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Streets of San Francisco: 1957

Streets of San Francisco: 1957

        UPDATE: By amazing coincidence, the photographer here (the late father of Shorpy member rsyung) seems to have stumbled upon a shooting location for the Alfred Hitchcock thriller "Vertigo," with the same cars lined up along the curb as in a scene from the movie. Scroll down to the comments for details. -- Dave

Taken by my dad in August, 1957. Bay Bridge in the background. I'm sure someone with an intimate knowledge of "The City" and / or Google maps will figure out which street this is. Kodachrome slide, Contax camera. View full size.

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The Shadows Know

I compared shadow lengths between the two photos by measuring the ratios of three arbitrary (other than being easily measurable) points on three cars (number of pixels of shadow width versus car height) and came up with 0.54 vs. 0.52, 0.56 vs. 0.51, and 0.53 vs. 0.48, with the movie screenshot denoted first in each pair of numbers. We would need a statistician to tell us if they are significantly different, but this seems to indicate that the shadows are longer in the movie still, meaning that the rsyung photo was taken first. What an incredible coincidence it would be if he had taken the photo a short time before the film crew arrived, unaware of their eventual presence.

Elevation and azimuth

With this website :, you can view the orientation of the sunlight at any given time, on a certain date.

If you choose the Clay street in San Francisco in August 1957, it shows you that the sunrise axis was almost parallel to that street. Then the sun started its arc on the left of the picture, and set a little bit on the right, behind the photographer.

Given the shadows, the sun is almost perpendicular to the street, a bit forward. Which means that the shot was taken between noon and 12:30 (DST applied by law since 1954).

There is not a lot of differences between the shadows of both shots. It seems to me that they're a little bit longer in the rsyung picture (see for example the roof shadow from the red '55 Chevy on the right), meaning that it was probably taken earlier than the Vertigo shot.

With the data given on the website (solar elevation and azimuth), and with an HD version of the Vertigo shot, one could calculate the hour at which each picture was taken.

But I'll bet there is half an hour to an hour, at the most, between both shots.


The only significant difference between the two photos in question . . . it appears that a 1956 Pontiac is behind the 55 Chevy on the right side of the street in one of the photos, while a 55 Ford station wagon occupies that position in the other pic.


I get vertigo just trying to comprehend the odds of this happening.

More info re: Streets of San Francisco

My mom, in her late 80s, has no recollection of that particular day. My parents were driving a two-tone sky blue Buick with dark blue hard top (I'm not a car buff so I can't be more specific, although they bought it in '55). Regarding the info about second unit photography, my guess is it's all the more remarkable as they probably were only shooting for that one day on Clay Street, and those cars were probably not picture cars, meaning the window of time was even narrower for my dad and family to be there at just the right time and place.

Have I mentioned

... what a sensational site this is? I never cease to admire the diligent research done by readers here. This particular photo, with its incredible coincidence of timing, is the best example I've seen yet of the wonders of Shorpy.

And sure, I'm biased as resident of the Bay Area, but still -- this is a fantastic thread. Kudos to all involved, especially rsyung's dad!

Oh yeah, and that Hitchcock guy. ;-)

Second unit filming completed August 1957

According to the link provided by JohnnyYuma to Hitchcock Zone's "Vertigo" article:

Whilst the formal production date slipped due to the delays, a second unit team, headed by assistant director Daniel McCauley, began filming backgrounds (for use in rear projection scenes in the studio), establishing shots of the city and various street scenes, along with test footage of the main filming locations. McCauley returned to San Francisco in August 1957 to film the remaining second unit footage and the backgrounds for use in the film's many driving scenes.

My emphasis. That settles it for me -- rsyung's dad did take his photo while the street was in use by McCauley's 2nd unit crew.

And now the Plymouth

Hey buddy. Your taillight's out!

Maybe a mistake

Isn't it possible that this is a shot from the movie, and it was mistaken for a photo taken by someone else. Seems likely, given that it's almost identical to the movie shot.

[And somehow made its way into a box of Ron's family photos as a 35mm Kodachrome slide? - Dave]

Filming began on Sept. 13, 1957

According to Vertigo: The Making of a Hitchcock Classic: Special Edition.

Whereas this site claims Sept. 30 to Oct. 15 and shows locations on a map.

[And now we seem to have pushed filming back to August, at least for the "driving" footage. Which makes sense as far as the cars go. I recall seeing only one 1958 model in the movie, a Chevrolet. - Dave]

Had no clue

I was floored to see the Vertigo screen grab. My parents and my older sister were visiting San Francisco and Monterey that August of '57, and I had no idea my dad snapped what turns out to be the exact spot Vertigo filmed a scene in, and probably the same day! And shame on me, because I am a big Hitchcock fan to boot! Pure coincidence, my Shorpy friends. My guess is that those were picture cars lined up along the curb for a few days, as continuity would have to be preserved and these scenes might take up to a few days to film ... unless someone has the production schedule for that week!

--Ron Yungul

[What kind of car were Mom and Dad driving? Wouldn't it be something if you could spot them in "Vertigo." - Dave]

55 Chrysler New Yorker

Dustybroome's hood shot looks like my 55 Chrysler New Yorker from the fender to the hood ornament!

[As anyone who's seen "Vertigo" could tell you, that's the hood of Jimmy Stewart's 1956 DeSoto Firedome, which has a major supporting role. - Dave]

Who woulda thunk?

A person in 1957 could never have dreamed that the new "vintage" cars casually parked along the street would one day be worth a small fortune. The car shadows seem the same to me. I wonder if rsyung's father was working with, or watching, the Vertigo film crew and took a snapshot of his own.


This picture had to be taken the same day as Vertigo was filming. The shadows give us a clue that there was some time difference between the photo and the screen grab (the first car on the right is the only car that I see that is different). It's uncanny to see the same cars in the same spots and the same angles as in the movie screen grab! Awesome!

What's behind us?

When I clicked on the full-size view of this photo I instinctively tried to grab it with the cursor and turn the scene around. It did not work. Google Street View didn't work very well in 1957, I guess.

UPDATE - Had to be filming the Vertigo scene!

Man, I'm really off my game here. I just noticed that the screengrab I took from the movie has the same exact cars parked in the street!

Screen grab from Hitchcock's Vertigo

Looks like Alfred liked this view of the bridge. He used the same intersection in the "Vertigo," where Jimmy Stewart was following Kim Novak about 54 minutes into the film. He must have seen the film or been a location scout. Pretty amazing coincidence.

Curb appeal

Great shot of the City from my youth. I'm going to share this photo with my old-time San Francisco friends who complain about the lack of parking in San Francisco today.

("Back in the '50s and '60s there used to be PLENTY of parking in this town ...")

'53 Plymouth

First full steel bodied production station wagon.

SF Street

1100 block of Clay Street.

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