Hitchcock Lives On in the Bay Area

Hitchcock, circa 1943, courtesy “Footsteps in the Fog”

In celebration of Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday this weekend, here are photos and scenes from his San Francisco Bay Area films. Born in England on August 13, 1899, he became a successful film director in British cinema, then came to the U.S. in 1939.

 

After buying a 200-acre Bay Area ranch in 1940, the “Master of Suspense” spent many years living and working in northern California. Three of his films were set here, and many scenes from other movies as well–Rebecca, Suspicion, Psycho, Marnie, Topaz, and Family Plot.

Hitchcock’s Bay Area, courtesy “Footsteps in the Fog”

 

Hitchcock’s film and television productions. 

Alfred Hitchcock Wikipedia. 

 

The three Bay Area films span a 150-mile radius of San Francisco. Over a half century later, film buffs, tourists, and Bay Area residents still enjoy visiting these sites.

Hitchcock, Santa Rosa Courthouse Square, 1942; courtesy “Footsteps in the Fog”

1 – “Shadow of a Doubt” was set in Santa Rosa, California, about a 1.5 hour drive north of San Francisco. Hitchcock considered this film his finest.

 

Filmed during the early 1940s, it was heavily impacted by WWII. There were blackout orders restricting nighttime filming. Also, the War Production Office required Hitchcock to limit his set construction budget to $3,000 (from “Footsteps in the Fog”).

Santa Rosa Calif., Old Courthouse Square, photo by F. Schulenberg, 2012

 

Therefore, in order to curtail set costs, Hitchcock resolved to use the town as the movie set. At the time, this was a new innovation, filming in the town square and other public places.

 

He chose Santa Rosa, a quaint and quiet town, for the backdrop of his dark psychological thriller.

 

Released in 1943 and starring Joseph Cotton and Teresa Wright, the screenplay was written by Thornton Wilder.

 

Much of Santa Rosa, and many local residents too, appear in the film. Santa Rosa’s downtown, railroad depot, Courthouse Square, public library, church, bank, and spacious tree-lined neighborhoods take center stage.

 

The railroad depot, the “Newton House,” and other buildings can still be seen today in Santa Rosa.

 

Santa Rosa railroad depot, 2016. Today it is a Visitor Center.

“Shadow of a Doubt” filming, at Santa Rosa railroad depot, early 1940s. Hitchcock seated in dark suit, front left-center. Courtesy “Footsteps in the Fog”

“Newton Family” house where Shadow of a Doubt was filmed, 2017

 

2 – “The Birds”, a 1963 horror-thriller, is set primarily in and around Bodega Bay; approximately a two-hour drive north of San Francisco. There are also scenes in San Francisco, including his cameo appearance at the pet store with his true-life pets, a pair of Sealyham terriers.

List of Alfred Hitchcock cameo appearances. 

 

 

Alfred Hitchcock filming “The Birds”

Starring Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Jessica Tandy, and Suzanne Pleshette, the story is loosely based on a 1961 bird incident in nearby Capitola, California; and a novel with the same title written by Daphne du Maurier.

 

Around the time of “The Birds” filming, Capitola experienced a brief scare when birds called Sooty Shearwaters slammed into, and died, on rooftops. Shearwaters are birds of the sea, on land only during nesting, and ill-suited for landing. Because they cannot land properly, they do actually slam into whatever is in their way.

 

I once went birding on an island covered with nesting shearwaters, and one of my birding mates was slammed in the back really hard by a shearwater.

 

It is a bizarre thing to witness…and who else but Hitchcock would create a thriller out of this?

 

Bodega Bay Overview

The Tides pier, Bodega Bay, 2016. Western Gull.

Today you can still visit The Tides Restaurant and Wharf, where the film was largely set; they proudly display old film posters.

 

In Hitchcock humor, there are stuffed crows in the rafters.

 

Staged scene at The Tides Restaurant in Bodega Bay, 2017

“Potter School” and the general store called Diekmann’s also still exist.

