Monday, September 15, 2008

Memories from an old news clipping (1)

In my previous post, I showed you a newspaper advertisement from 1968. I discovered three interesting pieces of information at the back.

The first is an advertisement about a piano concert at the Victoria Theatre. Notice that the concert was presented by the Singapore Musical Society. I don’t think this society exists today. Anyone know what it is called today?

Notice also the venue for the sale of tickets – Robinson, Cold Storage and C. K. Tang's. All three are Singapore icons in the Orchard Road area which are still thriving today.


The second item in the news clipping is a cinema advertisement. (By the way, please don’t be misled by that gory movie title. I think it is a direct translation of a Chinese idiom about patriotism and defense of one’s homeland.) Notice that all the four theatres listed are no longer around.

1) Metropole (presumably) was located in the Tanjong Pagar area. Today it has been turned into a church. You can read more at Bullockcartwater’s blog.

2) Venus was located in Queenstown. This theatre has also been converted into a church. I blogged about it here.

3) Marlborough. I don’t know much about this one. I think it was located in Beach Road and was demolished long ago.

4) Hollywood was located at the Tanjong Katong – Joo Chiat area. I have not been to this area for a long time. I think it is now a shopping centre. I remember seeing two movies here.

(1) 爱的天地 starring Judy Ong (翁倩玉 - not sure if I got the Chinese name right)

She was very famous in Japan. Very good singer. I loved her Chinese version of one Japanese song 祈祷. Anyway, it’s another one of those popular Taiwanese movies of the 70's (but this one not so mushy). It’s about a teacher who wanted to dedicate her life to teaching disadvantaged kids (orphans, I think).

There was one unforgettable scene. There was a man, her headmaster I think, who wrote a Chinese idiom on the blackboard. As you know, many English-educated Singaporeans of my generation … our Chinese all half-past-six. So as the guy wrote the Chinese characters, the audience started to read them, one by one.

Suddenly there was silence. Do you know why?

Because he came to one quite difficult word which most of us didn’t know how to pronounce. Everyone so malu and dared not read anymore.

(2) 刘三姐 This was a very popular movie from China. Broke some box office records if I am not mistaken. The story is typical communist-stereotype. Rich oppressive merchant exploits peasants; peasants revolt blah blah blah. But what the audience loved was the music (山歌) and the beautiful scenery. For a long time, the radio stations bombarded us incessantly with songs from this movie. I think you can get the dvd/vcd for a few dollars.

Talking about old movie theatres, do you remember the Paramount Theatre in Serangoon Gardens? This place holds precious childhood memories for me and my siblings which I blogged about here and here? I heard that the building that used to house this theatre is going to be demolished next year. What can I say? Yet another bites the dust.

Thanks to Peter Chan for this rare 1962 photo of the Paramount Theatre.


The third item in the news clipping is about army training. As usual, anything about the army brings back lots of memories. So I shall leave this one for the next time.


pcwong said...

Hollywood Theatre was leased by City Harvest Church and then, after they moved out, is now Sheng Shiong Supermarket.

Sad to hear the old Paramount Theatre building will be torn down. The cinema also brought back many happy memories for me too as I grew up in Serangoon Gardens, catching lots of movies there. I even lost one of my slippers in the mud when they were building the adjoining building at the back of the theatre in 1968. On well, times have moved on.

Icemoon said...

Hey, isn't Marlborough beside Alhambra? I always remember them as the twin cinemas at the same location.

Victor said...

That's right, Icemoon. Marlborough was next to Alhambra. I think they formed an L-shape.

Victor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Icemoon said...

I have a question.

Last time who advertised the movies? I mean now GV and Shaw can advertise the same movie, but in the clipping, all 4 theatres are listed. Using today's logic, they would belong to the same company. But I don't think so, right?

Anonymous said...

Spore Music Society was chaired by Victor Dogget who still has a studio by the same name in Tanjung Katong Road. Mainly formed by piano teachers of that era. Fore-runner of today's SSO. In those days concerts were organised by them like to see who was the best pianist in Singapore. Mervyn Tan the child prodigy who did not do his NS became famous of this competition and laetr won the scholarhsip to study in London. Also organise competitions for violin which produce Lenette Seah

Venus Theater in Teluk Blangah opposite Bukit Chermin. Now a church.

The old interior structure of a cinema is still intact (stage) at Hollywood or sheng Siong supermarket. I tried to take photo but kena spotted.

