visit the film locations
San Francisco: Flights: San Francisco International Airport
Tourist info: San Francisco tourism
Stay at: Hotel Vertigo, 940 Sutter Street (tel: 415.885.6800) between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets.
Palace of the Legion of Honor, Legion of Honor Drive in Lincoln Park (admission charge; tel: 415.750.3659)
Mission Dolores, 320 Dolores Street at Sixteenth Street in the Mission District (BART Metro: 16th Street-Mission)
Old Mission of San Juan Bautista, San Juan Bautista, 90 miles south of San Francisco, just east from Route 101.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park, 21600 Big Basin Way – Route 236 – at Boulder Creek (tel: 408.338.6132) off Pacific Coast Highway 1, south of San Francisco toward Santa Cruz.
Vertigo filming location: Madeleine's suicide leap: Fort Point, beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, Marine Drive, San Francisco
The vertiginous streets (‘falling‘ in love), coupled with the cool, misty light make San Francisco the perfect backdrop for Alfred Hitchcock‘s obsessive romance, and most of the film‘s locations can still be found in the city.
Starting out as as a conventional enough thriller, with ex-cop Scottie (James Stewart) hired by worried husband Gavin Elster to keep an eye on the bizarre behaviour of his wife, Madeleine (Kim Novak), acrophobia segues imperceptibly into the fear of sex and of death as Scottie becomes Hitchcock-by-proxy, recreating and controlling his unattainable object of desire.
Vertigo filming location: Scottie’s first glimpses ‘Madeleine’: the old Ernie’s, Montgomery Street, San Francisco
Alfred Hitchcock signals the sudden flare-up of irrational passion by disrupting the pastel colour scheme and setting Scottie’s first glimpse of Madeleine against the rich red silk interior of Ernie’s Restaurant, Montgomery Street near Washington Street in the Jackson Square Historic District.
One of Hitchcock’s own favourite San Francisco hangouts, Ernie’s had been serving up haute cuisine to the well-heeled since 1934, but finally closed its doors only to reopen as the Essex Supper Club. Sadly, this too has since closed. The restaurant stood at 847 Montgomery Street.
Vertigo filming location: Gavin Elster’s imposing apartment block: Brocklebank Apartments, 1000 Mason Street, San Francisco
A few blocks southwest, on the summit of the appropriately named Nob Hill is Elster’s imposing apartment block, from which the smitten Scottie tails Madeleine Elster. Its unmistakable entrance court guarded by elaborate lamps, the 277-room Brocklebank Apartments, 1000 Mason Street at Sacramento Street, is a major location for Gene Wilder’s 1984 The Woman In Red, and also features in the TV adaptation of Armistead Maupin’s Tales Of The City.
There’s nothing left to see on the northwest corner of Gough and Eddy Streets, where Scottie trails Mrs Elster to ‘McKittrick’s Hotel’, the old house of long-dead Carlotta Valdes (the area, north of the Civic Center district, has been redeveloped, and even the elaborate Gothic St Paulus Lutheran Church dating from 1872, which you can see behind James Stewart, has since been destroyed by fire).
Vertigo filming location: Madeleine is obsessed by the portrait of Carlotta: Palace of the Legion of Honor, Lincoln Park, San Francisco
You can, though, visit the gleaming white-pillared palace in which Madeleine sits spellbound by Carlotta’s portrait. Situated between China and Ocean Beaches on San Francisco’s northwesterly tip, it’s the Palace of the Legion of Honor, Legion of Honor Drive in Lincoln Park.
A twin of the Legion d’Honneur in Paris, the gallery houses a rather more impressive collection of paintings than Carlotta Valdes’ kitschy portrait, including works by Rembrandt, Titian, Monet, Renoir and Degas along with one of the world’s finest collections of Rodin sculptures. The palace is featured again in Brian De Palma‘s Raising Cain.