 

“The Birds” schoolhouse, aka Potter School, Bodega, 2013

 

When I was on the Bodega Bay pier of the Tides Restaurant last fall, an unusually large flock of marbled godwits flew over us; Hitchcock’s story immediately shot to my mind as I looked tentatively at the bird-darkened sky.

 

3 – “Vertigo”, released in 1958, was filmed all over San Francisco and in outlying Bay Area venues. Starring Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak, and Barbara Bel Geddes, this story is a haunting one, highlighted by a brilliant musical score by Bernard Herrmann.

 

Movie buffs soak up San Francisco Vertigo tours, re-living the fictional story of this psychological thriller. Vertigo captures the charm and romance of 1950s San Francisco; featuring the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Bay, panoramic skylines, winding streets,  redwood trees, and rocky cliffs.

 

Fort Point and Golden Gate Bridge, SF, 2017

 

Kim Novak in Vertigo, at Fort Point, SF, circa 1958, courtesy Wikipedia

 

Scenes include visits to the Palace of Fine Arts and the Legion of Honor.

Palace of Fine Arts, SF, 2016

 

Legion of Honor, SF, 2017

James Stewart as “Scottie” at The Legion of Honor, circa 1958, courtesy Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

 

Two local California missions, which look the same as when Hitchcock filmed here, are also embraced in this story. The crew filmed at Mission Dolores in San Francisco, where I have also set a scene from my own novel.

 

Mission Dolores, San Francisco, 2014

 

Hitchcock at SF Mission Dolores, 1957, courtesy “Footsteps in the Fog”

 

Hitchcock and Stewart in Mission Dolores Cemetery, circa 1958, courtesy “Footsteps in the Fog”

 

Mission Dolores Cemetery, 2014

 

Mission Dolores Cemetery, 2014

 

And the second mission, Mission San Juan Bautiste, is in the town of the same name, about 90 miles south of San Francisco. The famous bell tower, where several shocking scenes take place, was added via special effects.

 

Mission San Juan Bautista, 2011. The “Vertigo” Bell Tower was added to the mission via special effects.

 

Hitchcock films have a way of grabbing hold of our human frailties, and exploring our deepest fears.

 

Enjoy a toast this weekend to Sir Alfred’s mastery.

 

Photo credit: Athena Alexander unless otherwise specified. Thanks to Kraft and Leventhal’s book “Footsteps in the Fog” (2002).

Another mystery of suspense based in San Francisco written by Yours Truly.

Kindle $6.99

or Paperback $20 

 

 

 

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97 thoughts on “Hitchcock Lives On in the Bay Area

  1. I used to love Hitchcock’s books when I was a young boy and of course enjoy his films as well. I had no idea that The Birds was based even loosely on a real incident but when you describe the behaviour of shearwaters on land, it makes sense.

    • Until I researched for this post, I didn’t know which birds, if any, were actually linked either, Alastair. And knowing shearwaters, I had a lightbulb moment. What a joy to share it with you. My thanks, always, for your visit and comment.

  2. I will indeed drink a toast. He was a true master of his craft. I loved everything about him, including his voice. This was a fascinating tour and fun to recognise some of the places I have visited. I once followed the path of the Missions from Santa Barbara to San Francisco…..such amazing and fascinating history. Thank you – enjoy a lovely weekend…janet 🙂

    • There is a long, long list of venues in SF where many famous films were shot, I just had to limit it in this post. It is really fun to traipse around SF and the Bay Area recalling the movie images. In the past five years, every time I came to one of the Hitchcock spots, photos would be snapped. The path of the Missions, too, is indeed a fascinating one; and I’m glad you are familiar with this and other parts of SF. My grateful thanks, Janet, and warmest wishes to you. Have a wonderful weekend, and Hitchcock toast.

    • A wonderful surprise to receive your warm message, Lauren, thank you. I had loads of fun putting this post together, and I am glad to have had the chance to share it with you.

  3. Jet, an interesting story on Hitchcock; I’ll have to return later to finish reading your comments on Hitchcock’s film history, the birds and photos. Just a short comment: Vertigo still remains one of the scariest movies I have ever watched! Hitchcock movies were always intriguing.

