Lights, Camera, Action at the Fairmont Hotel

With more than 10 major films shot at the Nob Hill site, Hollywood has designated it San Francisco's reigning cinematic hotel.

The Rock (YouTube Still)

When Hollywood comes to San Francisco, filmmakers often show off the hills to make the setting crystal clear.

Nob Hill has the trifecta for the entertainment industry — or at least, of yesteryear — with hills galore, stunning views, ritzy apartments, and the glamorous Fairmont Hotel.

In a corridor lined with historic, gallery-grade photos of San Francisco devastated from the 1906 earthquake sit framed posters of some of the popular movies filmed at the Fairmont. Peek into the hallways, luxury suites, and rooftop of the city’s most famous historic hotel by watching these classics:

Magnum Force (1973). This Dirty Harry sequel brings Clint Eastwood back to take down vigilante San Francisco cops who are extrajudicially offing city criminals, in the franchise’s longest film. The Fairmont is one of many city locations where the film was shot, including the then-standing Embarcadero Freeway and a Cost Plus on Taylor Street.

The Intern (2015). Anne Hathaway bosses around Robert De Niro, who plays a 70-year-old intern at a fashion startup in Brooklyn. A luxury suite at the Fairmont makes an appearance in one scene. The comedy also includes Rene Russo, Anders Holm, and Adam Devine.

The Rock (1996). When a marine — bitter over the government’s refusal to pay veteran health benefits — takes 81 tourists on Alcatraz hostage, hero Sean Connery comes to town. His character specifically requests a room at the Fairmont. Nicolas Cage and Ed Harris also star in Michael Bay’s pre-Transformers action thriller.

Kiss Them For Me (1957). Cary Grant, Jayne Mansfield, and Leif Erickson star in this film adaptation of a Broadway play about Navy pilots in 1944. The military trio stay at the Fairmont during a four-day leave in San Francisco, tired of war. The plot seemingly revolves around PTSD and love triangles, with an official tagline of “They tried so hard. … so very hard. … not to fall in love!”

Vertigo (1958). Alfred Hitchcock shot his noir psychological thriller all over the city, but characters played by Kim Novak and Tom Helmore lived at the Brocklebank Apartments, across the street from the Fairmont, where Hitchcock reportedly stayed during production.

The Towering Inferno (1974). San Francisco is the site of another disaster in this joint studio venture with Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, and Faye Dunaway. Filmmakers pieced together an Academy Award-winning action drama based on books by different authors about a shoddily constructed skyscraper catching fire and the subsequent rescue efforts.

Junior (1994). This Ivan Reitman film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito, and Emma Thompson in a comedy about a male pregnancy, shot in San Francisco. Researchers invent a fertility drug that can prevent miscarriages, but Schwarzenegger must test it on himself and gets attached to “his” unborn child. The science seems iffy, but the movie picked up some Golden Globe nominations for acting.

Mother (1996). Albert Brooks directs and acts in this comedy drama about a twice-divorced sci-fi writer who moves back in with his mom, the late Debbie Reynolds. Lisa Kudrow also shows up in this well-received film shot around the Bay Area.

Freebie and the Bean (1974). This action comedy is another offbeat police detective film, but this time with Alan Arkin and James Caan, who try to keep a racketeering boss alive long enough to put him away. The Embarcadero Freeway makes an appearance, as does the Fairmont.

Hotel (1983-1988). Producer Aaron Spelling went to the grand hotel for shots of his prime time drama about … a hotel. James Brolin plays the general manager in the ABC show that frequently had big-name guest stars like Bette Davis, David Ackroyd, Patrick Duffy, and Heather Langenkamp.

Check out more stories in our feature on Nob Hill here:

A Slow But Steady Thieving
Four bronze tortoises regularly disappear from Huntington Park’s fountain.

The Ascent to Jones
Scaling Nob Hill in pursuit of its flattest blocks.

The Gardens of Fairmont
The Nob Hill hotel has a picturesque rooftop park open to locals.

Don’t Miss the AIDS Memorial Quilt Exhibit at Grace Cathedral
By bathing 15 panels of the quilt in light, the stained glass windows sanctify the 20,000 San Franciscans who died in the modern plague.

Infinite Appetite, Finite Budget: Nob Hill
From the House of Prime Rib to Buffalo Theory, Nob Hill’s food scene might be more diverse than you think.

Nob Hill Has One Grocery Store, and It’s Proudly Independent
Sometimes described as a cross between Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, Le Beau Market has a rooftop garden.

View Comments