It's hard to imagine Alfred Hitchcock's bravura romantic thriller "Vertigo" (1958) set anywhere but San Francisco, since the master of suspense used such well-known landmarks as the Golden Gate Bridge and Coit Tower to heighten his tale of love and deception (not to mention fear of heights).
The Bay Area also suited his 1963 shocker, "The Birds," with the director making vibrant use of San Francisco as well as the nearby rugged and isolated coastline. He chose Santa Rosa to set his 1943 thriller, "Shadow of a Doubt," in which a quiet, all-American town is invaded by an evil presence in the form of a charming but deadly lady-killer. Hitchcock used the diverse, unique locations around the City by the Bay for several other films, including "Rebecca," "Suspicion," "Marnie," "Topaz," "Psycho" and "Family Plot."
Hitch and his wife, Alma, also escaped from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood to their ranch and vineyard just outside Santa Cruz.
A new book, "Footsteps in the Fog" (Santa Monica Press), by Bay Area residents Jeff Kraft and Aaron Leventhal, offers a journey through the locations that Hitchcock used or was inspired by in these films.
Leventhal and Kraft will be signing books and offering a slide show of the sites at the Egyptian Theatre tonight at a screening of "The Birds." The director's daughter, Patricia Hitchcock O'Connell, and the film's star, Tippi Hedren, will also be in attendance. And on Friday, the authors will be appearing at Borders Books & Music in Santa Monica.
Kraft became inspired to do the book as he became fascinated by Hitchcock films. "In 1995, I started to see more of them," he says. "I knew the 100th anniversary of his birth was coming up, and wouldn't it be nice to honor him."
The authors discovered that many of the Hitchcock sites no longer exist. "Unfortunately, it seems the passage of time in most cases always hurt the location," Leventhal says. "They never tore something down and put something wonderful in its place. The Portman Mansion, which is the McKittrick Hotel in 'Vertigo,' that ended up being torn down; they put a parking lot in there with a tennis court on top of it."
Leventhal believes there are many reasons Hitchcock's heart belonged to San Francisco. The director, who left England for Hollywood in 1939, found the Bay Area similar in some ways to his native country -- "the aspects of the coastline were kind of rugged and foggy and overcast," says Leventhal. "But I don't buy [the reason] completely," he says. "I think the reality of it was he was looking to escape Hollywood -- it was the very opposite of the way he lived. He loved farms and the countryside and he was also fairly reclusive. He needed an escape."
Behind the fog
Screening and book signing
Where: Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
When: Tonight. Authors Jeff Kraft and Aaron Leventhal will sign copies of "Footsteps in the Fog" at 6 p.m., followed by a slide show and screening of "The Birds" at 7 p.m.
Price: $6 to $9.
Info: (323) 466-3546
Another book signing
Where: Borders, 1415 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Info: (310) 393-9290