    • I know, SWI, Hitchcock had this way of scaring the pants off of us, longggg after we watched the movie. I loved hearing your comment that Vertigo is still one of the scariest movies you’ve ever seen. Many thanks, as always, for your visit and comment.

    • The Palace of Fine Arts is in the Marina District, and the Legion of Honor is further out, off of Lincoln Ave. Both venues have dazzling views of the Bay and the GG Bridge; so please do go to both these sights. The Mission Dolores is in yet another area, on Dolores Street. But no doubt you’ll do your location homework before you visit. Have fun! Many thanks!

    • When one spends as much time in SF as you and I do, Jan, it is great fun to scout out things like this. We are lucky to live so near to such a beautiful place. Cheers! And many thanks–

  4. I’m embarrassed to say San Francisco had always been for me simply “Alcatraz” (yes, even after visiting it, albeit briefly)… that was until I began reading your posts (and books) Jet on this beautiful city. You have taught me there is so VERY much more – thank you!

    • I am delighted to read your comment, Joanne, and happy to have shared some of the fantastic sights of SF with you. When Hitchcock was making his films in SF, Alcatraz was still a federal penitentiary at the time, or else he no doubt would have set a scene or two there as well. My humble thanks….

    • He had a lot going on, didn’t he, Craig? I realized, while researching for this, that he also had so very many talented artists, actors, writers (yay), production professionals, and others helping him every step of the way. And you’re right, his creativity and innovation are very inspiring. Thank you–

    • And how wonderful for me to know you read and remembered that scene, Carol Mae. I took many photos at the cemetery, when I knew I would be writing a scene there; and these photos help me to write with more clarity about what was there. BTW, the three gravestones that are on the front cover of my book are from the Mission Dolores cemetery; superimposed in production. Many thanks–

    • I enjoyed your comment so much, Robert. He certainly captured the suspense, drama, and thriller aspects well, didn’t he? If you could not watch Vertigo, you really wouldn’t be able to watch Psycho. Many thanks–

  5. I enjoyed this post very much! I’ve seen all the movies that you mentioned. I think I told you already that I liked Alfred Hitchcock’s films very much and the music scores mostly composed by Bernard Herrmann that I admire. His music is special, he could add not only mood but he could manipulate feeling. Hitchcock’s films without Herrmann’s music were not so impressive. Thank you my friend. 🙂

    • Yes, you were instrumental, HJ, in pointing out to me the gift of Bernard Herrmann. We are fortunate they collaborated for so long, and it is certainly the music that builds the drama and suspense so well. While researching for this post I saw that they had a falling out over the score of Torn Curtain in 1966. Thanks so much, my friend, for your insight on BH.

    • I am glad to hear it, Cindy — there’s nothing like history to add depth to our visits, eh? And of course, the wildlife. I was in SF this past week and I heard parakeets, and saw dozens and dozens of pelicans down at the Bay. Many thanks– 🙂

  6. wonderfully expression of NCal Hitchcock films, Jet!
    i’ve never experienced a group of birds the same
    after seeing that film. it is fun to visit Bodega Bay
    to see the historical sites!
    i’m going to have to watch that one
    filmed in Santa Rosa, as i grew up
    in Sonoma County, as i’ve not seen it 🙂

    • I hope you do get to see Shadow of a Doubt, David. You will recognize parts of Santa Rosa, I am certain. It’s a great story–well-acted, intriguing, and perfectly presented. And Bodega Bay is one of my favorite places to visit, I do a lot of birding there, especially in the fall and winter. Winter birds migrate here every winter and there is endless entertainment. Always a pleasure to hear from you, my friend, many thanks–

  7. We will have to follow some of those footsteps in the fog next time we visit. Great post, full of fascinating information. Big fan of movies, and Hitchcock movies, so this was fun. Thanks, Jet, and have a wonderful weekend!

    • I never had time to show you and Mrs. PC Mission Dolores, or Fort Point, so new adventures await. My very best wishes to you both. Having a great weekend. The perseid meteor showers are occurring this weekend, and I saw five this morning about 5 am, perhaps you will get to see some too?