Zen said...

icemoon - You are right the famous twins Alhambra and Marlborough cinemas (shaws bros.) were former cinemas, since pre-war days, that showed English and Chinese films respectively, Alhambra showing few chinese films at a latter stage. One notable chinese film, if I could remember correctly was shown at Alhambra, starred by Peter Chen Hou and Li Mei in a musical. When the theatre became the first local cinema to be airconditioned, my uncle brought me there to see Robin Hood (b&w). As for Malborough, if I can recollect, the most impressionable show should be one featuring a so-called 'snake beauty', a cambodian production, about a lovely girl whose hairs turned into tiny snakes through some magical power. The show had such magnetic drawing power, that it nearly caused a mayhem (yet no police around) to the long queue of impatient ticket buyers. A saw one rowdy fellow climbed above others by swinging into the narrow enclosure, holding on its railing on top, leading to the ticket booth, what a desperate and senseless act! My father and I, on witnessing such a sight, quickly backed off and proceeded to other places. The ticket system in the early fifties was chaotic to say the least. Tickets touts were seen audaciously selling black market tickets openly on the side, and often no police were seen around - those were the days when law and order were found wanting.

Anonymous said...

By the time I saw and knew these 2 cinemas, they were already boarded up with planks. The place was dark and spooky like the old Pavilion Cinema opposite the Pernakan Place. I was with my parents patronising the Satay Club next door. That should have been 1959 or 1960. The only movie I knew was "Annie Get Your Gun", all because my parents told me they went to see it at the Alhambra.

Icemoon said...

I have seen the stage at Hollywood when I visited CHC years back. Not been to the Sheng Siong after they took over.

Btw, why did old cinemas have those stages? Did they double as a performance venue also?

I remember they used to play "God Save the King/Queen" before a show. Any recollection?

Lam Chun See said...

Peter. Venus theatre was at Queenstown. Click on the link.

Anonymous said...

I had a classmate whose father sewed curtains for the cinema stage. Together we went to a couple of cinemas like the Odeon and Capitol when his father took measurements or deliver the finished goods. This was when I found that it was a stage. All the time I thot it was a "flat" screen.

The stage was for many uses.

In the early 1960s there were frequent stage shows hosted by Rediffusion (broadcast "live"). Larry Lai and Indian fella called (K)Candy Pillai hosted some of the English shows, usually around 10am on Sunday mornings before the 1pm show started. I accompanied my uncle and his gang when they were into those Rock Hudson and mambo cha-cha-type hype. That was when I saw T-dances. later I discovered Candy Pillai (now around 65 yrs old) was my classmate's uncle who now lives in KL. It was Candy who in later years (1970s) who told me more stories about those good old days with Rediffusion and Radio Malaya. Sometimes got beauty competitions on stage or some catwalks in conjunction with some movies. The last time (circa 1965) I went to see with my British neighbour was a James Bond movie at the Lido. Wah first time see so many bikini-clad girls. I cant remember the movie title but it had Ursula Andress or Undress (the Bo Derek of yesterday).

I think the Chinese also had their own staged performances but I cannot remember as I did not attend Chinese ones.

Now that you mention about City Harvest. Do you find something very similar? Most of the independent churches or evangelistic churches have stages higher than the worshipers, rather than an alter at ground level with their worshipers.

Anonymous said...

chun see

do u know the name of the Teluk Blangah Road cinema? I got names mixed up. Usually screen Hindi movies.

By the time i finished typing this sentence, I pressed the wrong button and so failed to gegsiter this comment. so now got time to think of the name of the cinema. was it CROSS ot something that sounds like that?

Icemoon said...

Eh, have ground level altar meh? Even Cathedral has a small stage which they chain up to prevent anybody from going up.

Also Hollywood, like Lido, had terrace seats. So most worshippers are never at ground level.

Zen said...

Odeon theatre, built by cathay organisation, was considered quite modern compared to others. We were thrilled by the newly installed audio system and the first film shown there was either Mount kinimanjaro (actress: rita hayward) or president lady (actress: susan hayward), strangely forgetting the lead actors names. Odeon and capitol were among the first in Singapore to have local singers and live bands performing in their 'early birds' shows at 9am on a sunday morning. It was at these two cinemas, that local artists like wang sa, ya feng, sakura and rita chao - one of the many, displayed their talents distinctively, back-up by an effective sound system, in an enclosed cinema hall.

Zen said...

Peter - Could it be ciro theatre at telok blangah road and later turned to a church? I had never visit this cinema. I think this church is still existing and caters to a Indian congregation.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Zen, it's CIROS. Went to see my first Hindi movie - some comedy as usual......dancing around the tree trunk....head shaking


Modern churches have at least adult waist height least 4 levels of steps to need bucket seats like cinema seats, and no pews. St Andrew's Cath has 2 only a few steps but certainly not adult waist high. Actually why they dont build the head-rest type - more comfy.

Anonymous said...

