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December 8, 2012

In the background of American films from the 1940s or ’50s

Try Dark Passage (1947). If you can do it without crying, watch the background scenery of San Francisco in mid 20th century.
Notice how magnificent the city seems, how clean, how broad and sunlit the horizon. This is film noir but even the induced murk fails to cut off the sense of unbounded promise that exists just beyond the camera’s focus. Watch the pace of the city that appears in the background, the people walking down the street, the way they interact, the way they dress. Look at how an unspoken code of manners is guiding every person in the background. See how the man in the suit opens the door for the lady in the dress. Notice the assured masculinity of the men, the charming femininity of the women as they get off the train. -- Phone Call from a Stranger

Posted by gerardvanderleun at December 8, 2012 11:29 AM. This is an entry on the sideblog of American Digest: Check it out.

Your Say

Yea, Frisco by the Bay. The city that jumped up its ass but did not quite disappear.

Posted by: Terry at December 8, 2012 3:57 PM

When I was a kid, and I was sick and home, I would watch "Bill Kennedy at the Movies". (This was in the Detroit metro area in the early 1970's.) I saw that, how much different the adults looked, acted, dressed from what I saw around me. And I wondered why and what had happened.

And now, in my mid 40's, I am very happy to be an adult and not a kid. So why is being a child so celebrated? What did playing Peter Pan ever bring Michael Jackson?

Posted by: Mikey NTH at December 8, 2012 5:03 PM

And not one burned-out hippie, flamboyant gay couple, or aggressive, excrement-encrusted panhandler in sight. The City by the Bay is a bit different these days.

@Mikey, I used to watch Bill Kennedy occasionally myself. Having been an actor himself, he knew Hollywood well and had some interesting stories about the "stars". Nothing scandalous in those more innocent times, but interesting nonetheless.

Posted by: waltj at December 8, 2012 8:11 PM

I noticed the camera work when I saw the movie years ago. Absolutely great.

I have seen it on TV several times since.

The movie itself has an unusual plot and good performances. But it is worth watching to see the city behind the actors.

Posted by: KTWO at December 8, 2012 8:42 PM

I went to high school in the Bay Area (Mountain View, when it was the low rent district). Left CA in the 70s. In the 90s, I went to San Francisco for some training. I could not believe how dirty and trashy the city had gotten. Who would have thought that some of the highest real estate in the country would have bums living by the railroad tracks and panhandling in the streets?

Posted by: Teri Pittman at December 8, 2012 9:37 PM

My wife and I have done volunteer work for years and are winding it up as I write this. 10-20 years ago that work was maintaining the social fabric that the older generation seen in this film left us so their lives (and ours) would be better.

Now we're the old folks, both retired, and frankly continuing to try to maintain community standards isn't worth the effort anymore. Why should I spend my time helping someone who:

A. Doesn't know how to behave in a public meeting?

B. Wouldn't if he did know.

I have heard enough F-bombs in a year to last me a lifetime. I cared about the folks who left us a beautiful legacy, I don't care what happens to the people who are 10-15-20 years my junior and their rude, stupid, arrogant, useless kids.

Posted by: glenn at December 10, 2012 10:49 AM

When I was a kid my grandparents lived in SF (late 50's through the 60's). A weekend visit always included a visit to the "El Sombrero" mexican restaurant in the Mission District, always a line to get in. The old ladies in the corner making corn tortillas by hand. I always had the Combination Plate, tortillas and beans, rice and enchiladas. I never didn't finish it and I love mexican food to this day. Good times.

Posted by: ApacheWarrior at December 10, 2012 6:33 PM

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