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Today in My History

2000:  From the Sublime to the Ridiculous
2001:  The Sound of Silence
2002:  The Unbelievable
2003:  This Crazy Body of Mine
2004:  Tradition: Made to be Broken
2005:   Review: Thanksgiving 2005

2006:  The Thanksgiving that Was
2007:  Panicky Belle
2008:  A Breath of Fresh Air
2009:  Oh THAT's What Sleep is Like
2010:  My "Things to be Thankful for" List
2011:  Tempus Fugit

Bitter Hack
Updated: 11/24
"Mistakes Were Made"

Books Read in 2012
 Updated: 11/21
"Last to Die"

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The Paul Picnic

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mail to Walt


25 November 2012

This has been a relatively slothful weekend, one I didn't deserve.   If I had hosted a big Thanksgiving dinner, with lots of relatives, clean house, etc., I could have justified taking a couple of days off, but all I did was cart food to my mother's and cook it--she even cleaned up (which she insists on doing).  But I did take a couple of days off, mostly because there were good movies to see.

I couldn't pass up the chance to see Hitchcock's Vertigo again.  One of my favorite classic movies, and a toss-up between this and North by Northwest as my favorite Hitchcock.

This particular movie is near and dear to my heart because it's set in my neighborhood.  For one thing, John "Scotty" Ferguson (James Stewart) lives about 3 blocks from where I grew up.  I used to drive by that house with the iconic red door all the time (the door has since been painted).  But all the places they visit--Fort Point, under the Golden Gate Bridge, where Kim Novak leaps off into the bay (an impossible situation today, since the area was fenced off after 9/11); the Palace of Fine arts; Mission Dolores (the oldest building in San Francisco, across the street from where I used to work for The Lamplighters); and many other famous sites.

Hitchcock loved San Francisco and filmed many movies there, Shadow of a Doubt and The Birds for example.  Authors Jeff Kraft and Aaron Leventhal wrote a book called "Footsteps in the Fog: Alfred Hitchcock's San Francisco."  I had never watched Vertigo with the book in my lap before and it was fun, following the back story of the shooting locations as I watched the familiar story unfold on my TV screen.

I learned a lot about Ernie's restaurant, for one thing.   Ernie's was "the" place to go for dining in San Francisco.   With its dark wood paneling and red flocked wallpaper it represented for me the ideal in elegant dining.  Hitchcock recreated Ernie's on a stage in Hollywood, but borrowed or copied art work and other ephemera from the actual restaurant.  The owners of the restaurant appear in the movie as a waiter and the maitre d' and Hitchcock was so concerned with realism he had actual meals from Ernie's served on the set when filming that scene.

Alas, Ernie's went out of business in 1998, so I never did have the "Ernie's experience."

But the authors failed to answer a question for me (the reason I bought the book, actually!) which I must investigate myself some day.  Kim Novak as Madeline enters the Mission Dolores chapel and walks toward the front of the church.   She exits out the door on the right side of the chapel.  Scotty follows her into the attached cemetery.  BUT, the cemetery is on the left side of the chapel.  I don't know if there is a path that leads around the back of the church and into the cemetery and it bothers me every time I see the movie.  It seems such a glaring error to anybody who is familiar with San Francisco, and especially a director who is so persnickity as Hitchcock was.

Vertigo.jpg (104191 bytes)
(This photo is also wrong.  Scotty's windows face the street
and it would be impossible to see Coit Tower from those windows)

Glaring errors are common in movies about San Francisco, though, most commonly those exciting chase sequences where a car goes sailing over the top of a famous San Francisco hill...and lands on a hill that is on the opposite side of the city (Foul Play is the movie that comes immediately to mind!)

On Saturday evening, Walt and I watched a strange movie called Dark Passage. This was the third of four movies that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall made together and it got mixed reviews, with Bogart getting poor reviews and Bacall glowing ones.  It's a strange movie where Bogart, wrongly imprisoned at San Quentin for the murder of his wife, somehow manages to escape from death row and tries to solve the mystery of his wife's murder.  The first third of the movie is seen entirely from Bogart's point of view since he eventually gets plastic surgery so we don't see the familiar Bogart face until after the surgery (which is performed in office in about an hour, with no follow up, a one-week recovery time and no scars...Talk about suspension of disbelief!)

The movie has plot holes that you can drive a truck through though somehow it was strangely entertaining.  Most of the reviews, however, talk about the real star of the film as San Francisco. 

[t]he city of San Francisco, which is liberally and vividly employed as the realistic setting for the Warners' Dark Passage...For Writer-Director Delmar Daves has very smartly and effectively used the picturesque streets of that city and its stunning panoramas from the hills to give a dramatic backdrop to his rather incredible yarn. So, even though bored by the story—which, because of its sag, you may be—you can usually enjoy the scenery, which is as good as a travelogue -- Bosley Crowther

Unlike Vertigo, this film noir movie deals more with the seedier sides of the city, but also sweeping vistas, for which San Francisco is best known.  I love seeing movies made in this era and comparing the skyline to the skyline of today.

There are so many movies made in San Francisco and I love watching every single one of them.  It always reminds me of Judy Garland at the end of Meet Me in St. Louis when she looks out at the big world's fair and comments that she didn't have to come from a great distance (or in my case go to a theater), but that she could see sights like this every day, because it was right where she lived.

I don't live there any more, but it's still "my city by the bay."


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After Lizzie finishes her own meal, she sit and waits
to see if Polly is going to leave anything in her bowl.

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