City of Noir - Page 4

Behind the fog-shrouded mystique—why so many classic mid-century film noirs aimed their cameras toward Baghdad by the Bay
City of Noir
City of Noir
Considered by some as a noir classic that arrived years ahead of its time (1952), 'The Sniper' starred Arthur Franz (above in the shadows) as a deranged gunman on the loose in San Francisco.
City of Noir
Poster for the critically acclaimed noir 'The Lady from Shanghai' (1947), starring Rita Hayworth and directed by Orson Welles.
City of Noir
'The Lineup' (1958) takes us on a thrill ride through the City before heading to Ocean Beach for its climax.

Ten on the dark side

While many a movie buff has experienced "the stuff that dreams are made of" as constituted by the elusive 'Maltese Falcon,' that Bogart classic was only the first of many fine film noirs set in San Francisco. Here are ten others worth screening for anyone who loves the Bay and a gritty crime film.

1  Born to Kill (1947)
Before becoming master of the '60s movie musical, Robert Wise directed a few excellent noirs, including this unsavory melodrama pitting killer Lawrence Tierney against conniving witness Claire Trevor with easily identifiable locations from Nob Hill to the Ferry Building to Ocean Beach.

2  Dark Passage (1947)
The steps and viewshed of Telegraph Hill along with the Malloch Building—its classic, Streamline Moderne apartment house—are truly co-stars of this Bogart-Bacall vehicle. Subjective camerawork through bandages on Bogie's face is both an asset and a liability for the film, but daringly executed.

3  Out of the Past (1947)
A nearly perfect noir, with world-weary narrator Robert Mitchum torn between girlfriend Virginia Huston and vixen Jane Greer, unable to escape his past because of gangster Kirk Douglas (in only his second film) across a variety of California locales.

4  Nora Prentiss (1948)
Noir queen Ann Sheridan warns doctor Kent Smith that she's no good, but that doesn't inoculate him from a rash of bad decisions and a grim surprise ending to the film, which opens and closes with a sunny eastward shot of SF and the bay as backdrop.

5  The Lady from Shanghai (1948)
Femme fatale Rita Hayworth ensnares co-star/director/real-life husband Orson Welles on a wild ride from New York's Central Park to Mexico to SF's Chinatown to a dramatic showdown in the house of mirrors at Playland at the Beach.

6  Woman on the Run (1950)
Virtually forgotten before its restoration, a wide array of San Francisco locations are upstaged by the snappy repartee between housewife Ann Sheridan and reporter Dennis O'Keefe, much of it improvised.

7  The House on Telegraph Hill (1951)
Another Robert Wise film, featuring Telegraph Hill views along with tortured flashback narration by heiress impersonator Valentina Cortese and atmospheric photography by Lucien Ballard.

8  Sudden Fear (1952)
An Oscar-nominated performance by Joan Crawford climaxes in an ultra-suspenseful chase in high heels over San Francisco hills and through dark alleys, with femme fatale Gloria Grahame in hot pursuit.

9  The Sniper (1952)
Film noirs occasionally took progressive perspectives ahead of their time, and that is the case with this movie's depiction of a mentally ill assassin (played by Arthur Franz), though director Edward Dmytryk made a bigger splash in the genre with 'Murder My Sweet' (1944). 
10  The Lineup (1958)
Opening with shots of the Embarcadero, some of the best images of 1950s San Francisco ever put on film are a highlight of this release from director Don Siegel, who returned to town a few years later with some local named Clint for 'Dirty Harry' (1971).