Frank Sinatra in Berkeley! Who knew?
Pal Joey is a 1957 American Technicolor musical film, loosely adapted from the musical play of the same name. It stars Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra, and Kim Novak. Jo Ann Greer sang for Hayworth, Trudy Stevens sang for Novak. Sinatra didn’t get top billing, Hayworth did. Sinatra was gracious, acknowledging her long history with Columbia. As Columbia’s biggest star, Hayworth had been top billed in every film since Cover Girl in 1944. Besides, Sinatra said, “That’s a sandwich I don’t mind being stuck in the middle of.”
Sinatra won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for his role as the wise-cracking Joey Evans.
The movie opens in Gold City. A police car, siren wailing, drives beneath an overpass.
The police car stops in front of a train station. Two cops pull Joey Evans (Sinatra) from the car. When he says he has done nothing wrong, they remind him of an indiscretion involving the family of the mayor. They put him on the Southern Pacific with a one-way ticket out of town.
Gold City? Spengers neon! Our train station – now Brennan’s! The detailed-oriented reader may observe that the train was on a spur track which has been concreted over.
That’s it for Berkeley, but not for the greater Bay Area. Are we so parochial that we can’t rejoice in our small Berkeley scene and still embrace Oakland and San Francisco?
The one-way ticket takes Joey to Oakland, arriving at the Oakland Pier train and ferry terminal on the Oakland Long Wharf, also known as the Oakland Pier or the SP Mole, a railroad wharf and ferry at the west end of 7th Street. It was torn down in the 1960s when the port’s container facilities were expanded.
Joey/Sinatra takes the ferry to San Francisco.
He arrives – the San Francisco Ferry Building, going strong.
Joey is a singer who wants to open a club, “Chez Joey.” He is pulled between a sweet but naive chorus girl Linda English (Kim Novak) and a wealthy widow, former flame and former stripper Vera (“Vera Vanessa the Undresser with the Vanishing Veils”) Prentice-Simpson (Rita Hayworth).
This post isn’t about the plot, it’s about the locations. For those who must know, Joey rejects Vera and heads off to Sacramento with Linda.
Checking out clubs, Joey hits the International Settlement.
It was an entertainment district located along a one block stretch of Pacific Avenue between Kearny and Montgomery Streets, whose popularity lasted from 1939 to 1960.
This photo gives a better sense of the Arabian Nights barely seen above.
Back to Pal Joey:
These photos are a balm and an inspiration. I think of Herb Caen and his love for San Francisco (“I’ve loved this town before I was born, and I’ll love it after I’m gone”) , his Baghdad by the Bay – his “Pocketful of notes,” “These things I like,” and his three dots and his “And then I wrote” – his “Continuous love letter to San Francisco.” I think of the glory of chaos and sin and mess, of the old weird Berkeley and Oakland and San Francisco, of a life of brio. And for a minute I forget the shrill cries of those who rally for soul-free development and gentrification über alles, their class war against the poor and working class. I think instead of the bright colors and neon, Harry Bridges and the stevedores, Sam Spade and a redhead named Brigid O`Shaughnessy with cobalt-blue eyes, and the Toast of the Coast. I think of the romance of life and I hope. I think of those with a Big Love for our dear old Berkeley.
Larry Rand directed me to these photos from Reel SF, a website where Brian Hollins, who uses the nom de guerre “CitySleuth,” obsessively and beautifully tracks down the exact locations of movies shot in the City. His full treatment of Pal Joey is found here.
While I was on the site, I couldn’t help but check the shots from Harold and Maude that were shot in the Emeryville mudflats in the era of quirky driftwood/detritus sculpture.
CitySleuth even found an outtake with an iconic FUCK WAR sculpture.
In Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971), the United States Supreme Court case overturned a man’s conviction for disturbing the peace for wearing a jacket that displayed the phrase, “Fuck the Draft” in a courthouse. Conviction overturned or not, FUCK WAR was too risqué for the final cut of the movie.
I showed my friend this draft post.
He said that he had been part of the crew that built the FUCK WAR sculpture. He was sure he had a photo of him working on it but he didn’t know where it was.
He could produce, though, two postcards of the International Settlement. He and his twin brother Earl slipped out of the hotel where they were staying with their family during the 1957 vacation trip to San Francisco and tried to sneak into the clubs that were still there. They failed.
The House of the Zombie!
What does he think of the post?