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Sunday July 22nd 2018

The Pursuit Of Happyness | 2006

The Pursuit Of Happyness filming location: Ross Alley, Chinatown, San Francisco
The Pursuit Of Happyness location: Chris Gardner leaves his son at the day school: Ross Alley, Chinatown, San Francisco

Chris Gardner’s account of his achieving the American dream gets a little nip'n'tuck from the scriptwriters to fit it to the formula of the self-made man rising above the vicissitudes of life by sheer will-power.

In 1981, when salesman Gardner (Will Smith) invests his savings in ‘bone-density scanners’, an apparatus more expensive than x-rays though not significantly superior, the investment leaves him struggling financially.

His long-suffering wife Linda (Thandie Newton) eventually leaves him to cope alone with his son Christopher (Smith’s real life son, Jaden Smith).

The Pursuit Of Happyness filming location: York Street, Mission District, San Francisco
The Pursuit Of Happyness location: the Gardner family home: York Street, Mission District, San Francisco

The story is set and filmed in San Francisco, where Chris and Linda initially live at 1161 York Street, at 24th Street in the Mission District.

The daycare centre, with the mis-spelt mural which provides the film’s title, was recreated at 20 Ross Alley, a narrow passage running between Jackson and Washington Streets in the heart of Chinatown.

The Pursuit Of Happyness filming location: Pacific Exchange, Pine Street, Financial District, San Francisco
The Pursuit Of Happyness location: Gardner asks what the Ferrari driver does for a living: Pacific Exchange, Pine Street, Financial District, San Francisco

It’s in front of the old Stock Exchange building, Pacific Exchange, 301 Pine Street at Sansome Street in the Financial District, that Chris asks the broker in the snazzy red Ferrari “What do you do, and how do you do it?” and his life changes forever.

With the notion of stockbroking planted, Chris applies for the Dean Witter Reynolds Broker Trainee Program, at the Guarantee Building and Loan Association Building, 1759 Broadway in Oakland, across the Bay from San Francisco.

Unwisely leaving his scanner with a hippie street-singer for the duration of the interview, Chris ends up chasing her into 19 Street Subway Station when she predictably makes off with it.

The Pursuit Of Happyness filming location: California Street, San Francisco
The Pursuit Of Happyness location: Chris gets a position at 'Dean Witter Reynolds': California Street, San Francisco

The head office of Dean Witter Reynolds turns out to be 555 California Street, the pleat-fronted high-rise which provided the entrance to The Towering Inferno and also the sniper’s perch for the psycho-villain of Dirty Harry.

The Pursuit Of Happyness filming location: Hermann Street, Duboce Park, San Francisco
The Pursuit Of Happyness location: Gardner leaps out of the cab without paying: Hermann Street, Duboce Park, San Francisco

Life is a struggle and after being lumbered with a taxi fare he can’t afford, Chris leaps out of the cab at the junction of Hermann Street and Steiner Street at the northeast corner of Duboce Park, before sprinting off across the park to the subway station, chased by the irate driver.

The Pursuit Of Happyness filming location: Duboce Park, San Francisco
The Pursuit Of Happyness location: Gardner sprints away from the irate cab driver: Duboce Park, San Francisco

The station entrance into which he disappears is a fake, built for the film, much to the disappointment of some locals who believed they were getting their own subway stop.

Walter Ribbon (Kurt Fuller), a potential client, invites Chris and Christopher to join him to watch a football game from his box at Candlestick Park.

The famous sports stadium, demolished in 2015, was also seen in the 1962 thriller Experiment in Terror, the 1974 Richard Rush comedy Freebie And The Bean, The Fan in 1996 and Contagion, with Matt Damon and Kate Winslet.

The Pursuit Of Happyness filming location: Glen Park Station, San Francisco
The Pursuit Of Happyness location: Chris and his son in the BART station: Glen Park Station, San Francisco

In real life, Chris was not a totally unpaid intern, but that inconvenient fact might have detracted from the drama, so unable even to pay motel bills, Chris and his son hunker down for the night in Glen Park BART station.

The rows of wooden benches seen in the film, though, were at the old Transbay Terminal – another location since demolished. The toilet in which they sleep, you’ll be pleased to hear, was recreated in the more sanitary conditions of the studio.

The Pursuit Of Happyness filming location: Glide, Ellis Street, Tenderloin, San Francisco
The Pursuit Of Happyness location: Chris and his son find a room in the homeless shelter: Glide, Ellis Street, Tenderloin, San Francisco

Desperate for somewhere to stay, Chris is directed to Glide, 330 Ellis Street at Jones Street in the seriously deprived Tenderloin District – a shocking counterpoint to the usually bright, fluffy image of San Francisco onscreen. This is the real homeless shelter where Chris Gardner stayed, and to which they needed to hurry every day at 5pm to get a room.

The Pursuit Of Happyness filming location: North Beach Pizza, Grant Avenue, North Beach, San Francisco
The Pursuit Of Happyness location: Chris takes his son to the diner: North Beach Pizza, Grant Avenue, North Beach, San Francisco

The café in which they eat is North Beach Pizza, 1462 Grant Avenue, at Union Street, up in the North Beach district.

The Pursuit Of Happyness filming location: Broadway at Taylor Street, San Francisco
The Pursuit Of Happyness location: the happy ending: Broadway at Taylor Street, San Francisco

It’s no spoiler to reveal that Gardner finds the position he was training for. The final shot of the pair is at Broadway and Taylor Street looking down to the Oakland Bay Bridge, a photogenic spot you may recognise from Bullitt and the streetcar accident in The Princess Diaries.