Several years back, I reflected on a trip to San Francisco with an On Location feature. In this piece, I briefly mentioned the subject of this post, the book Footsteps in the Fog: Alfred Hitchcock’s San Francisco written by Jeff Kraft and Aaron Leventhal (published in 2002). Now, after having just returned from the Bay Area, I decided to revisit this book in greater detail.
It is apparent from the very beginning that this is not just some book without any ties to its principal subject. With a foreword written Hitchcock’s daughter, Patricia Hitchcock O’Connell. Now I am not one who usually combs over the foreword of a book, but this one is well worth the extra few minutes to whet your appetite for what awaits in the subsequent pages.
This personal touch assures the reader that the family has given authors their blessings with the project. To enhance this personal quality, Ms. Hitchcock O’Connell has shared some of her personal collection of family photos. It provides a truly unique insight.
Part tour guide book, part on-location set map and part movie outline and summary, this book closely examines the three Hitchcock features closest associated with The Master of Suspense: Shadow of a Doubt, Vertigo, and The Birds. As a bonus, there is also a section in the book that looks at the role the Bay Area has (even if on its periphery) in some of Hitch’s other works, such as Psycho, Suspicion and Rebecca (see below).
What I Learned
While I kind of knew about the Shadow of a Doubt-Hitchcock connection with the San Fran area, what I did not know is that this appreciation for the region predates this film and went back a couple of years to his first film shot in the United States, Rebecca. According to the book, he formed a close friendship with star Joan Fontaine’s parents (who lived in Saratoga, California). In fact, some of the exterior shots used in Rebecca doubled for Monte Carlo and the Cornwall in England, respectively.
On the Down Side …
If there is one complaint I would lodge against this book is that none of the fantastic photos are in color! Black and white is fine for films shot as such, for the films such as The Birds and Vertigo I would have liked to see the bold, rich colors in photographic form.
My last gripe has nothing to do with the book at all but rather with my sadness that many of the locations that featured in the book no longer exist (like the famous Ernie’s restaurant).
Overall this is a fun interesting book that I gladly recommend for people who to visit real movie locations. It is fascinating.