San Francisco in The Maltese Falcon (1941)

San Francisco in The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)

San Francisco is something of an idée fixe in John Huston's The Maltese Falcon (1941).

In fact the first words on the screen when the film begins are the words SAN FRANCISCO which precede the film's action.

It goes a bit deeper than that though!

Just as in the novel by Dashiel Hammet, The Maltese Falcon charts Sam Spade's disjointed and incoherent chase around the city in great detail, and with a weird accuracy that simply must be trying to make a point.
To wit, I cite:

111 Sutter Street at Montgomery —  416 Post Street — 12C, 26 Burlinghame — Carpenter Apartments at 1001 California Street — Geary and Leavenworth intersection — The Bailey Theater —   The Florence Hotel — The St. Mark Hotel — The St. Francis Hotel — The Hotel Belvedere — The Embarcadero — The Ferry Building — The Bay Bridge and The Golden Gate Bridge — and Burritt Alley

It's not clear if there really was a Hotel Belvedere.  The Film in America site can't seem to find one and I haven't had much luck either.

Elijah Cooke Jnr in The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Humphrey Bogart and Elijah Cooke Jnr in The Maltese Falcon

Film noir is of course generally about the urban experience, but even by that measure, this obsessing over place names in The Maltese Falcon seems a little much.

Seeing the list like this it is hard not to think of the names, numbers and locations as so many meaningless details, designed perhaps to confuse the viewer — it is a famously confusing plot.

Information and detail is key to this puzzling hoax of a story, and in a large part it is all about the viewer sharing in Sam Spade's difficulties.  It might sound like there is precision in such straight information, but the opposite is the case.  It is simply baffling.

On top of that, none of the film was really shot in San Francisco and was all made on the lot and in the Warner Brothers' studio in Burbank!

The LAFD in The Maltese Falcon (1941)
In the scene on the pier, when Sam Spade checks out the La Paloma, a group of firefighters appear to be wearing LAFD helmets.

Despite this John Huston used a few establishing shots of San Francisco, a few of which can be seen at the Film-in-America website, details of which are below.

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