Some archival footage of San Francisco in 1955 from the Prelinger Archives has caught my attention again today, and you should really see it. It comes from amateur filmmaker and inventor Tullio Pellegrini, and it's a charmingly direct, picturesque tour of the city from a guide who sounds straight out of 1950s narrator Central Casting.
SFist first republished Pellegrini's short film back in 2011, but as I realize now, that was eight years ago! It's clearly time to show you all again — especially now that the footage is on YouTube.
The tour begins with cuts between different automobile approaches to the city — from the south, east, and north.
"Approaching from the south, the traveler views with sudden excitement the city thrusting its white towers into the blue California sky," Pellegrini, or his narrator, says above swelling orchestral music. "But it is from the east that the city reveals its famous profile, framed by the silver towers of the Bay Bridge."
Fisherman's Wharf looks remarkably similar, 64 years later, as it did in this film, though it's more worn these days.
And you'll get a glimpse of the Cliff House and the "newly installed" aerial tram that used to run there above the ocean.
A lot of the footage is shot from a car's passenger seat — the film's enthusiasm for the roads helps explain how car culture killed off Bay Area public transportation until the 1970s. But there's also a trip to visit the lions at the SF Zoo, a look at the cable-car turnaround at Powell Street — which at the time had cars trying to weave around it without hitting pedestrians — and a requisite visit to the "Oriental colony" of Chinatown. Enjoy.