This Labor Day 2020 will be a temporary break from tradition. Outdoor activities around crowds remain risky, while staying indoors with the windows closed is looking better all the time. Between the poor air quality from myriad Northern California fires and an ongoing pandemic, why not just stay home? Not ideal but quite safe. There's an alternative way to celebrate labor by watching films featuring a diverse cast of working men and women in the city by the Bay.
Here's a list of fabulous movies filmed on location in San Francisco, portraying workers from all walks of life. No need to leave your living room, except of course to pick up a DVD from the Mechanics' Institute Library's "To Go" service. (Just request titles through the catalog or give us a call at 415-393-0101.)
All About Eve - A classic film about an aspiring young actress, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) who meets her idol, Margo Channing (Bette Davis) by hanging around the back door of the Broadway star's theater. The interior of the theater was filmed in San Francisco's Curran Theatre on Geary Street.
Bullitt - A star witness in a controversial court case is murdered and the police detective (Steve McQueen) assigned to guard him goes after the killer himself. Hang onto your seat as this 1968 American action thriller is best known for its extended chase scenes through the streets of San Francisco.
The Conversation - Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) is a private eye hired to spy on a business tycoon's unfaithful wife. Caul becomes convinced someone is watching him and he suspects that the wife and her lover are in danger. Union Square, the Jack Tar Hotel, St. Patrick's Church and Casa Madrona in the Haight appear in many scenes during this 1972 film directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Dopamine - San Francisco film director Mark Decena's romantic story of a computer animator and a kindergarten teacher was shot in South Park, Presidio, Fort Point and Golden Gate National Recreation area.
Experiment in Terror - A bank teller, Kelly Sherwood (Lee Remick) is terrorized by a psychopath who threatens to kill both her and her sister unless she steals $100,000 from her employer. Filmed on location in San Francisco, the opening shot has a stunning panoramic view of the Bay Bridge and includes scenes from Kelly Sherwood's home at 100 St. Germain Ave. as well as her workplace (now Wells Fargo Bank) at One Montgomery Street. The 1962 thriller has views of Fisherman's Wharf and North Beach, topped off with a climactic chase scene at the now demolished Candlestick Park.
Haiku Tunnel - A workplace comedy about Josh, a career office temp who accepts a permanent position at a San Francisco law firm, only to discover that a full-time commitment upsets his happy equilibrium.
The Lady From Shanghai - A seaman becomes involved in a murderous intrigue of a disabled criminal lawyer and his estranged wife. This 1947 film noir directed by Orson Welles has original footage of San Francisco's old Hall of Justice that once stood at 750 Kearny Street and an exterior scene of the Funhouse at Playland.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco - Jimmie Fails dreams of reclaiming the Victorian home his father built in the heart of San Francisco. He and his best friend search for belonging in a rapidly changing city that seems to have left them behind. Shot exclusively in San Francisco, this 2019 shoestring film garnered awards for Best Directing and Creative Collaboration at the Sundance Film Festival. The most prominent feature in this indie movie is the lovely home at 959 South Van Ness featuring all the original, intricate detailing of the 1889 house.
Sudden Fear - Successful playwright Myra Hudson (Joan Crawford) fires leading man Lester Blaine (Jack Palance), dismissing him as unsuitable in her new Broadway play. Afterward, Myra bumps into Lester on a train trip and the two fall in love. But when Lester discovers Myra is leaving her fortune to charity, he and his former ex-lover, Irene (Gloria Grahame) plot to kill Myra. Viewers will be treated to glimpses of some of the city's finest living quarters, including a mansion on Scott Street (now the Indonesian Consulate) and swanky apartments on both Lombard and Greenwich streets.
Thieves' Highway - This 1949 film noir tells the story of Nico "Nick" Garcos (Richard Conte), a truck driver who returns from the war to find his immigrant father, a California fruit farmer has been crippled by unscrupulous produce dealer Mike Figlia (Lee J. Cobb). Shot on location in San Francisco, you'll see original footage of the city's once vibrant produce warehouse district, then located adjacent to the Embarcadero north of the Ferry building. By the end of the 1950s, the market was closed and moved to the southeastern part of the city.
Vertigo - San Francisco police detective Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) is forced to retire after a freak accident leaves him with a fear of heights. When Ferguson is hired privately to follow a rich shipbuilder's wife, he finds himself falling in love with Madeleine (Kim Novak). One could spend an entire day just driving around to all the San Francisco film locations in Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 masterpiece, including the Financial District, Palace of the Legion of Honor, Fort Point, Palace of Fine Arts and Mission Dolores.
Zodiac - Two SF Chronicle reporters, Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllennhaal) and Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) become obsessed with a Bay Area serial killer who taunts police with his letters and cryptic messages. Much of the movie takes place inside the SF Chronicle building and it provides the backdrop for this 2007 film. There are numerous local landmarks here, including the original Original Joe's and the Transamerica Pyramid under construction, which is used as a timekeeper for the storyline.