THE TOURISTS are coming! The tourists are coming! The high price of living in the Bay Area is putting up with distant relatives, long-lost friends and out-of-towners with tenuous connections who decide they want to visit. Inevitably, there’s always some starry-eyed guest who thinks Hollywood is just on the other side of the Bay bridge and has her heart set on visiting this glistening celestial firmament.
Luckily, she doesn’t have to leave the Bay Area to find it, because Hollywood keeps coming here. Many memorable film scenes have been shot hereabouts, far more than we mention in this list but this guide should amply satisfy cousin Bertha or Uncle Hiram.
So get your map, walking shoes and video rental card ready.
Before the pictures could talk, Essanay Film Studios set up opposite the foothills on Niles Boulevard, Niles, in southern Alameda County. Charlie Chaplin’s last film shot in Niles was “The Tramp” (1915).
According to Pleasanton historian and architect Charles Huff, the 1917 films “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” and “Tom Sawyer” were shot respectively on Main Street and along the Arroyo Del Valle.
One of the first location shoots in Contra Costa County was for the oddball comedy “Steelyard Blues” (1973). Shot entirely in the Bay Area, the film recorded a demolition derby at the county fair’s dirt track, located in the unincorporated area around Antioch. Amid the crowds at the Antioch Speedway sat Jane Fonda, Peter Boyle and Donald Sutherland. Incidentally, if you find a wedding ring there, it might belong to Sutherland, who lost it during filming.
“American Graffiti” (1973) captured a lost past and a lost present. In addition to the long-gone Mel’s Diner at Van Ness Avenue and Mission Street, San Francisco, the movie preserved the old Pinole miniature golf course at San Pablo Avenue near Walter Avenue, where Richard Dreyfuss distracted the manager while the Pharoah gang tried to steal from the game machines.
Fast forward 20 years later to San Francisco resident Robin Williams. He hit a falsetto note as Pierce Brosnan tried to dine with Sally Fields at Bridges Restaurant, 44 Church St., Danville, in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993).
It took “Nine Months” (1995) to get Hugh Grant and Julianne Moore to Los Medanos Community Hospital, 2311 Loveridge Road, Pittsburg, although the facade depicted San Francisco General Hospital.
That same cinematic legerdemain happened in “True Crime” (1999): Reporter Clint Eastwood supposedly picked up his paycheck at the Oakland Tribune but actually met his editors in the Contra Costa Times conference room, 2640 Shadelands Drive, Walnut Creek.
Berkeley and Oakland
For a world-renowned institution, UC Berkeley doesn’t get much credit in the films in which it appears. Even when used as the filming location, as in “Junior” (1994) it was called Leland University after Stanford University’s founder.
Ironically enough, while Dustin Hoffman called the university his alma mater in “The Graduate” (1967), officials didn’t grant the crew permission to film on campus, so they headed to Stanford. However, Theta Delta Chi, 2647 Durant Ave., Berkeley, did make it as the fraternity where Hoffman tried to find the man who threatened to steal away Katharine Ross.
From there, turn left on College Avenue and left again down Bancroft Avenue. At the intersection with Telegraph Avenue, go on campus to walk through Sproul Plaza, which will be seen in the upcoming lightweight comedy “Boys and Girls” (due out June 16). Coming up to the left is the Valley Life Sciences Building, where Arnold Schwarzenegger and Emma Thompson worked in “Junior” (1994).
Continue north to LeConte Hall, where Robin Williams took a medical exam in “Patch Adams” (1998). On weekdays, take the shuttle from the Hearst Mining Circle to the Lawrence Hall of Science. George Lucas featured the auditorium in his first feature, “THX 1138” (1970) (The director also shot a scene at the Alameda Webster Tube). Or, you can head to Euclid Avenue and North Gate Hall, where the graduate school of journalism is housed. The school hasn’t reached the silver screen, but former “60 Minutes” producer Lowell Bergman, played by Al Pacino in “The Insider” (1999), teaches class here. You can get a taste of the film less than a mile away at the Cheese Board, 1504 Shattuck Ave., where Pacino had a cappuccino to go while calling Russell Crowe on the Hollywood-installed pay phone.
You could also head back southside and walk up Bancroft Way towards College Avenue to the Bancroft Hotel, 2680 Bancroft Way. The hotel housed the maternity clinic that Schwarzenegger escaped from in “Junior.” Turn right onto College Avenue, and a little more than a mile away is the H. Tulanian and Sons Rug Company, 2998 College Ave. where Whoopi Goldberg ran her African Queen Bookstore in “Made in America” (1993), co-starring Ted Danson.
