Out of the past: Tullio Pellegrini’s ‘San Francisco’


Way back in the 1950’s, when esnl was a a grade-schooler and life seemed simpler, parents would pack kids off to Saturday matinees while the older folks spent the afternoon doing shopping and chores.

Two features [one usually a Western], plus a half-dozen cartoons, were usually accompanied by a “short,” a twenty-minute documentary or travelogue, often accompanied initially by a chorus of boos.

The whole program ran to at least three hours, and in the days when television sets were still novelties, the Saturday matinee was a treat. Back in Abilene Kansas, kid admission was fourteen cents, and add in a nickel Coke and a five-cent popcorn, and the silver quarter you got left a penny over for a jaw-breaker that just about filled a second-grader’s fist.

We discovered this little film at Presurfer, a 1955 CinemaScope documentary by Tullio Pellegrini, shot on 16 mm Kodachrome [RIP] with a Bell & Howell Filmorama lens.

It’s a look at what residents call “The City” in another time, before the age of the high-rise.

It’s a stilted view to be sure, and almost all the faces are white [even in Chinatown], but it’s also a reminder of life in comparatively simpler times, at the peak of prosperity for the American middle class.

We tried to find out more about the filmmaker, but all we could discover was that Pelligrini was an avid inventor, with no less than eight patents to his name, all involving movie cameras.

We found these observations sparked by the film over at the website of the Bodega Bay Heritage Society:

Just 57 years ago, there wasn’t one piece of space debris orbiting the globe, and the name Sputnik was not yet in the American vocabulary. There were no commercial jets filling the air. The Giants were still playing in the Polo Grounds, all TV’s were black and white, and cars burned leaded gas at just $.23 per gallon. Few had ever heard of Elvis, drivers listened to AM radios only and wore no seat belts. There wasn’t a computer chip or cell phone anywhere, and today’s Silicon Valley was prized as a series of colorful roadside fruit stands, scented flowering orchards and pick-your-own berry patches. 1955 began with tolls on the Golden Gate Bridge at $.40 each way, and ended the year at $.25 each way.

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One response to “Out of the past: Tullio Pellegrini’s ‘San Francisco’

  1. I may know someone who can give you info on tulio. He was a friend of my family

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