Dark Passage movie cover Movie Locations Guide

Where was Dark Passage filmed?

1947

About Dark Passage

Based on a crime novel of the same name by David Good Fis, Dark Passage is a film noir about a man who escaped from prison after being convicted of a crime he did not commit. It was an outstanding example of the genre, released on September 5, 1947, at the peak of the film noir era. If you haven’t watched this film yet, this guide features some essential scenes (spoiler alert!) from the movie and notable Dark Passage locations.

Dark Passage follows Vincent Parry (Humphrey Bogart), who is sentenced to life for allegedly killing his wife three years ago. In order to prove his innocence, he chooses to become an escaped convict and teams up with Irene Jansen (Lauren Bacall).

However, Vincent’s plan to find the real culprit won’t work until he changes his face, as his features are easily recognizable and too well-known. So, Vincent is forced to undergo illicit plastic surgery.

The film’s entire pre-surgery part is shot from Vincent’s point of view, so you won’t see his face until he starts recovering from the operation. Therefore, when the characters talk to Vincent, they are directly talking to the audience.

The desperate Vincent then meets Irene, who owns a cozy apartment on one of the hills in San Francisco. She shows up while he’s escaping to San Francisco from prison and is eager to help by offering him shelter in her lovely apartment and giving him a chance at life.

Irene has always been a firm believer that Vincent was wrongfully accused of murder. It is not clear at first why she’s set on helping him. However, later he finds that her generosity towards him is because of his innocent father, who died in prison. After changing his appearance, Vincent hunts for the killer under a new identity.

City Locations

San Francisco, CA; San Quentin, CA

Location Types

American, Apartment, Police/Jails, Miscellaneous

Location Styles

Classic Car, Dated/50's-60's-70's Building, Dated/Retro, Federal Building, Art Deco

Dark Passage Locations

The Dark Passage production took place in San Francisco, California, a popular location for many filmmakers. Over the centuries, the city has been a favorite spot to bring different stories to life. Its diverse neighborhoods, steep streets, and impressive landmarks have been providing a rich backdrop for films and TV shows.

This 1947 mystery thriller features the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and several buildings and streets in Telegraphic Hill, a small neighborhood on the city's northeast side. You might also recognize a shot of the Robin Williams Tunnel (formerly the Waldo Tunnel). It is shown at the beginning of the movie as the main characters are driving toward the bridge.

Another significant filming location of Dark Passage is the San Quentin State Prison. The movie opens with a panorama of this infamous prison in San Quentin, Marin County, north of San Francisco. It also features the Kean Hotel, a small residential hotel at 1018 Mission Street, where Vincent checks in. You might be surprised to know that this quaint hotel is still in operation today, though it may not be the best accommodation for your dream vacation.

Fun fact:

Dark Passage is the third of the four movies that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall did together. Their on-screen chemistry started in the 1944 movie To Have and Have Not, and the final film they did together was Key Largo, released a year after Dark Passage.

Prison escape scene in Dark Passage

San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, CA

The Dark Passage’s opening sequence shows a man, Vincent Parry, stowed in a barrel on the back of a truck leaving prison. As he rocks the barrel back and forth, it falls and then rolls down a hill, allowing him to flee without anyone noticing.

The prison featured here is the notorious San Quentin State Prison. It’s the best-known and oldest correctional institution in California, established in 1852. During its construction, the inmates would sleep on the prison ship Waban and work to build the prison during the day. Due to its popularity, it’s not surprising that it’s the most referenced prison in numerous television shows, movies, books, and even songs.

The correctional facility is open to the public through a tour with a dress code and clearance requirements. The tour consists of a walk to the Garden Chapel Area, where guides will discuss the prison’s most violent day in its history and its most dangerous housing unit. Visitors are also guided into the South Dining Hall and marvel at the historic murals, which help launch Alfredo Santos’ art career.

The Dungeon is one of the tour highlights. It’s a crumbling rock and clay brick structure built by incarcerated individuals in 1854 and used as solitary confinement until the forties. Now, it serves as a relic of the prison’s brutal and punitive past and a famous stop on the tour route.

If you’re not driving a car, the best way to get to San Quentin State Prison is by taking the line 580 bus or the Bay Area Rapid Transit.

Tunnel scene in Dark Passage

Robin Williams Tunnel, Sausalito CA

“Where are we?” Vincent asks after Irene picks him up on his way to San Francisco after his prison break. “In the tunnel leading to the Golden Gate Bridge,” Irene responds while driving through the dark tunnel, giving viewers a glimpse of the iconic bridge ahead.

The Robin Williams Tunnel, also the Waldo or Rainbow Tunnel, was used as the Dark Passage filming location for this sequence. It is on Highway 101 between Alexander Avenue and Spencer Drive.

Opened in 1937, the Robin Williams Tunnel was also known as the Rainbow Tunnel in 1970 due to the striking rainbow colors in the arch you’ll see on the northbound side. However, the State renamed it the Robin Williams tunnel to honor the comedian and actor who lived and grew up nearby.

