The Cinematic Missions

In this post I will cover the three cinematic missions: San Francisco de Asis, San Juan Bautista and San Fernando Rey. Two missions are in Northern California and the other in the Southern part of the state. All three missions where featured in classic films, one film representing a master filmmaker at his height of his powers and the other a  director’s promising start . Missions San Francisco and San Juan Bautista were both featured in Hitchcock’s masterpiece Vertigo (1958). Jimmy Stewart as Scottie, follows the mysterious Madeleine (Kim Novak) to Mission Dolores (the 6th mission and San Francisco’s oldest building) , where Novak visits a grave. The grave of “Carlotta Valdes” was a movie prop and was left over after the film but was eventually removed because it was deemed disrespectful to those buried at the mission.

San Juan Bautista 2

The climax of Vertigo was filmed at the 15th mission, San Juan Bautista. (Spoiler Alert!) Many fans of the film visiting the mission ask to see the tower where Novak plummets to her death is located . Did this tower get destroyed in an earthquake? (The San Andreas Fault is less that 100 yards from the mission). The tower is another cinematic ghost because it was really a matte painting added on in post production. Two objects used in the film still exist. Theyare in the stable across the square from the mission. There you will find the buggy and the plaster horse replica where Stewart gives his “there is an answer of everything” speech.


The southern Mission, San Fernando Rey, was the stand in or stunt double,  for the Alamo in Tim Burton’s first feature length film: Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985). “Basement? There’s no basement in the Alamo!”I guess it’s no surprise that this mission is linked with show business because Bob Hope is buried here.

San Fernando

This spread was the last in my Mission Rally.The final field sketch was of the rather creepy statue of Father Serra walking with his arm around a scantily clad native boy.

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