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Tuesday September 25th 2018

Dark Passage | 1947

Dark Passage location: 1360 Montgomery Street, San Francisco
Dark Passage location: Irene Jansen’s impossibly stylish pad: Malloch Building, Montgomery Street, San Francisco

Delmer Daves fought for his adaptation of David Goodis’s The Dark Road to be filmed on real locations in San Francisco – still a big deal in 1947. The decision pays off with bags of noir atmosphere and the mournful sound of the city’s foghorn compensating for the implausibilities of the script.

Framed convict Vincent Parry (Humphrey Bogart) escapes jail and is transformed by plastic surgery into somebody who looks just like Humphrey Bogart. In fact, to avoid showing Parry’s pre-Bogie face, the entire opening sequence of the movie uses a radical subjective point-of-view, which must have had studio heads frothing with their big star’s face not seen until over an hour into the film.

The prison from which Parry escapes (in a barrel) is San Quentin State Prison, at San Rafael on I-580 just over the Toll Bridge from Richmond, California. If you want to visit this notorious facility of San Quentin, there is a San Quentin Prison Museum. Not surprisingly, there are strict security rules, so you'll need photo ID – and don't wear either denim or orange.

The notorious facility has been seen in several other movies, notably 1958’s I Want to Live, with Susan Hayward winning an Oscar as a woman on Death Row.

The striking spinning barrel shot is repeated in another San Francisco-based movie, 1978 comedy-thriller Foul Play, with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase.

The desperate Parry soon gets a lift but when the driver becomes a bit too nosy, Parry has no hesitation in punching out his lights.

Just when it seems everything has gone wrong, a mysteriously woman calling herself Irene Jansen (Lauren Bacall) appears from nowhere and offers to help.

Hiding Parry in the back seat of her car under a pile of art materials, Irene drives through what was the Waldo Tunnel, now renamed the Robin Williams Tunnel, to the Golden Gate Bridge, where she encounters a police road block.

Irene is stopped and questioned by the law, in a scene seemingly copied, this time by Alfred Hitchcock, for Psycho.

Though crossing the bridge successfully, Irene gets an attack of paranoia by the set of marvellous art deco toll gates.

Dark Passage location: 1360 Montgomery Street, San Francisco
Dark Passage location: the entrance to Irene Jansen’s impossibly stylish pad: Malloch Building, Montgomery Street, San Francisco

Amazingly unchanged is Irene’s impossibly stylish deco apartment, where Vincent Parry hides out. The Malloch Building, as it’s known, looks like an art director’s fantasy, but you can still see the silver, white and glass marvel at 1360 Montgomery Street at Filbert Street. When the house was up for sale in 1996, a life-size cutout of Bogart was cheekily exhibited in the window.

After Irene provides Parry with a smart set of new clothes, he’s off on his way out of the city.

When the, fortunately, sympathetic cab driver Sam (Tom D’Andrea) recognises Parry from his photo plastered all over the newspapers, he realises that drastic action needs to be taken.

The helpful Sam suggests a ‘talk’, turning right at what was Pastine’s on Kearny Street into Geary Street, by the old Thirty Geary Restaurant, to pull up on a studio-set alleyway where he suggests a dubious plastic surgeon who could give him a new identity.

Sam drops Parry off at the home of the only other person he knows in the city, his friend, musician George Fellsinger (Rory Mallinson).

The tiny cul-de-sac on which George lives, looking out over the Bently Nob Hill and the 22-story art deco Clay-Jones Apartment buildings on Jones Street, is Florence Street, which runs south from Vallejo Street on Nob Hill. The rickety wooden house has predictably been replaced by a more permanent modern home.

Dark Passage location: Kearny Street, San Francisco
Dark Passage location: Parry makes his way to an appointment with the plastic surgeon: Peter Macchiarini Steps, Kearny Street, San Francisco

From here, Parry makes his way on foot to the surgery of dodgy Dr Coley at the fictitious ’21 Plum Alley’, via what are now the Peter Macchiarini Steps, running down the west side of Kearny Street from Vallejo to Broadway, where there’s a tense moment as a guy asking for a light seems to recognise him. These are the same pedestrian steps up which Michael Douglas frantically drives during the car chase in Basic Instinct.

After getting the nip’n’tuck which makes him look older (there’s a first – and probably a last – for Hollywood), Parry finds that George has been murdered and is forced to return to Irene.

The face of Parry seen in the papers is that of actor Frank Wilcox, who in fact was seven years younger than Bogart – who, astonishingly was born in 1899, during the Victorian era.

Dark Passage location: Filbert Street Steps, San Francisco
Dark Passage location: Parry laboriously climbs up to Irene's apartment: Filbert Street Steps, San Francisco

The wooden steps up which Parry laboriously struggles, woozy from anaesthetic, are the Filbert Street Steps, which lead up from Sansome to Montgomery Street.

The steps, giving access to appealingly tucked-away private homes are beautifully photogenic but not recommended if you’re out of condition. These are also the stairs down which the remaining humans flee from the pod people in Philip Kaufman’s 1978 version of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.

A week later, his face miraculously healed, Parry leaves the Malloch in a cab to ‘Post and Filmore’ and ‘Harry’s Wagon’, an old-school diner where, even with his new face, he attracts the attention of an off-duty cop.

Amazingly, the location and even the diner, were real. Harry’s has of course long-gone – a French cleaners now stands on the narrow lot at 191 Post Street.

Giving the cop the slip, Parry checks into the Kean Hotel. This is not only real but, 70 years later, still in business at 1018 Mission Street, South of Mission – one hell of a run. Be aware that this hotel is not recommended for your ideal holiday stay.

Parry is tracked down to the hotel by Baker, the guy who gave him a lift after he got out of San Quentin and who attempts to blackmail him.

Come on, this is Humphrey Bogart, how’s that going to go down?

On the pretext of collecting money from Irene, Parry drives Baker to Fort Point at the foot of the then comparatively new Golden Gate Bridge where, after a fistfight, Baker plunges to his death from the rocky bluff.

Another Hitchcock connection – this is famously where, more than ten years later, Scottie rescues Madeleine from the freezing waters of the Bay in Vertigo.

Finally realising who was responsible for his unjust incarceration, and who also killed his friend George, Parry calls on the devious Madge (Agnes Moorehead). Although he can’t get her to confess, gravity once again comes to his aid when she too plummets to her death, this time from the window of her high-rise apartment.

Dark Passage location: Lauren Bacall's impossibly stylish pad: Tamalpais Building, Greenwich Street, Russian Hill, San Francisco
Dark Passage location: Parry escapes down the fire escape after Madge plummets to her death: Tamalpais Building, Greenwich Street, Russian Hill, San Francisco

It’s the Tamalpais Building, 1201 Greenwich Street at Hyde Street in the Russian Hill district, from which Parry has to make his getaway via the fire escape. The 1920s highrise went on to feature as the home of another fatal femme, Gloria Grahame in the 1952 Joan Crawford suspenser Sudden Fear and is also featured in 1997 comedy George of the Jungle.

Parry boards the Powell-Hyde cable car immediately outside the Tamalpais on Hyde Street, which takes him through Union Square to its terminus at the junction of Powell and Market Streets. The streetcar turntable, end of both the Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason lines is still in use.

Happily, Parry is able to get a bus to Arizona from the fictitious ‘White Arrow Bus Lines Office’ and everything ends happily, if a little unconvincingly, in Hollywood’s version of ‘Peru’.