I believe a KL guy named Patrick Teoh or Teo was once a MC at the Odeon Cinema during those T-dances. he late joined Radio Malaysia and became quite a hit. I remember him bcos he is Chinese but spoke like "chiak Kantang". Now I remember Singapore males like to spot Tony Curtis hair-style and dressing with comb in the back pocket.

Lam Chun See said...

About this news clipping, I should clarify that it is actually at the back of another Lucky Park advertisement (Phase 2, dated March 1969).

The movie's title Chinese title is: 一寸山河一寸血. It was directed by famous shaw brother director, 李翰祥 and released 1969. Another translation of the title is: Storm Over the Yangtze River

Zen said...

Talking of cinemas holding stage shows, reminds me that I had attended quite a few of them, like child prodigy fung bo-bo in Hollywood, and siew fong fong in ruby. These stars usually made appearance to promote their latest films and apart from being praised sky-high by the MC, stars had to sing and dance, otherwise the audience would be deeply disappointed. The MC (a hongkonger) accompanying fung bo-no was a very talented guy, able to mimic the sounds of various personalities of different genders, from a child to an angry elderly lady cursing away, not to mention sounds made by wild animals and birds - in other words, acting as a live-wire to Fung bo-bo show. As for the siew fong fong show, I was surprised that she could sing pretty well, but she must have taken aback by the audience, with some of them coming in with slippers and singlets, reflecting the aweful laid-back, care-free nature of our locals......even now?

Lam Chun See said...

Zen. Would you be able to answer Icemoon's question above about the movie advertisements.

I am not sure, but I think in those days, the cinemas belonged to certain chains; e.g. Shaws and Cathay and they will only advertise and show their own movies. The other famous company's linked to China were Great Wall (长城) and Phoenix (凤凰).

Talking about these two companies remind me of another popular movie titled 我来也 starring 江汉. I think I also saw this movie at Hollywood. Again this movie had a communist-slant where the hero is a sort of Robin Hood type hero who robbed the rich to help the poor. I believe our own MediaCorp also produced this drama series.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chun See, nice to see the the old photo of Paramount Theatre which brings back wonderful memories when I was a kid where my family use to visit my aunt at Serangoon Gardens. I remembered the ticket for a child cost only 80cents and an adult at $1.20. There was the old hardwood backrest of the theatre seats.

By the way, there is a invitation to bloggers who blogs about our Singapore Heritage Museums at:

Just a thought you may be interested. Cheerio

Zen said...

icemoon - Frankly speaking, I could not recollect movie advertisement during the sixties, but basing on chun see old newspaper cutting in this blog, chinese movie ads. appeared to be in small columns, with each cinema details per box, without being grouped together under various organisations such as shaws, cathay or EW as done presently. It is interesting to note that way back in the fifties chinese cinemas like chung hing and majestic (in chinatown) advertised their shows vide posters (kai chiew in cant.) pasted all over the place near the cinema. Such practice stopped in the sixties probably due to govt control. I think English movie advs. also run on similar format in the sixties, basically no grouping under organisations, but all movie advs appeared in a single page of the newspaper.

Anonymous said...

I like a photo of the Hollywood Cinema taken inside from the back looking at the stage OR the cement floors to show the gradient. I understand the rows of display will block a shot. Still, something is better than nothing.

Can someone help?

Anonymous said...

On the same cinema page, you can also find adverts for night clubs like the one called "Multi-Storey Carpark Nightclub" (the same multi-storey carpark at Market Street), striptease shows(photos included) in JBahru's MECHINTA Nighclub and x-rated movies at the REX Cienma in JBahru.

Zen said...

icemoon - My previous comments on former cinema advertisement - the English version in ST, could be wrong after all. Now my memory starts to come back in drips and drabs. I could visualise the entertainment page in ST having two side columns (extreme left and right) running along vertically, with one side showing cathay cinemas, and at the other side - shaws'. These were the two main groupings of theatres, easily identified by their respective famous logos. As the others, I could not recollect.

Peter - You are right on the spot when mentioning JB cinema and night club shows being advertised in our local newspapers. I had seen one of the so-called x-rated films (nothing to shout about)with my colleague, and his car nearly banged onto a large stationary lorry parked alongside a dimly lit upper bukit timah road shadowed by tall trees on our way back. If not for his alertness and sharp eyesight, we could have had a nasty accident. Once bitten twice shy, we never went for another show again.

mezzo said...

I remember seeing the movie Mary Poppins at Paramount when i was in primary school ~
there were a few other cinemas around the area then.. Kok Hwa at Yio Chu Kang, 星光 at upper serangoon road (i think somewhere near the St Paul's church?), and Zenith down Tampines Road..