Noir and Neon: A Match Made in San Francisco

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

A still from Alfred Hitchcock's 'Vertigo,' 1958, lit in green neon. (Tenderloin Museum)

San Francisco film noir isn’t just about darkness, as two online events hosted by the Tenderloin Museum this month prove. Led by SF Neon’s Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan and Jim Van Buskirk, co-author of Celluloid San Francisco: The Film Lover's Guide to Bay Area Movie Locations, “Cinematic San Francisco Neon” shows excerpts from seven decade’ worth of films lit with the eerie glow of the city’s once-ubiquitous neon lights.

This Thursday, May 13 at 6:45pm, the first program, spanning films made 1947–1957, features the noir Dark Passage (the beginning of which is shot POV through the eyes of a prison escapee who becomes Humphrey Bogart only after plastic surgery) and Alfred Hitchcock’s well-recognized classic Vertigo.

Because of what Barna and Homan say was “abundance of exciting material we’ve discovered in our research,” a second presentation takes place two weeks later, on Thursday, May 27, to include films from 1957 through 2014, including the 1957 musical Pal Joey and Tim Burton’s Margaret Keane biopic Big Eyes, recently made but set in San Francisco of the past.

The events serve as the finale to Seasons of Neon, a series of talks and tours put on by the Tenderloin Museum and SF Neon that focused on the neighborhood as the site of the “densest concentration of extant neon in the Bay Area.” “Cinematic San Francisco Neon” is reminder of everything these still-buzzing signs convey: bygone businesses, reemerging nightlife, and the stories behind them all.

Registration is required to attend both events on Zoom, which are free with a suggested donation of $10. Details here.