The northbound view of the tunnel is more famous but driving through it when heading south gives a dramatic city view. You won’t see the bridge or the city of San Francisco when you drive into the tunnel. However, you'll immediately notice the bridge and the mountains once you come out the other side. Then the city will appear, which can surprise many visitors.

The safest way to see the rainbows or approach the Robin Williams Tunnel up close is by driving your car in Sausalito on Route 101. There are no trails to get there on foot or a parking area nearby, so you can either catch a taxi or drive.

The police roadblock scene in Dark Passage

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA

Although nervous the police might catch her hiding the escaped prisoner in the car, Irene takes the risk. She does a fantastic job concealing her other passenger with some of her painting materials.

“Don’t get the oil paints on your sleeve; they’re still wet,” she warns the police officer as he checks the back of the car. Thankfully, the cop heeds her advice, keeping Vincent undetected. Eventually, Irene successfully smuggles Vincent past the police roadblock.

The bridge provided a setting for this movie scene. It’s one of the city’s most legendary landmarks, attracting millions of visitors each year. It features Art Décor styling, sweeping cables, and majestic 746-foot towers that offer everyone an incredible sensory experience whenever they visit.

Pedestrians can walk the sidewalks of the bridge or take a guided tour to learn about the bridge’s impressive structure and history. The Welcome Center is open every day from 9 AM to 6 PM, offering merchandise, hosting exhibits, and providing historical information about the bridge. There are also picturesque vista points and trails you can access from either end of the bridge.

The Golden Gate Bridge can be reached from Union Square on Muni or downtown San Francisco. You can catch transit bus lines 10, 70, and 80 if you’re coming from downtown to head to the bridge.

Irene’s apartment scene in Dark Passage

The Malloch Building, 1360 Montgomery St. San Francisco, CA

Irene takes Vincent to her apartment after successfully hiding him from the police. “You’re going to stay here,” she tells him after pulling over in front of a building. Irene’s apartment is on the third floor of a mid-1930s Art Décor Malloch building perched on Telegraph Hill.

The building is one of the famous structures in the area, often visited by the fans of this film noir classic. It’s a unique sun-filled apartment on the highly coveted Northeast Slope, featuring a picturesque view of lush trees and the Bay. It has a completely renovated kitchen with modern appliances, a side terrace, ample storage area, and more.

The Malloch Building has hardly changed in more than 70 years, though it sure looks a lot better now. It has been maintained and retains its original art deco style. While you can’t enter room 10, where Irene lives in the movie, you can visit the area and take a picture of the building’s exterior.

While visiting this Dark Passage film site, you can stop by the Coit Tower located in the Telegraphy Hill neighborhood. It’s a 210-foot tower just a stone’s throw from the building, offering breathtaking views of the Bay and the city. Bus 39 stops at Montgomery and Filbert Streets, a short walk from the apartment and the tower.

Vincent climbs the steps scene in Dark Passage

Filbert Street Steps, Telegraph Hill/North Beach District, San Francisco, CA

With his face still wrapped in bandages after the surgery to change his appearance, Vincent laboriously climbs the steps in Telegraph Hill. “Have a hard night, bud? Have a little trouble with the little woman?” one of the men teases as they see him struggling to tackle the steps in the area.

These wooden steps are the Filbert Street Steps, the well-known set of stairways leading to Coit Tower from the waterfront. The walkway will take you to the top of the neighborhood, with gorgeous flowers and plants along the way. The steps are seemingly never-ending, but as you climb, you’ll love the view of the gardens and the Bay Bridge. It’s a picture-perfect escape and a fun hike off the beaten path in the city.

Madge’s accidental death scene in Dark Passage

Tamalpais Building, 1201 Greenwich St, San Francisco, CA

Near the end of the movie, Vincent confronts Madge Rapf (Agnes Moorehead) for her murders, including the killing of his friend George (Rory Mallinson). He compels her to confess to the police, but she’s determined to keep him on the run as an escaped convict. “They’ll believe me; they’ll believe me,” were her final words before falling off her apartment window.

The high-rise building where Vincent escapes down the fire exit after Madge accidentally plummets to her death is the Tamalpais Building at 1201 Greenwich St. It was constructed in 1923 atop Russian Hill, a high-end neighborhood in the city. It offers a view of San Francisco Bay.

Unfortunately, the building is now closed to the public. But if you’re in the area, you can always take a photo of the building and explore the neighborhood where the film shoot took place. It is accessible by bus 19, with stops just a short walk from the apartment.

Conclusion

Do you love film noir and classic crime movies, or are you a fan of the iconic Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall tandem? If so, then Dark Passage is a must-watch movie to add to your watchlist. It is set in San Francisco, which is brilliantly employed as the film’s realistic setting rather than using other Dark Passage locations that serve as a stand-in for the city.

One of the things we love about Dark Passage is that it not only successfully featured famous city sights but also highlighted picturesque streets that movie fans can still explore today. There were also spectacular panoramas of the hills that gave a dramatic backdrop to its memorable sequences. It allows viewers to enjoy not only the story, characters, and dialogues but also the scenery throughout the film.

So, if you have time and you’re visiting San Francisco, go on a film tour and stop by the sites where the Dark Passage was filmed. It will surely be an adventure you won’t forget.