Friday, August 22, 2008

King’s Theatre @ Tiong Bahru

Although I know very little about the Tiong Bahru area, I am familiar with the King’s Theatre at Kim Tian Road. In the early 70’s when Taiwanese movies were a big hit, my older siblings, especially my elder sister and their friends were quite fond of watching this genre of romantic dramas. I used to tag along. Please bear in mind that in those days, we had no internet, no colour tv, no computer games - no pc in fact - and thus the most popular past time for young people was going to the movies.

The most popular of these mushy (picture boy in bell bottoms, girl with long hair running slow motion on beach with romantic song in background) movies were based on stories by a very famous Taiwanese novelist by the name of Qiong Yau (琼瑶). These movies usually starred the most famous Taiwanese actors of the day. The two male names that come to my mind are Alan Tang and Chin Siang Lin. There was a very popular actress but I cannot recall her name. At one time she was married to Patrick Tse Hsien.

One movie that I remember seeing in King’s was 一帘幽梦. Like most of such movies of that era, it had popular movie theme song. I think this one was written by the very famous song writer 劉家昌. I can’t remember the singer though. I don’t particularly like this song actually, but somehow, it sticks to my mind. I do like many of 劉家昌’s other songs; such as 爱的天地, 我家在那里 and this one which became a Taiwanese ‘National Day song’ - 梅花。Come to think of it, maybe I enjoyed the songs more than the movies. One other movie theme song which I liked was 在水一方 which was sung by the famous Theresa Teng.


Fig 1: This is a 1955 photo of King’s Theatre is from the National Archives collection.

Fig 2: The is a picture of a cinema ticket dated 1960. Notice the price of $1 and the words; “In aid of National Theatre Fund”. I believe this is not a normal ticket for a movie but maybe some kind of fund-raising concert. The J23 refers to the seat number. The Chinese words in those days were all 繁体。

When I was older and had my own car, I accompanied my parents and their friends to King’s occasionally. Like the theatres in nearby Queenstown or the Imperial theatre that I blogged about earlier, King’s Theatre is no more. I don’t know in which year it was demolished, but it must be in the 80’s because I could see it in my 1981 but not in my 1993 street directory. On the site where it once stood, they are building another ‘Plaza’.

Whenever I pass by this area, I remember the King’s Theatre.

39 comments:

Victor said...

How could you not mention the (then) very handsome and popular Chin Han (秦漢).

According to Wikipedia's entry on Patrick Tse Yin, he married the (then) pretty Zhen Zhen in 1974 whom he divorced in 1978 to marry Deborah Lee only to divorce her too in 1996.

Lam Chun See said...

Oh yes, Chin Han. But I think he came around a bit later. I keep linking his name with Lin Ching Sia and Lin Fong Chiao, Jackie Chan's wife.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, cinemas in the 1970s had a thriving business. I recall the long snaking queues outside the old Lido cinema for tickets. And people actually made advance bookings DAYS ahead of a show. And tickets can get SOLD OUT even. So unlike today - several weeks agao, I sat through a movie at GV Grand, when my wife and I were among the 6 persons inside the cinema.

Lam Chun See said...

In those days, you have such thing as black market tickets. People who see you queuing and try to sell you the tickets at higher price.

And then there are those who were too lazy to queue and try to look for some kind people in the front of the queue to buy for them - tumpang. These kind people did seem to realize that their kindness caused those queuing behind them to be penalized by their kindness.

Zen said...

As long there are movies, whether past or present 'pa kua' news based on gossiping version, will have a place in the movie world. Patrick Tse was known as the handsome superstar in cantonese films during his heydays (sixties), covering half the sky in red so to speak (cantonese slang). He was a clean cut hero on the screen, and off screen a notorious playboy - accordingly to the pa kua news. One girl friend (an actress) named Ling lived him for several years, fed up left to marry a Thai business man, while Deborah was one of his beautiful tenants, while Zhen, a very famous taiwanese attractive actress (in her own right) whom Patrick chased after, from pillar to post. and finally married her. The only woman he was really serious about was zhen who, also fed up, later left to marry Liu. Leading a life of a play boy doesn't seem to be a good idea. So by telling this story I can also be considered a very pa kua movie fan of yester years.

