Thursday, July 02, 2009

“The City Itself Was a Co-star”

I was hoping this would happen. Following up on yesterday’s sad news that actor Karl Malden died at age 97, the San Francisco Chronicle decided to look back at the role in which most Americans likely remember seeing Malden--that of “dedicated and compassionate” Detective Lieutenant Mike Stone in The Streets of San Francisco (1972-1977)--and how Streets portrayed the captivating city of its title.

Writer Ruthe Stein recalls that the series, “which premiered as a TV film of the same title in September 1972, ran for five seasons, with Michael Douglas playing Inspector Steve Keller through most of the show’s run.” She goes on to explain that
Unlike many current TV shows set in San Francisco, such as “Monk,” the series was actually filmed on location and it could be said that the city itself was a co-star. The series opened every week with quick-cut aerial shots of San Francisco, swooping over Civic Center, through Chinatown, over Fisherman’s Wharf, with the immediately identifiable percussive theme playing in the background. ...

Virtually the entire city was the back lot for “Streets of San Francisco,” but careful viewers will find a particular emphasis on Potrero Hill. In fact, one of the early episodes called “The House on Hyde Street,” featuring veteran actor Lew Ayres as a reclusive old man, wasn’t filmed anywhere near Hyde Street but on the corner of Pennsylvania and 18th streets.

The show’s producers were also fond of filming at Fisherman’s Wharf and at the Hall of Justice before the construction of the jail facilities. Once, while the series was shooting in Chinatown, a teenage boy was hit by a car. Mr. Malden immediately jumped in to assist, holding up traffic until an ambulance arrived. A gathering crowd thought it was a scene from the show.

Although “Streets” went off the air in 1977, NBC brought Mr. Malden back for a made-for-TV film in 1992 called “Back to the Streets of San Francisco.” Stone had been promoted and supervised two younger inspectors. By that time, Douglas had a healthy film career and did not participate in the film.
Meanwhile, I did some digging through my office today in search of the 1972 Fall Preview edition of TV Guide (with its all-too-brief synopsis of the debuting Streets), and happened across a cover story about Malden that Dick Lochte--who is now the Nero Award-winning author of Sleeping Dog (1986) and Croaked! (2007)--penned for the May 26, 1973, edition of TV Guide. The piece is good enough, and nostalgic enough, that I decided to embed the whole thing below. Simply click on the pages to increase them to readable size.


Paul D Brazill said...

Nice one. 'The Streets...' is a big part of my internal landscape.

Good one on Baby Doll by Kim Morgan here

Janet Rudolph said...

Thanks for the trip down memory lane. San Francisco was my city in the 70s and those mean streets were mine. Karl Malden R.I.P.