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and car­ried on eat­ing. The lo­cal yel­low­tail was sea­side-fresh; the sauce for grilled cala­mari nod­ded to­wards Mex­ico, with mole for depth, chilli for heat and lime for zing. Chef and co-owner John Clark is also a film buff with a sense of hu­mour: “We get a lot of first dates here. If the date goes sour, you can al­ways watch the movie.”

I knew that San Fran­cisco was a city of film lo­ca­tions; more sur­pris­ingly, every­one I met seemed to be a movie devo­tee. And for many, a favourite des­ti­na­tion is The Cas­tro The­atre. Open since 1922 and still owned by the same fam­ily, this movie palace re­tains red vel­vet tip-up seats, an elab­o­rate ceil­ing and a screen 45 feet wide and 25 feet high. A 30-minute or­gan recital pre­cedes shows: new, old, for­eign, gay, pure Hol­ly­wood and even spe­cial “sin­ga­long” evenings. Yel­low Sub­ma­rine any­one?

Cam­eras are al­ways rolling some­where. Dur­ing my stay, Keanu Reeves was in town to shoot scenes for Al­ways Be My Maybe at The Fair­mont San Fran­cisco. Opened in 1907 at the very top of Nob Hill, this ho­tel has the mar­ble, gilt and glam­our of a true grande dame. Roy­alty, pres­i­dents and celebs have all stayed here and its cin­e­matic CV could fill a book. Most mem­o­rable mo­ment? “That has to be Sean Con­nery’s hair­cut scene in The Rock,” ac­cord­ing to chief concierge Tom Wolfe. One minute Sean Con­nery’s ex-con is in the barber’s chair; the next he tosses John Spencer’s FBI direc­tor from the bal­cony and makes his es­cape. “We had phone calls ga­lore that some­one was dan­gling from a rope, 18 floors up,” Wolfe ad­mit­ted. “What pedes­tri­ans saw, of course, was a dummy.”

The real star of The Rock is Al­ca­traz, the bleak is­land a mile off­shore. Now run by the Na­tional Park Ser­vice, its 12 acres served as a high-se­cu­rity fed­eral pen­i­ten­tiary for 29 years. Even on a sunny day, the place was chill­ing, es­pe­cially the Cell House, where each pris­oner’s “home” mea­sured just 45 feet square. Dozens of films have fea­tured the prison.

“The most ac­cu­rate is Clint East­wood’s Es­cape from Al­ca­traz,” said a ranger.

For some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent, I headed for the Walt

Dis­ney Fam­ily Mu­seum. As well as learn­ing about the story of Walt’s life and times, I dis­cov­ered how Mor­timer Mouse mor­phed into

Mickey back in 1928. There are have-a-go an­i­ma­tron­ics, car­toons and Dis­ney’s own model train set. Per­haps

John’s Grill is one block from Union Square ( johns­; the award­win­ning For­eign Cin­ema is in the Cas­tro Dis­trict (for­eigncin­ema. com); Caffe Tri­este is in

North Beach (caf­fetri­ this artist, in­no­va­tor and cor­po­rate head was just a big kid at heart.

That mu­seum is in the Pre­sidio, the huge army-base-turned-park south of the Golden Gate Bridge. Amid the green­ery is an­other cin­ema con­nec­tion: the stu­dios of Lu­cas­film, guarded by a Yoda foun­tain. “Any­one want a selfie with Darth Vader and Boba Fett?” asked Marie, the guide on my San Fran­cisco Movie Tours bus, to the de­light of Star Wars fans. “You can’t miss them – they’re life-size and just in­side the front door.”

This is just one stop on a three-hour ride chock-full of clips, lo­ca­tions and Marie’s lively anec­dotes. “In When a Man Loves a Woman, Meg Ryan is at the bar of the Buena Vista Cafe, fa­mous for its Ir­ish cof­fees.” Mrs Doubt­fire’s house is “the only real ad­dress ever given out in a movie. The own­ers have been plagued by tourists ever since.” Then there is Alta Plaza Park, seen in the mad­cap chase se­quence in What’s Up, Doc? This witty spoof of Bul­litt has Bar­bra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal tak­ing to the hills – first on a bi­cy­cle and then in a VW.

From the silent era to right now, direc­tors have shouted “Ac­tion!” in

San Fran­cisco. But the “City by the Bay” is far more than a back­drop. From Dirty Harry to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, it has played a lead­ing role in cin­ema. Maybe one day the Academy will de­cide to award an Os­car for Best Lo­ca­tion. If they do, I reckon San Fran­cisco would be a sure-fire win­ner.

CAL­I­FOR­NIA DREAM­INGCaffe Tri­este, above, where Fran­cis Ford Cop­pola worked on the screen­play of

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