Thimbuktu said...

How you still have the cinema ticket dated 1960 for the charity show in aid of the National Theatre Fund beats me, Chun See!

Did you actually foresee that 48 years later, the picture of this cinema ticket could be used for the blog topic on King's Theatre at GMY?

Its a rare gem, Chun See. Thanks for sharing this interesting blog. It jogs my memories of my young days as a street urchin of Bukit Ho Swee; and the occasional visits to King's Theatre to watch Mandarin and Hokkien movies with my mother and elder sisters.

Lam Chun See said...

I suppose there is a moral to Zen's 'pa kua' story :)

Thimbuktu. About that movie ticket, let's just say I infringed some copyrights. Hope my friends at a certain govt dept will keep one eye closed.

Lam Chun See said...

I doubt that even the more brilliant futurologist of 1960 could foresee that there would be such a thing called blogs less than half a century later.

Zen said...

Kings cinema was not that familiar with me. I saw a few cantonese films there with my parents, probably after visiting my sister's god mother who was staying at a high rise flat in Queenstown. But I did hear that this theatre was located in a gang infested area. I think this cinema was airconditioned which could be considered modern at that time.

peter said...

Kings usually screen second-run English movies but first-run Chinese movies besides Oriental Theater in Keong Siak Street or Eu Tong Sen Street. As a child, I like Kings because of this steamed ground nut stall which was parked in front of the cinema lobby area. I like Majectic because there were stalls selling Ngoh Hiang (fish ball, squid) that is dipped in glass of chilly sauce or dark black sauce.

Did you know one coffee shop in Eng Watt Street was a popular spot for match-makers? I think it was the one facing Seng Poh Road. Here the "Sam Ku" will meet the prospective parents of the bride and bridgroom to sell the highpoints of each individual.

peter said...

Zen
Do you know the name of a monthly Chinese movie news magazine that came out with stories about hot gossips in the cinema world?

Some years ago I boarded an airport bus from the passenger terminal to an aircraft parked in Kai Tak Airport apron. I thought the guy standing next to me was someone I had seen somewhere. I could not figure out his name. By the time I boarded the plane, I remembered it was Ti Lung.

yg said...

when demand is greater than supply, there is always a market for 'black market'. these days, some people even make money from free (ndp) tickets.

Zen said...

Nick the son Patrick Tse, apparently has some of his father playboy characteristics, but is only a pale shadow of his father (in his younger days) in term of screen presence and acting skill, particulary in romance films, though his singing or guitar-playing ability could easily sweep his father aside. In this respect he has the genes of his singer mother Deborah. Even in his old age Patrick could still play a leading role in a TV serial spectacular, featuring him as a king of all conmen (co-starred by a younger Lisa Wang), outshining all younger actors. It was widely acknowledged in TV circle at that time, that Patrick Tse was the only old actor who can play a leading role effectively in either film or TV acting. However, too much face-lifting ops, have totally destroyed his wholesome screen image, forcing him gave up acting (only to be seen in cameo roles).

Zen said...

Peter- I was not too aware of gossiping magazines. At that time (fifties to the sixties), the golden era of film entertainment, two colourful
magazines, individually sponsored
by Shaws and Cathay organisations, featuring their respective A-listed stars, only praising no gossiping (I used to buy them after school at a stall near a bus-stop). Again, like the present paparazzi (mosquito newspapers) that did the 'demolishing job' against of the then popular film stars, gossiping all the way, but the end results showed that they were not far away from the truth in their gossiping - true blue professionals. There was one notorious gossiping editor of one such siao pao (whose popular column titled : who don't know), which I liked to read (with my limited Chinese), featuring very probing acticles on the private lives of film stars that startled all readers. However, in order not to be sued, he assigned a code name to each and every actor, or connecting people to the story he revealed. Sometimes I wondered how he could get such detailed 'inside' news. He must have his insidious informers inside the movie circle.

Lam Chun See said...

The other night, I was channel-surfing and looking for some Olympic Games reports and came across a tv series on Channel 8 entitled 倩女幽魂. This is actually a remake of a very famous Shaw Brothers movie of the 60's. It was one of the most frightening ghost movies of that era. You can read details here. I remember seeing this movie with my siblings including my sister who was so frightened by it.

