Shoddy bolts, bad welds, dangerous rust, frayed cables. With even more reports of problems on the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge, we — like everyone in the Bay Area — are suffering from bad news fatigue.

We thought we’d remedy this by basking in the glory of the old San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, relived through decades of Hollywood movies.

When the Bay Bridge opened to the public in November 1936, it was seen as a technological marvel, an engineering feat that exemplified mankind’s ability. Since then, the bridge has made numerous notable film appearances over the years.

Unsurprisingly, all the clips we scrounged up show the still-functioning, towered suspension span of the bridge west of Yerba Buena Island, overlooking the more modest beauty of the cantilevered eastern stretch that is disappearing piece-by-piece in front of our eyes.

With sometimes glaring anachronistic errors, relive the 75-year history of the Bay Bridge in stunning Technicolor (and less-stunning black and white).

“Shadow of the Thin Man” (1941) (0:00-1:15) (Trailer)

Still from “Shadow of the Thin Man” (1941), directed by W.S. Van Dyke.

Myrna Loy and the mustachioed William Powell are pulled over for speeding on the upper deck of the bridge. The outdoor scene on the bridge, with Coit Tower and Telegraph Hill visible in the background, includes an impressive tracking shot amid three lanes of traffic. In what will become a bit of a trend, the plot has the two characters traveling eastbound (the next shots include the MacArthur Maze and later, Golden Gate Fields) despite heading west toward the city. (*the clip has been edited from the original).

“Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo” (1944) (1:15-2:05)

Still from “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo” (1944), directed by Mervyn LeRoy.

It’s easy to forget the still-new “superstructure” was still awe-inspiring nearly 10 years after it was completed. Also impressive, the terrific shot of a B-25 bomber flying under the Bay Bridge. Such shots led to the film, starring Spencer Tracy as Lt. Col. James Doolittle of “Doolittle Raid” fame, winning an Oscar for Best Special Effects.

“The Graduate” (1967) (2:04-2:40)(Trailer)

Still from “The Graduate” (1967), directed by Mike Nichols.

The dulcet tones of Simon & Garfunkel and vivid Technicolor bring us to the most recognizable Bay Bridge clip. Dustin Hoffman’s character, Ben Braddock, inconceivably travels westbound … to Berkeley?! An anachronism that’s hard to ignore, bested only by the beauty of the single, slow-moving 35-second tracking shot revealing the towered suspension span.

“Koyaanisqatsi” (1982) (2:40-2:50)(Trailer)

Still from “Koyaanisqatsi” (1982), directed by Godfrey Reggio.

Blink and you’ll miss it. The Godfrey Reggio-directed visual documentary, accompanied by the rhythmic chaos of Philip Glass’ score, features two incredibly brief POV shots driving through the Yerba Buena Island tunnel into the sunlight of the western span. But strangely, in typical anachronistic mystery, those shots are cut out-of-order.

“George of the Jungle” (1997) (2:50-5:25)

Still from “George of the Jungle” (1997), directed by Sam Weisman.

Hunky, 1990s Brendan Fraser swings on “the biggest rope bridge he had ever seen.” Complete with stranded parachutist, sweeping aerial shots and the poetic line, “To swing, or not to swing?” (yes, really), the “George of the Jungle” action sequence is perhaps the climax of the Bay Bridge’s cinematic history. “Watch out for that …” straight-to-video sequel, “George of the Jungle 2” (2003). (*the clip has been edited from the original)

Reliving the Glory Days of the Bay Bridge Through Hollywood Movies 30 September,2014Adam Grossberg


Adam Grossberg

Adam Grossberg is a video producer at KQED News. Prior to coming to KQED, he produced videos for PBS, The New York Times, Current TV and The Center for Investigative Reporting. His work has received an Excellence in Journalism award from the Society of Professional Journalists, a regional Murrow award and two Northern California Emmy awards. He is a graduate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Email:

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