Singapore and the Sea

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Two Ships Heading Away from Shore (1856 – 1857) by Gustave Le Gray

Some of the first moving images of Singapore the world saw, were of that its seaport. French filmmaker George Melies shot A Day at Singapore (1913) and commented: “A most interesting little trip around the show places of Singapore, Straits Settlements, one of the largest seaports in the world.” Three years earlier, Pathé made a film, Singapore (1910) documenting the scenes of its waterfront scenes, city-centre and the Chinese and Malay quarters. In 1928, MGM made Across to Singapore. In it, the male protagonist, Joel, was left abandoned in Singapore.

Most interesting for me: Road to Singapore (1931) by Alfred Green and Out of Singapore or Gangsters of the Sea (1932) by Charles Hutchinson. Made one year apart, the films were about journeys to and from Singapore. Despite the prominence of Singapore in its title, both films were shot primarily in the seas. In Out of Singapore, the Caucasian cast was also made to look like Asian. Made in the same year, Samarang (Out of the Sea) (1932) by Ward Wing (Pathé) was set in Singapore using Malay Bangsawan actors, one of whom was Shariff Medan. The film about pearl divers, bathing beauties and sharks, premiered in U.S in 1933 and was released in Sg in 1934. Eighteen years later, Jaafar Wiryo made Perwira Lautan Teduh or Warrior of the Calm Seas (1952) with the Cathay-Keris Film Productions.
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