Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The House on Telegraph Hill (1951) - Film Locations


House on Telegraph Hill (1951) is a thriller about a Nazi concentration camp survivor, Victoria (Valentina Cortesa), who assumes the identity of her friend Karin who died in the camp. Victoria's family was killed by the Nazis and she has no one to go home to, so after the camp is liberated, Victoria, who has taken possession of her friend's identification papers, heads to America using Karin's identity. As Karin, Victoria finds herself living in a mansion on San Francisco's Telegraph Hill. She's now married, pretending to be the mother to a son, and the next in line to the Dernakova fortune. Things at first appear to go well for Victoria but then strange things begin to take place and Victoria doesn't know what to make of them.

The film, directed by Robert Wise, is shot in beautiful black and white with much of the filming taking place in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. The film stars Richard Basehart, Valentina Cortesa, and William Lundigan.

1541 Montgomery Street, San Francisco

Julius Castle, 1541 Montgomery Street

The mansion in the film is actually what used to be Julius Castle, a restaurant designed to look like a castle, located at 1541 Montgomery Street on Telegraph Hill. The filmmakers added on to the exterior of the building to hide the elements that would reveal the building to be a restaurant. Julius's Castle was built in 1923 by Italian-born architect Louis Mastropasqua for another Italian who immigrated to San Francisco, restaurateur Julius Roz. The attraction unfortunately closed in 2008 and the building is currently for sale. According to Preservation Nation, the restaurant has had many celebrity visitors, everyone from the likes of Sean Connery, Robert Redford, and Ginger Rogers, to the entire cast of The Empire Strikes Back.

View of San Francisco from Telegraph Hill

View of San Francisco from Telegraph Hill

Above is a view of San Francisco seen during the beginning of the film, when Victoria arrives in her new city. Just below that is a photograph of the city from the blog The Imperfect Traveller that was taken from Telegraph Hill. You can see there are now many more high-rise buildings in the distance, including the famous Transamerica Pyramid building, San Francisco's tallest skyscraper, which wasn't built until 1972.

San Francisco seen from The House on Telegraph Hill

In the scene below, Victoria runs into her friend Major Marc Bennett (William Lundigan) at a market located at 301 Union Street, not far from the mansion location.

Victoria stops by a market at 301 Union Street

Looking towards 301 Union St. from Montgomery St.

Victoria and Marc at the market. The NW corner of Union and Montgomery can be seen in the background.

NW corner of Union St. and Montgomery St.

Looking down Union St. towards Castle St.

Looking down Union St. towards Castle St.

Looking down Montgomery St. from Union St.

Looking down Montgomery St. from Union St.

In this next scene Victoria is seen driving away from the house on Telegraph Hill. She starts at 1541 Montgomery Street and once she starts winding down Telegraph Hill she realizes her brakes have been cut and she can't stop. She ultimately crashes at a dead end street located on Montgomery Street near Montague Place.

Victoria leaves the house at 1541 Montgomery St.

Looking down Montgomery St. from the site of the house.

Victoria heads down Lombard St. towards Grant St.

Looking down Lombard towards Grant.

Looking up Lombard from Grant.

Looking up Lombard from Grant.

Turning from Chestnut St. onto Leavenworth St.

Looking up Chestnut from Leavenworth.

Turning from Montgomery to Union.

Looking down Union towards Calhoun Terrace.

Victoria turns onto Calhoun Terrace.

Victoria heads down Montgomery St. towards Montague Place.

Montgomery St. at Montague Place.

Victoria crashes at Montgomery and Montague.

Looking down Montague Place from Montgomery.

Victoria begins to be suspicious of all the strange events taking place around her and goes to meet Marc Bennett at his office. In the scene below, she is in a taxi that is driving down Post Street towards Market Street. The taxi pulls over and Victoria gets out and runs into what used to be the Crocker Building. The Crocker Building, which survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, was demolished in the 1960s. To see what this building once looked like visit this great site, SepiaTown.

Post Street near Market Street.

Post St. at Market St. Crocker Galleria is on the right.

Victoria arrives at the Crocker building on Post St.

Post Street near Market Street.

Victoria approaches the Crocker building on Post St.

Looking down Post Street towards Market St.

Victoria meets up again with Marc at the San Francisco Yacht Club off of Marina Boulevard. In the first comparison you can see the Golden Gate Bridge and in the second comparison we get a glimpse of the Exploratorium, a "museum of science, art and human perception."

Marc meets with Victoria at the Yacht Club.

The Yacht Club off of Marina Boulevard.

Victoria and Marc at the Yacht Club.

The San Francisco Marina Yacht Harbor.

House on Telegraph Hill is available on DVD as part of the Fox Film Noir series. It is also currently available for streaming on Netflix.

