When I was a little kid, my Dad was a fan of Barbra Streisand’s music as well as her movies. One particular Streisand movie that our family watched together years ago was “What’s Up Doc,” which starred Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal. The movie came out in 1972, but our family watched it on tv, so we probably saw it several years later. The movie centers around four people checking into a hotel who all have identical plaid suitcases. One of the bags has valuable jewels, and another contains secret government documents, so of course there’s eventually a mix-up and chaos ensues. The reason I mention all of this is because the only scene that I remembered all these years later was one where they have a car chase down Lombard Street in San Francisco (pictured above). Lombard Street has been called “the most crooked street in the world,” due to its eight sharp turns within the distance of one city block, and has a suggested speed limit of 5 mph.
I was able to track down a clip from the movie which includes this particular scene … Streisand and O’Neal have two of the plaid bags, and are being chased by several other groups, and they steal a car from a wedding and make their way through the streets of San Francisco. If you watch about 50 seconds into this clip, you’ll see them zoom down Lombard Street, with the other cars in hot pursuit.
With that scene stuck in my head all these years, when I had the opportunity as an adult to visit San Francisco, I wanted to see the real location in person. This view is from the top of Lombard Street, at the intersection of Hyde Street, looking east towards Coit Tower and the San Francisco Bay. My wife and I were on foot, so we walked our way down the sidewalk along the right side of the street.
It’s interesting to learn that the reason for building the street with curves this way was because the people who lived on Lombard Street in the 1920s wanted to own cars, but the hill was too steep for the automobiles of that time. They made an argument to the city that if their homes were inaccessible by car, then their property values would go down. They persuaded the city engineer to come up with a solution that would allow them to drive up or down the hill, so the curved street was created in 1922.
It’s a very popular location for curiosity seekers and tourists, as you can see here by the happy couple posing for a portrait at the bottom of the hill on Leavenworth Street. (I don’t know them, they just stayed there in that spot for a long time, so I eventually took my photograph with them in it)