Zen said...

Though the 'enchanting shadows' was quite scary to many audience, but I found it very artistically presented by famous Shaws director Lee. This famous chinese legendary ghost story most memorable part - played by screen beauty (unusually tall) Betty Loh Ti, was her lovely playing of the ku zhin, which is one of the China early musical instruments. The enchanting rendition of the musical tune by the elegant Betty, in the dead of the night, under very scary setting, was simply hair-raising. Betty subsequently married a famous Shaws comedian H. Chen - another prominent play-boy, whose incorrigible pastime drove Betty to commit suicide, a tragic ending for a talented star.

Lam Chun See said...

Zen. I am amazed that you could recall so much details. Obviously, you weren't doing what our sister Pat was doing throughout the show - cover her eyes with her hands.

Maybe the next time we have our family gathering, I will try to get hold of a dvd of this movie and we can have some scary memories to blog about on Good Morning Yesterday!

Zen said...

Chun See - Being able to appreciate the overall finesse of a film show came after viewing its entirety. This did not mean that I was not nervous at first when watching the film from moment to moment. However, pat, like many other girls, might be frozen to her seat out of fright. My daughter even when watching a scary scene in TV at home would cover her eyes with her hands, but then I noticed she would still peer through her the gaps of her fingers, not wanting to miss the 'action' of the show.

Hydrangea said...

Dear Mr. Lam Chun See, Victor and Peter Chan and the rest who have contributed to this wonderful nostalgic blog,

I just want to thank you all for sharing pictures, stories and other memorabilias of the past. I was born in the 70s but I really enjoy reading your stories that happened in the 50s, 60s and 70s. You guys are incredible, original and fantastic. I do however have a request. Would it be too much to ask if you could post some stories of famous Singapore true crimes (ie. Mimi Wong, Red Butterflies, Freddie Tan etc) that happened in the 50s, 60s and 70s as well?????? Looking forward to reading more of your stories guys. Thanks a bunch. You guys are great!

Farah

peter said...

Hydranges
I believe Chun See is very happy that his work is much appreciated by pos-70 generation.

I was just telling an old x-Singaporean friend who lives in Canada for 30 years that it's a pity the Straits Times does not carry court trials especially criminal ones like the good old days. The way the criminal cases were reported either could send chills up your spine or make you sexually aroused.

Take for example these criminal trials that were reported on a daily basis; word for word exactly like the way the lawyers question the witnesses or the way the victim tell the court.

1. Sunny Ang Trial
2. Rape of 6 nurses in a clinic in Sembawang Road Trial of 4 men
3. Kidnap of Shaw Brother founder's son
4. Kidnap at Caldecott Hill opposite Bukit Brown Cemetery

Lam Chun See said...

Thank you very much Farah, for your encouraging remarks.

Yes, I have been wanting to do a series on the famous crimes but was a bit wary becos unlike nostalgic trips to places and personal annecdotes of kampong life from a personal perspective, a crime story would need to be more accurate in terms of facts and details. And that implies time is needed to do a least some basic research.

Furthermore, I believe a few years back, Channel 5 had already run a programme about these crimes. It was hosted by Lim Kay Tong but I cannot recall the title. Strange isn't it? Our memories. Can recall things from a few decades back but not something just a couple of years ago. Anyway, that prog was very well researched with even interviews with the lawyers and detectives involved.

Anyway, I will discuss with my 'partner' Peter and see if we can come up with something. For a start, I want to write about that strange shooting at Tanglin Halt. I am sure some of you will remember that as yet unsolved crime/accident.

Victor said...

Thanks Farah for your compliments.

Personally, it is a joy writing about nostalgia. I do believe that nostalgic stories are generally also more pleasant to read than crime stories. But then, to each his own.

Chun See - The series on TV is called True Crimes lah.

Icemoon said...

I remember True Crimes also, the mandarin version was hosted by Chew Chor Meng. That was when I learnt about the incident at Pulau Senang where the prisoners beat up the police officers.

A series on famous crimes will be interesting. Imagine a second shot on what was once blood-stained floor. The oldies have not posted any grisly photos yet.