Screenshots (c) Twentieth Century-Fox, present day images, except where noted, (c) 2012 Google.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Colonial House - A Classic Hollywood Apartment

The Colonial House. Photo: TopLACondos.com

Built in 1930 and designed by noted Los Angeles architect Leland Bryant (Harper House, Savoy Plaza, Sunset Tower), the Colonial House has long been a home to celebrities. According to The Movieland Directory, some early Hollywood residents have included Clark Gable, Carol Lombard, Myrna Loy, Eddie Cantor, William Powell, and Norma Talmadge. Cary Grant, Bette Davis and Joan Blondell have also called the place home. Earlier this year even pop singer Katie Perry purchased a place in the Colonial House, continuing the building's legacy for being a home for stars.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the property features wrought-iron fixtures, gardens, a swimming pool, library, arched doorways, custom built-in cabinetry, wood-paneled elevators, a terrace and includes views of the mountains and Hollywood. The elegant Colonial House is conveniently located near the nightclubs on the Sunset Strip, is just a short drive to the premium shopping in Beverly Hills, and central to the many movie studios in the area. It's no wonder why so many stars have chosen the Colonial House as their home. 

No doubt a place like the Colonial House must have many great stories.  A couple stories I'm familiar with involve actresses Joan Blondell and Bette Davis.

Joan Blondell & Bette Davis. Colonial House residents.

In 1960, Joan Blondell, who was 54 at the time, left her Sutton Place apartment in New York City and moved back to California, finding an apartment in the seven-story Colonial House. Most of her family were in California, including her grandkids and many of her close friends. One of her longtime friends, former neighbor Frances Marion already lived in the Colonial House and the two would reunite their close friendship. Joan and Frances would catch up every afternoon at five over cocktails with some of the other female tenants which included newspaper columnist Jill Jackson, publicist Maggie Ettinger, and stockbroker Flora Marks. 

Entrance to the Colonial House. TopLACondos.com

Not long after Joan moved in she found herself busy with work on television, first as a rich widow on an episode of The Untouchables and then as a psychopath on the Barbara Stanwyck Show - both filmed at Desilu Studios in Culver CityJoan was also still working in movies too and when she would have to go out of town for location filming, her neighbor Jill Jackson would feed and walk her dogs, Bridey and Fresh. In his biography, Joan Blondell: A Life Between Takes, author Matthew Kennedy retells this story told by Jackson:
"Her life was those two ugly dogs!" said Jackson. To her consternation, "those damn dogs" only agreed to evacuate their bowels on the lawn of the nearby Christian Science church.

Bette Davis's former Colonial House living room as it appeared in 2009 when the unit was up for sale. (Gordon Thompson)

Bette Davis had many places around Los Angeles she called home at different points in her life. The Colonial House would be the last home she would live in. In the late 70s, according to the Roy Moseley memoir Bette Davis, the actor Roddy McDowall helped find her a place in Colonial House. Davis liked the apartment because it overlooked the La Ronda apartment house, where Bette and her mother first stayed when they arrived in California from New York. Bette wasn't a movie star then, but just a young woman ready for her big break.

Bette's apartment was on the fourth-floor and had large spacious rooms with twelve-foot high ceilings. She decorated the place with framed pictures nailed to the walls and with art books and family photographs on the tables. On the floor, on each side of a lattice doorway that led to the dining room, Bette placed her two Oscars which she won for Best Actress: one for Dangerous (1935) and another for Jezebel (1938).

Moseley, who was very close to Bette in her later years, shares this story of one of his visits to Bette at the Colonial House:
"From her balcony you could see down to the swimming pool below. One day, Bette was leaning on the rail looking over at a corpulent man and his attractive family as they all swam and sunbathed. 'Look at that,' Bette shouted to me, loud enough for her voice to carry clearly down to the ground. 'Look at that disgusting man. It's revolting that a nice young girl and her children should have to be with such a fat, disgusting man.' I hoped they could not hear and tried to stop her, but she pretended not to understand what I was talking about."
Yikes! I picture dialogue like that coming out of Bette's character Jane Hudson, from the film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). Much like Joan, Moseley mentions that Bette also enjoyed a good cocktail hour. Perhaps her tongue was loosened by liquor.

Pool area. TopLACondos.com

The Colonial House, like Leland Bryant's other West Hollywood apartment building, the Harper House, has also appeared on screen as a filming location. In the Broderick Crawford crime film, Down Three Dark Streets (1954), the Colonial House appears in a scene where Crawford and his FBI partner go to interview one of the residents as part of a crime investigation.

Broderick Crawford in the film Down Three Dark Streets (1954).

If you're now interested in moving into the Colonial House, you're in luck! There is a one bedroom unit on the first floor that is available for $1,275,000. For more information and photos on this unit visit the real estate listing here.


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