(Editor’s note: We asked Kelli Stanley, the San Francisco author of City of Dragons  and an admitted film noir obsessive, to name her favorite noirs set in her hometown. She sent back the article below.)
1. The Maltese Falcon (1941). OK, so it wasn’t really filmed here. Still, it feels authentic. During your Bouchercon visit to San Francisco you can stop by Dashiell Hammett Street, right by the spot where Sam Spade’s partner, Miles Archer, meets his end. And there’s Don Herron’s fabulous Hammett tour, too. And of course, The Maltese Falcon is a seminal noir, faithful almost to the letter to author Hammett’s 1930 novel, with a superb cast (including Sydney Greenstreet in his first film role). It is arguably the best adaptation of any private-eye novel ever.
2. Vertigo (1958). I didn’t get it when I was in my 20s. Too baroque, too outré, too ridiculous ... but Vertigo is a film I’ve come to better understand and savor with each passing year. As a fever-dream of obsession--and a metaphor for the fear of death, which makes the age difference between Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak all the more richly textured--and as a garishly colored, hallucinatory, San Francisco-set noir, it stands unique. It’s also the most powerful personal testimony to director Alfred Hitchcock’s genius. Watch for scenes shot at Fort Point, the Palace of the Legion of Honor, and Mission Dolores.
3. Nora Prentiss (1947). If you subscribe to the most piquant definition of noir---about the characters being “fucked from page one”--then translate that sentiment into a black-and-white melodrama, the kind usually starring Joan Crawford (see below) ... add in San Francisco and Ann Sheridan, with cinematography by James Wong Howe and direction by Vincent Sherman ... the result will be Nora Prentiss. This picture also perfectly captures the honky-tonk atmosphere of the old Fisherman’s Wharf ... which you can still sense on an occasional Friday night, when the Bay wind floats a rich combination of fresh crab, beer, and desperation in just the right proportions. Not yet available on DVD, but be sure to watch for this film on TCM.
4. The Lady from Shanghai (1948). Rita Hayworth. Orson Welles. The movie that ended in divorce for Welles and Hayworth, and not just because he sadistically made her cut her hair and dye it blond. Playland-at-the-Beach, the fabled but unfortunately long-gone Coney Island of San Francisco, and a brilliant, much-imitated last scene in the amusement park’s Hall of Mirrors (embedded at left). The classic Steinhart Aquarium. And shots of Welles running through Chinatown and Portsmouth Square (with a visit to the old Hall of Justice). Watch especially for the scene on Grant Avenue where he passes by the Li Po bar. That place is still there, and not long ago hosted Dominic Stansberry and I for a reading of Subterranean Noir through the auspices of City Lights Bookstore and Peter Maravelis, the editor of San Francisco Noir.
5. Thieves’ Highway (1949). Richard Conte could portray heroes and villains with equal panache, but his role here is arguably his best (with Mr. Brown in The Big Combo coming in a close second). San Francisco’s waterfront Produce Market--where part of the action is set--is now long gone, and Thieves’ Highway is a lasting testament to the city’s pre-suburb days. It’s also a stirring reminder--from the sublime Jules Dassin (director) and A.I. “Buzz” Bezzerides (writer)--about the labor struggles behind bringing an apple to market. You won’t ever look at your Granny Smith in quite the same way again.
6. Sudden Fear (1952). Joan Crawford, Gloria Grahame, and Jack Palance--what a cast! One of the best proto-feminist noirs around, Sudden Fear, like most of Crawford’s noirs, is what they used to call a “woman’s picture.” It’s Nob Hill mansions to Art Deco apartments. Go, Joan, go!
7. Dark Passage (1947). If you’re lucky, you’ll get to ride the very cable car Humphrey Bogart did when he and Lauren Bacall were filming. And of course, there’s the fabulous Telegraph Hill apartment where La Bacall lives ... and the memorable scene in which she drives an old wood-sided station wagon through the Golden Gate Bridge toll lane (everything looks exactly the same, but the price is considerably higher nowadays). If you do happen to cross the bridge, look to your right (heading north) when paying your toll, and you’ll see a round building. That used to be a restaurant in the 1930s and is currently a gift shop. (Watch a scene from Dark Passage above.)
8. D.O.A. (1950). A fun B-movie with some bizarre touches (such as the sound effects in the hotel when Edmond O’Brien is “on the make”), D.O.A. is also a great record of 1950 San Francisco and Los Angeles. Watch for O’Brien’s run down Market Street.
9. The Man Who Cheated Himself (1950). If you’re intrigued by Fort Point after watching Vertigo, by all means try this film. It’s a tight, well-paced little noir, with some fantastic scenes filmed at San Francisco’s Civil War-era fortress, directly beneath the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge. You’ll also get to see Spock’s mother (Jane Wyatt) play a femme fatale. And she’s got a cool house on Sea Cliff!
10. Woman on the Run (1950). Ann Sheridan strikes again, this time with Dennis O’Keefe. This is a fabulous, low-budget film shot mostly on location here, except for the scenes supposedly taking place at Playland-at-the-Beach. You will, however, get a close-up of Laughing Sal, whom you can still meet (and who apparently terrorized generations of children who saw her at Playland). Just head down to Pier 45 and walk into the magic of the Musée Méchanique.
Devotees of the genre may note that I have failed to include Out of the Past (1947) on this list. Although it’s one of my favorite noirs, the supposedly San Francisco locations are not altogether believable (unlike those in The Maltese Falcon and even Nora Prentiss), which is why I’ve skipped it. Other films to enjoy:
• The Lineup (1958), which includes a lengthy scene at the long-ago-demolished Sutro Baths, and a great car chase through the city--just about completely accurate, too!
• Experiment in Terror (1962). Lee Remick drives across the Bay Bridge and we visit George Washington High School in the Richmond district.
• The House on Telegraph Hill (1951). Sadly, Julius’ Castle--the famous restaurant on the Hill--has been closed since 2008.
• Impact (1949), offering many shots of Nob Hill and environs.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t call attention to a helpful, pocket-sized paperback called San Francisco Noir (2005), by Nathaniel Rich. While you may disagree with his inclusion of a few films (Dirty Harry, Invasion of the Body Snatchers), the book is extremely well-researched and includes addresses from many of the locales in his list of films.
If you’re interested in film noir and haven’t joined the Film Noir Foundation, please check it out. Founded by Noir Czar (and this year’s Bouchercon Toastmaster) Eddie Muller, the FNF helps preserve films such as these from further deterioration and eventual loss.