Hop the AC Transit 51 or drive down College Avenue, which turns into Broadway. Once in downtown Oakland, check out the Paramount Theater, 2025 Broadway, Robert Redford’s campaign headquarters in “The Candidate” (1972). Redford returned more than 20 years later in “Sneakers” (1993) and went around the corner to the Fox Theatre, 1815 Telegraph Ave., which served as the headquarters for his surveillance experts team.
The Fox is also where Preston Tucker (Jeff Bridges) unveiled his car in “Tucker: A Man and His Dream” (1988). The beaux-arts style City Hall, 1 City Hall Plaza, became a setting for Tucker’s battles, and a bunch of Tuckers drove around downtown Oakland and passed by Oakland Hotel, at Alice and 13th streets. You can also pass by the distinctive Tribune Tower, 13th and Franklin streets, prominent in “True Crime.”
On the (S.F.) Waterfront
There is film history all over the city, and the waterfront is a good place to start. Whether you’re coming by BART, ferry or car, you’ll need to backtrack a bit go to the intersection of The Embarcadero and Harrison Street, through which Michael Douglas’ taxi careened in “The Game” (1997) before ending up in the bay.
When you’re finally done with the various piers, you can take a break at the Buena Vista Cafe, 2765 Hyde St., where a married Andy Garcia and Meg Ryan met as strangers, argued, then began kissing madly in front of a befuddled restaurant crowd in the opening scene of “When a Man Loves a Woman” (1994).
Drive along Marina Boulevard or catch the No. 30 Stockton Muni bus on North Point Street at Fisherman’s Wharf to the Palace of Fine Arts,3301 Lyons St. Built by Bernard Maybeck for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, it set the lofty scene for Tom Hanks to give Robin Wright his Medal of Honor in “Forrest Gump” (1994).
North of Market
Scenes from several movies were filmed around Sansome Street. At the bottom of the Filbert Steps, between Union and Greenwich streets Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Veronica Cartwright and Jeff Goldblum attempted to flee aliens in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1978) by running down this beautiful hidden walkway.
Walk up the steps to 1360 Montgomery St., and you’ll see where Humphrey Bogart hid out at Lauren Bacall’s apartment in “Dark Passage” (1947). Keep heading up to Coit Tower. Rita Hayworth lived large in this “Telegraph Hill” mansion in “Pal Joey” (1957).
After that, return to Montgomery Street and head to North Beach: 847 Montgomery St. is the Essex Supper Club. In its movie life, the restaurant was Ernie’s, where Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak ate together in “Vertigo” (1958).
Backtrack to the nearby Tosca Cafe, 242 Columbus Ave. It’s where Michael Douglas hung out while hunting down Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct” (1992). Farther north, Steve McQueen ate at Enrico’s, 504 Broadway, during the making of “Bullitt.”
West on Broadway, and left on Stockton Street; it’s the pulsing center of Chinatown. Many films have used this area as a backdrop, including Wayne Wong’s first directorial debut, “Chan is Missing” (1982), and “Presidio” (1988), which staged an extended chase scene through it.
The high road on top of the Stockton Street Tunnel was a killer setting for “The Maltese Falcon” (1941). And even if the thought of sucking in car exhaust while duplicating the bridal run after Chris O’Donnell through that tunnel in “The Bachelor” (1999) doesn’t sound all that appealing, you can hold your breath and give it a shot (but use the pedestrian walkway).
That will bring you to Union Square, where Gene Hackman spied on Frederic Forrest and Cindy Williams in “The Conversation” (1974). At the corner of Powell and O’Farrell streets you can recall the long-gone Coffee Dan’s, featured in the first talkie: “The Jazz Singer” (1927), or you can just turn right onto Geary Street and go to the Curran Theatre, 445 Geary St., where the false ingenue Anne Baxter upstages aging actress Bette Davis in “All About Eve” (1950).
From here, you can head north. It’s less than a mile to the York Hotel, 940 Sutter St., which posed as the Empire Hotel, where Novak masqueraded as Carlotta Valdez in “Vertigo.” Heading towards Market Street via Mason Street, you can pass by the San Francisco Hilton, 333 O’Farrell St., also known as the Hotel Bristol in the wascally “What’s Up, Doc?” (1972).
