Sinister Cinema: Hammett

A couple of years back this blog was launched (the blog part — the website itself began in September 2000, as I recall, so we’ve been holding down a noirish corner of the net for quite awhile, in net terms).

Can’t fail to kick off Year Three, although I was wondering what tidbit I might post in quick celebration. And then late last year Evan Lewis popped me the image seen above of the French poster for the film Hammett, while not long after that Jerry the Bartender in The Ha-Ra mentioned something about that movie that I’d never heard before.

Coincidence? Probably not.

Jerry first came to town from New York City, working in the House of Shields on New Montgomery (great old bar, you’ll find an earlier incarnation of the joint used in my “Mr. Hunt” story “Knives in the Dark”). When Coppola and Wim Wenders were filming Hammett in town someone decided to use House of Shields as the set for scenes that supposedly would have taken place in John’s Grill. It’s been years since I’ve watched that film, and my idea is that the John’s scenes never appear — they shot about 70% of the movie on location in San Francisco, then reshot most of that on soundstages in Hollywood, dropping scenes with the Eureka ferry boat (where Bill Blackbeard was a newsstand paper hawker — if I remember right, he was a blind newspaper hawker) and lots more. I suppose that was my earliest experience with being interested in hearing about a movie being made, seeing lots of the local set-ups, reading tons of contemporary press coverage, and then finding out how far south the eventual product can go.

But, to the point: Jerry says that for the scenes in House of Shields that the actor Richard Jaeckel was on hand — whatever he shot left out of the final film, like so much else. Out of whoever was around in the cast and crew, Jerry said that Jaeckel, a regular guy, ex-seaman, 5’7″, was the only one who hung around with the employees at the end of the bar, talking, having a drink.

Yeah, what you’d expect from Jaeckel.

And another piece of lost info on that Hammett-connected film.

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