Anonymous said...

Dear All
Glad to read more on King's Theatre and stories in TB areas.
Just wanna say thank you that all the stories and pictures from you guys have brought back lots of memories in the 60s and 70s.

Victor said...

Sorry, correction - the TV series is called True Files not True Crimes.

merry said...

Taling about King's Theatre, I believe many should have also remembered and watched the 3 most famous Bruce Lee's "Kung Fu Fighting shows" shown in this cinema too.

Anonymous said...

I stayed around Kim Tian Road Blk 128 to be exact. Not only do I remember the King's theatre, I remembered the Asia eating house, the wet market, the old tree near the temple and the 7th month road shows, so many to see during the lunar 7th month. These child hood fond memories will always stay with me. Any one stay around there too ? I was from Chiang Teck Primary School.

merry said...

Yes, I remembered Chiang Teck Pr. Thou not staying around there, I studied in Silat Pri. So for some years in the morning session I will have to pass by the school first before I reached my school. If I'm not wrong, the old school was only 3 storeys high in the sixties. And when I passed by the school when they were singing the national anthem, I knew I would be late and have to start running... The school has later renamed in hanyu pinyin and is now known as Zhangde Pri and relocated at Jalan Membina.

Anonymous said...

Went back recently, the former Po Po Tan Garden is torn down. Hill is flattened...so sad.

Anonymous said...

yeah.. Zhang De Primary School shifted to Jalan Membina. Do u know there used to be a Membina Primary Sch in Jalan Membina? And there were 2 wet markets (besides Seng Poh Tiong Bahru Market) in this area?

Patsy Ng said...

wow, King's Theatre (KT) was my childhood playground. I lived at Kampong Bahru and Jalan Membina Barat from 1956 till 1982. During my primary school days, I walked past KT everyday. I would go and look at the photos on display of shows screening and those coming next change.

stranger. said...

Hi Mr Lam,

Why is it that you know all corners of Singapore so well! Haha.

Anyway yes King's Theatre was definitely demolished in the 1980s, but nobody seems to be sure of the exact year.

I'm looking at a 1955 ST article on the grand opening of King's Theatre and the tickets were priced at $2, $1.50 and 80cents.
Here's the link http://newspapers.nl.sg/Digitised/Article/straitstimes19550524.2.58.1.aspx

Btw, do you know who's the notorious criminal gunned down at St Helier's Ave in Serangoon Gardens? I've heard so many stories but nobody could actually name the offender.

Singapore's had such an interesting and colourful past, what a contrast to this clean and gleaming city that's it is now.

Simin

Lam Chun See said...

Spore is such a small place, anyone of my age would know most parts of Spore. Only difference is that other people don't keep a blog or show off their knowledge.

You want me to ask around about that notorious criminal of SG?

stranger. said...

Thanks, it's alright, only if you happen to come across it!

burns_kazuo said...

Wow! I rem seeing King's Theatre! And after they tore it down, they built Kim Tian Plaza over it. And I rem seeing buses of tourists going into that building. Now Kim Tian Plaza is gone and a new condominium sits where the spot is.

burns_kazuo said...

There was a market n Jln Membina Barat (this road no longer exists) and another market in Kim Tian Place (opp the Kim Lan temple). The sites for both markets are now replaced with new HDB estates. And the open air carpark opposite Kim Tian market is now a multi-storey carpark (betw Blk 7 and 8 Kim Tian Place).

Anonymous said...

Hi Patsy glad to know that u have also lived in Jalan Membina Barat before till 1982, the year that the residents of these 3 main blocks - Blk 27, 28 and 29 will have to move out to other new flats. I've lot of memories from there too. Missed the 2 markets that burns_kazuo mentioned above and also one haweker centre where many ex-residents in this areas will never forget the good food - the one where the green condominium stands (opp TB plaza).

Anonymous said...

Hi, I used stay at blk 24 jalan membina barat which was right next to the wet market which was surrounded by food stalls. Anyone from that area?

memories said...

Wow..just chanced upon this blog and its bringing back memories of my childhood days in Jalan Membina Barat! i was staying in block 23..i think. Can't forget the hawker center..especially the carrot cake!