If you don’t take a shopping break, hop one of Muni’s old-fashioned buses for a quick ride along Market Street, where live, nude theaters outnumber performing arts theaters. Get off at the U.N. Plaza. Nearby, find San Francisco City Hall, Van Ness Avenue and Grove Street, which has played a variety of roles. It served as the Opera House in “Foul Play” (1978), in which late S.F. magnate Cyril Magnin pulled papal duty. It was a Chicago courthouse in “Tucker” and the U.S. Capitol in “The Right Stuff” (1983).
Nouveau riche, bourgeoisie, the creme de la creme: Whatever you might call its residents, Pacific Heights does have a Victorian splendor that Hollywood adores.
But take note: In “Pacific Heights” (1990), tenant Michael Keaton actually menaced Melanie Griffith and Matthew Modine in Potrero Hill at the corner of Texas and 19th streets.
Near Lafayette Park at the so-called “Parthenon of the West,” the Spreckels Mansion, 2080 Washington St., housed sugar king Claus Spreckels, and later, it was Frank Sinatra’s nightclub Chez Joey in “Pal Joey” (1957). Now Danielle Steele calls these palatial confines home.
Go north to 2640 Steiner St., where Robin Williams dressed up as “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993). Two blocks over, turn left onto Green Street and right to 2800 Scott St.. This is where playwright and heiress Joan Crawford lived in nuptial bliss with a poor Jack Palance until she uncovered a murderous plot in “Sudden Fear” (1952).
The combat zone
Many silents and early talkies have been set in San Francisco, many with the word “Frisco” in the title and many with murder in the plot.
Private eye Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) is offed at the Stockton Street overpass near Sutter Street in the “Maltese Falcon” (look for the commemorative plaque). A bus flew off the Stockton Street tunnel, and four died just in time to have their souls transferred into baby Robert Downey Jr. in “Heart and Souls” (1993).
The former mayor of Carmel, old Clint Eastwood himself, did all his “Dirty Harry” (1971) work in San Francisco, like tracking down the Scorpio killer in Kezar Stadium, Golden Gate Park on Frederick Street. And Iin “Sudden Impact” (1983), Eastwood foils a robbery at the former Burger Island, 901 Third St. That’s where he licks his chops as he sets his gun sights on a hostage taker and rasps, “Go ahead. Make my day.”
While 555 California St. was a sniper’s perch in “Sudden Impact,” the whole building was set aflame in the disaster movie, “Towering Inferno” (1974), which starred Paul Newman and William Holden.
Across the Bay in in Oakland, George Dzundza eats lead at the old John Breuner Company building at 2201 Broadway in “Basic Instinct” (1992). Two bodies in “Romeo Must Die” (2000) are tossed out of an apartment building and splash into Lake Merritt (which, by the way, really has no buildings immediately surrounding it).
For truly apocalyptic violence, however, you have to head down to Fremont. The shoot-out at the Cyberdyne headquarters in “Terminator II: Judgment Day” (1991) took place at the Lam Research building, 47131 Bayside Parkway, Fremont. The new Terminator (Robert Patrick) jumps his motorcycle from the second story onto a helicopter.
Next up: Alcatraz Island.
Killer Robert Stroud moved from cell block D to a private room in the prison’s hospital and spent, 42 of his 54 years in prison in solitary confinement. His cinematic alter-ego, Burt Lancaster, kept avian companions in the stark, black-and-white “Birdman of Alcatraz” (1962).
Clint Eastwood paid a visit twice, once as Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan in “The Enforcer” (1976) and three years later in “Escape From Alcatraz” (1979) as Frank Morris, who successfully went on the lam.
Christian Slater tried to prove solitary confinement drove inmate Kevin Bacon to commit immoral deeds in “Murder in the First” (1995), which was based on a true story from the 1930s. And Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage broke into Alcatraz in “The Rock” (1995), which for Ed Harris, proved to be an ideal terrorist base for threatening the free world.
In “Bullitt” Steve McQueen’s car throws too many hubcaps, but it takes those steep Russian Hill streets and China Basin drawbridges pretty well.
Boy chases girl in “Ed TV” (1999), with Matthew McConaughey sprinting after Jenna Elfman in North Beach and winding up at the Castro Theatre.
The classic of classics chases, though, belongs to “What’s Up, Doc?” (1972) with Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neill. Their Volkswagen Bug took them on a frenzied expedition down the crooked part of Lombard Street, through a Chinese New Year parade, nearly through a moving pane of glass at 23rd Avenue and Balboa Street and into the Bay. The most memorable scene is the drive down the steps of Alta Plaza. The stairs are still chipped from that little adventure.