      • The thought of new adventures in SF – wonderful!
        No chance to see meteor showers last night – first heavy rain of our stay, but no complaints here, it is lovely and green.
        Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

    • Oh dear Resa, I LOVED the Hitchcock street art!! Thanks so very much for taking the time to send it. I am glad you enjoyed the Hitchcock tribute, and of course I am delighted that you bought Golden Gate Graveyard. There are a lot of SF sites and history in it, and a good mystery too. Have fun!

    • I so enjoyed your post with Hitchcock, Marilyn Monroe, and Bruce Lee, Resa. Thanks so much for the link. I think the artist did a great job of making Marilyn sultry and Hitchcock spooky. Both of them are two of my very favorite Hollywood figures. Thanks for the gift today, very kind.

  8. The Birds is one of my most vivid childhood memories Jet. I must admit I didn’t realize all the San Francisco connections to Hitchcock. What a clever post to intertwine the history of the films with the beautiful photos and narrative. I see some future road trips when visiting California!

  9. Few, if any directors have left such a legacy or such a clear signature in terms of style. It would not be surprising if one looked under the word “suspense” in the dictionary, to find a photo of Hitchcock. To be sure there have been many successful directors with long histories of successful movies but Alfred Hitchocks legacy is different and your post is a great tribute to his uncanny ability to create suspense and fear without the element of gore that subsequent directors have used in a different genre of “horror” movies.

    Enjoyed the photos as we had no idea that Hitchcock lived so many years in the US and we particularly enjoyed the connection to San Francisco and Dolores Park/Mission which we know very well.

    Terrific post.
    Peta & Ben

    • Many thanks, Peta and Ben, for your lovely comment. All these years later it is still fun to wander around in Hitchcock’s wake. At the Mission Dolores, of which you are familiar, inside in the tiny gift shop there is a photo of him on the wall. It’s a unusual juxtaposition of Hitchcock and rosary beads…which is also fitting to this quirky man.

  10. You’re obviously a fan, Jet, and you’ve written a compelling piece. Some of it stretches back to before I was even born, and that feels like a long way. I shall drink a toast to him this evening. 🙂 🙂 I remember reading about the strange behaviour of the shearwaters somewhere.

    • Thanks so much, Jo, for your lovely comment. The shearwaters we experienced were on Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef, and not only did they crash-land into everything, but they moan like ghosts. It was why seafarers from long ago thought some islands were haunted, they heard the shearwaters. Definitely strange behavior. I send you good tidings–

  11. Wonderful post for the celebration of Hitchcock’s birthday! I loved the history and combination of the film photos and those taken by Athena. I’ve seen many of his films and am surprised that I missed seeing one of his finest in Shadow of a Doubt and will have to correct that mistake. Thanks for sharing this slice of San Francisco and Hitchcock history (love the combination of history and movies) and I was excited to find out in one of your comments the setting for your new book!!

    • I am so glad you enjoyed the Hitchcock post, ACI. I had a really good time tracing his steps, here and there and all around the Bay Area, for several years now. It was great fun to do. I think Shadow of a Doubt is not as well known, but is a grand work of art…I hope you enjoy it. Sinister Safari is the title of my new book, and I am working diligently and steadily on it, week after week. I have the plot done and am working on the characters now. Many thanks for your interest and kindness and encouragement. I hope you have a wonderful week, and I look forward to seeing the seven photos on Friday. 🙂

  12. What a great post Jet….I didn’t realize Hitchcock was so tied into Northern California…fascinating. I grew up a huge Hitchcock fan…The Birds left such an impression on my mind. At an office I worked at years ago in San Diego, we had a bird decide to nest in a vine by the main door to the office….she would dive bomb everyone coming and going through that door and watching that always made me think of Hitchcock and “The Birds”!!

  13. Great posting Jet! I loved “The Birds”! I remember watching for Hitchcock’s cameo.He was walking out of the pet shop with poodles when Tippi was going in to buy two Love birds.
    Watching the Love birds lean in unison while Tippi drove the winding road up to Bodega bay was hilarious!

