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Nov 2, 2010

Great new world


This blog is excerpted from life!, courtesy of The Straits Times Wednesday, October 13, 2010 article by Adeline Chia. Contributions by Straits Times readers were published at the life! Mailbag posted here .

The old-world glamour and excitement of Great World City is being recreated for the big screen by Director Kelvin Tong.

Great World Amusement Park, the legendary nightspot in 1950s and 1960s Singapore, is a glittering, distant memory in the minds of many older Singaporeans.

Come Chinese New Year next year, it will come back to life on the big screen in director Kelvin Tong's new movie. For It's A Great Great World, to be released in February 2011, he is pulling out the stops to recreate the glamour and excitement of the amusement park, which in its heyday attracted up to 50,000 people a night.

The set of It's A Great Great World includes sprawling recreations of the facades of several iconic buildings, including the Flamingo Nite-Club (above). Credit Photos: Mediacorp Raintree Pictures

The $2-million film is about a colourful cast of characters who live, work and play in Great World, and features an ensemble cast including TV actors and actresses such as Joanne Peh, Yvonne Lim, Chew Chor Meng, Xiang Yun, Huang Wenyong, Zhang Yaodong, Kym Ng and Chen Shucheng.

The $2-million film is about the lives of a colourful cast of characters, including Marcus Chin and Kym Ng (both above), who live, work and play in Great World.

The set, located in the former Keat Hong army camp in Choa Chu Kang, includes sprawling recreations of the facades of several iconic buildings, including Sky Theatre, which screened movies in English and the Flamingo Nite-Club, as well as carnival rides such as the Ghost Train.

The film-makers spent about $500,000 on the set, costumes and props.

Tong, 38, who wrote the script with screenwriter-playwright Ken Kwek, 31, says the script was developed after conducting extensive interviews with people who have been to Great World, as well as through research at the National Archives of Singapore.

But people had conflicting recollections of the place.

Tong says: "Things look very different through the filter of memory. That has coloured our approach. We've decided that historical veracity was important but we must also capture the mood and feel of the place."

Two important elements emerged from his conversations with people: Great World was the only place they could go to on weekends, and somehow, it had the allure of the forbidden fruit about it.

People 'ponteng' school to watch a movie in the afternoon, or went to the fun fair to play tikam," he says. Ponteng is the Malay word for playing truant and tikam refers to a game of chance.

Indeed, veteran actor Chen, 62, recalls skipping school to catch English movies at Sky Theatre. He says: "Working on this film makes the memories come back, it feels like yesterday.

While other parts of Great World may lack a detail or two here and there, Tong was on firmer ground when it came to recreating Wing Choon Yuen, a famous Cantonese restaurant formerly in the amusement park. He had the input of the restaurant's current boss, Mr Mike Ho.

The 81-year-old restaurant, now called Spring Court and located in Upper Cross Street, was considered one of the finest in the 1950s, famous for its suckling pig and shark's fin soup, and was a popular venue for wedding banquets.

The 41-year-old Mr Ho, who is the third-generation owner of the restaurant, provided Tong with old pictures of the restaurant for reference and advised him on the kind of language waiters and chefs used and the prices of dishes.

For example, in the 1950s, a wedding banquet cost $38 for a table of 10.

He also loaned the movie some of the original dining sets - cutlery and utensils - signboards, menus and uniforms.

A chef from the restaurant also went down to the set to cook a signature dish, yoke lan gai (steamed chicken with ham), for a scene in the film.

Mr Ho says: "Its a very special that they are showing Spring Court in the movie. It's not something that money can buy and I guess it reflects how the restaurant is part of Singapore's heritage."

Sent by Treo 680 wirelessly
Morsels of night life at Great World which was shared by my friend as an additional tidbits of information not mentioned in the quoted article from the Straits Times.

His elder brother was then a young bachelor who visited a certain cafe in the Great World almost every evening. The "cafe girls" will chit-chat with their customers over a cup of coffee throughout the evening, at a cost. The regular cup of coffee cost 30 cents. With "cafe girls" for coffee with companionship and service charge at $1.50 per drink. Just "kheng kai" (chitchat in Cantonese) in the brightly lighted cafe with no cubicles. Nothing "hanky panky" stuff though.

The "Cafe Girls" were out of business with the end of the Great World Amusement Park. Where have all the "Cafe Girls" gone? Gone online I guess?. These ladies with sweet voices and gift of the gab should enrapture an interesting conversation for hours on the line for their "ting hua chok" ("telephone porridge" in Cantonese).



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