Bullets Across the Bay


In addition to being one of the most famous mystery novels ever written, The Maltese Falcon (Warner Bros., 1941) is also considered one of the most first, and most respected, films noir ever made. It is only one, however, in a long line of crime films that are set in San Francisco. Some of these films, like The Maltese Falcon, were adapted from novels. Others have been developed from original screenplays, spawning “movie tie-in” novels for those who like books better than movies.

Nathaniel Rich (1980- )
San Francisco Noir: The City in Film Noir from 1940 to the Present
New York: Little Bookroom, 2005.
Main PN1995.9.F54.R48 2005 | Pacific Film Archive PN1995.9.F54.R48 2005

Representations of the city of San Francisco, as seen in such films noir as The Maltese Falcon, Dark Passage, Out of the Past, The Lady from Shanghai, Bullitt, Dirty Harry, Basic Instinct, and numerous others.

Dana Lyon (1897-1982)
The House on Telegraph Hill
New York: Mercury Publications, 1948 (orig. pub.: The Frightened Child. New York: Harper, 1948).
Bancroft PS3523.Y554.H6 1948

Dana Lyon’s 1948 novel The Frightened Child served as the source material for The House on Telegraph Hill, a 1951 film noir that tells the story of Victoria Kowelska, a concentration camp survivor who escaped war-torn Europe by assuming the identity of a dead friend. She arrives in San Francisco and soon finds herself in even greater danger.

David Goodis (1917-1967)
Dark Passage
London: Prion, 1999 (orig. pub.: New York: Julian Messner, 1946).
Bancroft PS3513.O499.D3 1946

David Goodis’ tale of a man wrongly convicted of murder who escapes from San Quentin with the help of a beautiful young woman was the source of the classic 1947 film starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Much of the movie takes place in an apartment on Telegraph Hill.

Pierre Boileau (1906-1989) and Thomas Narcejac (1908-1998)
[D’entre les morts] Vertigo
London: Bloomsbury, 1997.
Private collection

Master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock used a French novel—set in Paris and published in English first as The Living and the Dead—and turned it into one of the most famous films ever shot in San Francisco. James Stewart plays a detective who becomes obsessed with a dead woman, played by Kim Novak, in Vertigo (1958).

Richard Osborne
Basic Instinct
New York: Signet, 1992.
Bancroft PS3565.S45.B37 1992

Paul Verhoeven’s neo-noir stars Michael Douglas as a San Francisco police detective who forms a dangerous liaison with a famous author, played by Sharon Stone, who is the prime suspect in a murder investigation.

Mel Valley
Magnum Force
New York: Warner Paperback Library, 1974.
Bancroft PS3572.A41268.M3 1974

In the first sequel to 1971’s Dirty Harry, Clint Eastwood returns as the violently independent SFPD Inspector Harry Callahan to track down a pair of vigilante motorcycle cops.

David L. Robbins (1954- )
New York: Onyx, 2004.
Bancroft PS3568.O22289.T85 2004

Ashley Judd plays a San Francisco Homicide Detective in Twisted (2004), directed by Philip Kaufman. She is also a blackout drunk who becomes the prime suspect in a series of murders. Is she the killer? Or is she the victim of an elaborate frame job?

James Cass Rogers
Foul Play
New York: Jove, 1978.
Private collection

In this comedy, a shy San Francisco librarian (Goldie Hawn) and a bumbling SFPD lieutenant (Chevy Chase, in his first feature film) fall in love as they investigate a series of crimes involving albinos, dwarves, and the Catholic Church.

Robert Grossbach
The Cheap Detective
New York: Warner Books, 1978.
Private collection

Peter Falk stars as San Francisco private eye Lou Peckinpaugh in Neil Simon’s comedy, which simultaneously parodies both Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon.

Video compilation by Gary Handman, Media Resources Center

After the Thin Man (1936)
Directed by W.S. Van Dyke, with William Powell, Myrna Loy, and Asta

The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Directed by John Huston, with Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, and Jerome Cowan

Dark Passage (1947)
Directed by Delmer Daves, with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall

Out of the Past (1947)
Directed by Jacques Tourneur, with Robert Mitchum, John Kellogg, and Jane Greer

The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
Directed by Orson Welles, with Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles

D.O.A. (1950)
Directed by Rudolph Maté, with Edmond O’Brien, Frank Jaquet, and Lawrence Dobkin

The House on Telegraph Hill (1951)
Directed by Robert Wise, with Valentina Cortese

Vertigo (1958)
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, with James Stewart and Kim Novak

Experiment in Terror (1962)
Directed by Blake Edwards, with Lee Remick and Glenn Ford

Bullitt (1968)
Directed by Peter Yates, with Steve McQueen, 1968 Mustang GT, 1968 Dodge Charger, Paul Genge, and John Aprea

Dirty Harry (1971)
Directed by Don Siegel, with Clint Eastwood, Albert Popwell, and .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson Model 29

Zodiac (2007)
Directed by David Fincher, with Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey, Jr., and John Getz

The Laughing Policeman (1973)
Directed by Stuart Rosenberg, with Walter Matthau, Bruce Dern, and Albert Paulsen

Chan is Missing (1982)
Directed by Wayne Wang, with Wood Moy and Marc Hayashi

48 Hrs. (1982)
Directed by Walter Hill, with Eddie Murphy, Nick Nolte, and David Patrick Kelly

For full credits, see The Internet Movie Database (IMdB): http://www.imdb.com/

Learn more about San Francisco and the Bay Area on film at the Media Resources Center:


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