    • I love that leaning birds shot in Tippi’s convertible, Wayne. It IS hilarious. He was a curious fellow, including the cameo appearances in his own movies. I always enjoy looking for the cameo shots too. In researching for this post, I read that the dogs he has on a leash (in The Birds) as he is coming out of the pet store were his own dogs. The breed is actually Sealyham terriers, and they were named Geoffrey and Stanley. If I am watching one of his movies and get to the end, and never did find his cameo, I google the cameo for that movie, and rewind until I find it. Some are very subtle. He’s often carrying something. Wonderful to share some Hitchcock moments with you, Wayne. As always, a treat to have you visit. I’m headed this moment to your site, to see what magic you have photographed. 🙂

      • Whats your favorite Hitchcock movie Jet? Mine is “Rear Window”. (with “The Birds” & “North By Northwest” running a close second)
        I liked the way Hitchcock explored the unseen social drama that goes on around us all the time.

      • Oh boy, this was a toughie, Wayne. lol. I love so many of his films. These are my top five, in no specific order: Rear Window (closed setting, backyard creativity), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956 version) (loved the taxidermy and Royal Albert Hall scenes, and Morocco, and acting), North by Northwest (mysterious, loved the United Nations, crop duster, and Mt. Rushmore scenes), The Birds (so much drama), Psycho (so much eeriness). But I have to also say I especially loved these movies: Notorious (great cast, especially Ingrid Bergman and Claude Raines), Lifeboat (outstanding look at life), Vertigo (twisted), and Shadow of a Doubt (great juxtaposition of good and evil). I have more I could say, more movies to wax on about, but will close for now. Enjoyed this question, Wayne, thank you.

  14. I had never considered a connection between shearwaters (which I was watching last week in a ‘feeding frenzy’ for baitfish with a group of dolphins) and Hitchcock. But you so often come up with unusual congruences, Jet.

    • I got a book from the library about Hitchcock in the Bay Area and read it for researching this post. In it I learned about the shearwaters, and just smiled as I read, remembering that crazy bird walk on Heron Island where shearwaters were crash-landing all around us. It is fun when things click like that. Appreciate your kind words and visit, RH.

  15. There are so many of his movies not to mention his TV series that just kept me glued
    to my seat that I can’t name them all. He is by far one of my all time favorites.
    Great topic and post Jet

    • I’m with you, Eddie, so much complexity and artistry in the Hitchcock features. He is also one of my “all time favorites.” Thanks so much for your visit and comment, I like knowing you are an avid Hitchcock fan like me.

    • Yes, I agree, Kendall, I, too, liked most of his films. Some of the films, especially earlier, are not as gripping. I find this inspiring as an artist, as you may too, because even the greatest artists are not 100% all of the time. Thanks so much for your visit and comment.

  16. Look at all of these odes to Hitchcock! The Birds was a scary one for me when I watched it as a teen (probably still would be if I re-watched it as an adult!). Congratulations on the book, Jet 🙂

    • It was great fun celebrating the birthday of this film genius, glad you could join us, Christy. Thanks for the congrats too. Always a joy to “see” you, thank you.

  17. Ohhh, you just made me homesick. I’ve spent lots of time in all of “Hitchcock’s Places.” I need to revisit those movies. I remember how scared I was as a kid watching The Birds. That was way before I moved to the bay area. Now that I’m living in NE, I pine for my times at Bodega Bay and Santa Rosa (a great costume shop I used to visit for work events) and especially, the city of SF. Your book sounds good!!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the Hitchcock and Bay Area photos and scenes, Pam. The book is another tribute to SF, because I too, just love the Bay Area. Many thanks for your visit and comment.

  18. I had forgotten the California link to so many of Hitchcock’s films. Another great post teaching me more enticing bits of history -or reminding me of some! I don’t know how many years went by before I could take a shower without remembering the scene from “Psycho”. He certainly knew how to scare the dickens out of us!

    • ha ha, so true, Gunta, he sure knew how to scare us. He made showers terrifying for so many of us! And how many people do we know, that if we played one second of that terrifying screeching sound from the shower scene, would recognize it instantly? Great to “see” you, I think your move must be over now and into the settling-in stage. Will swing by to check it out. Many thanks–

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