On Location: Pal Joey


Welcome to "On Location," a micro-feature taking you to little-known cinematic locations of SF and taking a look at the films shot in the city by the bay over the years.

After a trip to the rather unglamorous destination of John Schlesigner's dreadful and drab Pacific Heights in the last "On Location", I felt like it was my duty to travel to a more classic filmic zone. What could be more classic that the Frank Sinatra standard Pal Joey? Based on the Rogers and Hart musical of the same name, Pal Joey scored Sinatra the Golden Globe for best actor and is less of a film and more of a showcase for some great songs ("The Lady Is a Tramp" and "I Could Write a Book" among them) and some great dames, stars Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak among them. Those that haven't seen the film will none-the-less be impervious to the charms of its trailer:

Really less of a trailer than a smirking soft-sell, Sinatra winningly intros the film's raison d'être (along with a few choice slang terms) and his most well-warn 'philosophical' angle: "you treat a dame like a lady, and you treat a lady like a dame." If you look closely you can see a few shots of San Francisco in the background throughout.

Though it's far from the on SF spot in the film, the most well known landmark to appear in Pal Joey is the Spreckles Mansion at 2080 Washington Street right in the middle of the block between Octavia and Gough. Named for its original owners, San Francisco society fixtures Adolph and Alma de Bretteville Spreckles, the imposing estate has a charming San Francisco story–legend has it that Adolph, son of a sugar tycoon, built it for his beautiful bride Alma, the daughter of poor immigrants living in the Sunset.

With a view originally occupied by six smaller houses, it was later home to romance magnate Danielle Steele. Directly west of the mansion is the last remaining brick-paved road in San Francisco, the winding remaining bits of Octavia Street in one of the strange diversions it makes over in the Pacific Heights neighborhood. Surrounded by other multi-million dollar houses and facing Lafayette Park but less strained by tourism than SF's other winding path, Lombard Street, a trip to the Spreckles Mansion can make a great casual walkabout. If you're in the mood and ready for a real "gasser," over to the House of Prime Rib on Van Ness and take in the old-school atmosphere.