The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of: San Francisco and The Movies

The San Francisco Museum and Historical Society presents an exhibition highlighting the movies and the filmmakers that have made our city one of the world’s unique film capitals June 16–24, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm at the Old Mint at Fifth and Mission Streets. Admission is $5 for SFMHS members and $10 for the general public. It is the capstone to the Society’s Standing Ovations benefit gala taking place Thursday evening, June 14, with guest of honor Kim Novak receiving the San Francisco Cinematic Icon Award.

A collection of paintings by Kim Novak titled Life Is But a Dream, a series of very personal looks at the world around her, will be part of the exhibition. This will be the first time Novak has shown her work anywhere.

People everywhere know of the City by the Bay, even if they have never been here. For many of them their image of the city is what they have seen in the movies. Visitors to the exhibition will come away with a greater understanding of why San Francisco has been an irresistible magnet for filmmakers and moviegoers.

The exhibition paints a picture of the amazing breadth of the Bay Area’s film history and filmmaking community, using educational text panels, photographs, posters, vintage cameras, movie props and other objects. Slide shows, lectures, book signings, oral history recordings, screenings and multimedia will also be part of the exhibition.


The Early Days

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Essanay Studio in the East Bay hamlet of Niles, the home of Broncho Billy Westerns and Charlie Chaplin comedies. Cameras, ephemera and posters from the era will be on display. Visitors will be able to see the Miles Bros. 1906 A Trip Down Market Street in a special immersive display that makes them feel like part of the ride.

The Dream Factories

A room dedicated to the filmmaking studios of the Bay Area will feature digital sketches created at Pixar Animation Studios that have been used by animators in developing characters and settings for films like Toy Story, Ratatouille and Finding Nemo, giving a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process at one of the world’s leading animation companies.

The Noir Era

The Maltese Falcon, the bronze statuette from the 1941 movie version of Dashiell Hammett’s novel, will be on display as part of the post-WWII era when the city became a favored location for shooting film noir. An exhibit of rare, original San Francisco film noir posters from the personal collection of noir maven Eddie Muller will evoke the vivid and sensational advertising of the time.

Chinatown Then and Now

An exhibit contrasting the stereotypes of the “exotic Orient” that once characterized cinematic portrayals of Chinatown will be contrasted to the cinema of contemporary Chinese Americans like Wayne Wang, who show Chinatown from the inside.

Cars, Cops and Cocktails

Thrillers, comedies and musicals of more recent decades will be seen through the theme of Cars, Cops and Cocktails. An authentic replica of the famous weapon used by fictional San Francisco police officer Inspector “Dirty Harry” Callahan will be on display.

Independents Day

Visitors will also learn that the documentary community here is one of the most significant in the world and that the Bay Area has for decades been a hotbed of experimental cinema. Artifacts from the early days of independent filmmaking from the collection of the Pacific Film Archive will be on display.

Contemplating Carlotta

A special installation features the Portrait of Carlotta, the famous painting from Vertigo. Viewers will be able to contemplate the portrait while listening to the ambient sounds at Fort Point, combining visual and aural stimulation of two different locations of the film in one place. An original shooting script from Vertigo, once owned by screenwriter Samuel Taylor, will be on display.

The Theaters

The city’s movie palaces are lovingly examined in a photo essay by RA McBride.

Bringing the Movies to SF

The San Francisco International Film Festival, the first in the nation, will be the object of official photographer Pamela Gentile’s lens in another photo display. Visitors will also learn how the San Francisco Film Commission functions. Never-before-seen photos on the sets of Dirty Harry, Take the Money and Run and Petulia by Morton Beebe will be on display.

Visitors will be able to play trivia games and pose for photos with “Charlie Chaplin” and “Clint Eastwood,” courtesy of the Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf.

SFMHS events are sponsored in part by a grant from Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund.