really really bad things happen to good and bad people alike.

The Maltese Faulcon (1941)

“I don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble. “
One of the first and best film noirs to ever come out of Hollywood. Bogart finally gets the star treatment as street smart detective Sam Spade, a man caught in a sticky web of lies, betrayal and murder. He’s drawn into the desperate search for the Maltese Falcon – a priceless 400-year-old, jewel-encrusted statue – by a lovely woman, played by Mary Astor, who does nothing but lie to him from the moment they meet
Locations: Bush Street, Ferry Building, Golden Gates

Dark Passage (1947) 

“The best goodbyes are short. Adieu.”
Directed by Delmer Daves and Starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. It was the third of four films real-life couple Bacall and Bogart made together.
The film is notable for its first third being shot entirely from the point of view of Bogart’s character, Vincent Parry, his face never seen. The story follows Parry’s attempts to hide from the law and clear his name of murder.
Locations: 1360 Montgomery Street, Golden Gate Bridge

The Lady from Shanghai(1949)

I told you…you don’t know nothing about wickedness”
Directed by Orson Wells it was filmed in 1946 and early 1947.  The movie, adapted from the novel ‘If I Die Before I Wake’ by Sherwood King, was an early contributor to the evolving film noir style, incorporating as it did murder, intrigue, double-cross and of course a scheming femme fatale.  The storyline moves from New York City to Acapulco then on to Sausalito and San Francisco with spectacular location scenes adding reality to the plot.  the famous final scene, brilliantly shot in a room full of distorting and replicating mirrors, is film noir denouement at its very best.
Locations: 201 Bridgeway, Sausalito; Steinhart Aquarium, California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, West Harbor, the Marina, San Francisco, Chinatown. 

D.O.A. (1950)  

“What would you do of your own killer?”
Directed by Rudolph Maté, is considered a classic of the genre. D.O.A. is a fast-paced noir thriller that begins and ends in Los Angeles but has lots of San Francisco action in between. The frantically paced plot revolves around a doomed man’s quest to find out who has poisoned him – and why – before he dies.
Locations: St. Francis Hotel (335 Powell Street); Market Street; Embarcadero; Southern Pacific Hospital (1950)

Vertigo (1958)

“You shouldn’t keep souvenirs of a killing. You shouldn’t have been that sentimental.”
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring James Stewart, Kim Novak and Barbara Bel Geddes. The screenplay was written by Alec Coppel and Sammuel A. Tayor, based on the 1954 novel “D’entre les morts” by Boileau-Narcejac.
It is the story of a retired police detective suffering from acrophobia who is hired as a private investigator to follow the wife of an acquaintance to uncover the mystery of her peculiar behavior.
The film received mixed reviews upon initial release, but has garnered acclaim since and is now frequently ranked among the greatest films ever made, and often cited as a classic Hitchcock film and one of the defining works of his career

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