Saturday, May 26, 2012

Picturing San Francisco Consulates II

The Indonesian Consulate at 2800 Scott street, at the corner of Green street, in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood appears, at first glance, as any other mansion among mansions. Many of the consulates in the city take up business-residence in these wealthier neighborhoods of Pacific Heights and Presideo Heights.

If you look closely, you can see a bronze plaque bearing the Indonesian designate; an impressive shield of letters, swords and an eagle; and a beautiful, mosaic window, set into the top of the door, in an eye-catching turquoise blue also featuring an eagle on the wing.

The brick house has gotten a face-lift since becoming a consulate, but in former days the place, though imposing and beautiful, was a little frightening. Indeed the home was used as the setting in a Joan Crawford, film noir-thriller, Sudden Fear, Directed by David Miller, (1952).

The film is worth seeing, especially if you love to watch movies set in San Francisco. Rather than playing the proverbial, strident bitch, Crawford is a bit of a waif in Sudden Fear. She is a wealthy playwright: a contradiction of retreating socialite, brilliant talent and extreme gullibility, all of which makes her the perfect, helpless damsel to Jack Palance and Gloria Grahame’s evil doings.

To see the film is to glimpse the inside of this home which features a precarious staircase, many a clicking door, and windows evoking gorgeous views, though these are more often concealed with heavy drapes. True to noir style, shadows and light play across the walls and add more drama to Crawford’s wide-eyed, melodramatic facial expressions.

Some of the most exciting scenes take place two or three neighborhoods over in posh, yet ghostly, Russian Hill. Chase scenes on foot bring Crawford through steep and narrow streets that viewers who know San Francisco will have fun trying to identify. I can just imagine Crawford’s temper flaring after scenes in which she must run up and down city hills at night in three-inch stilettos.

Today, as home to the Indonesian Consulate, a red and white flag waves cheerfully in the breeze, and potted geraniums grace the sunny porch of this beloved, regal mansion. Though the address is technically on Scott street, the front door and wide porch face Green street, which slopes down dramatically from the mansion’s portal so that the majestic house appears to float eerily on a corner hilltop.

All appears quiet and respectable up on the hill of the genteel these days. But... one never knows what may lurk in the trees at night or behind heavily draped windows...

Another equally intriguing, historical home sits next door to the Consulate on Scott street, but that is another story!

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