Across to “Singapore”

The piece has been excellently directed by William Nigh, who, in the excitement attending the Big Fuss in the bay at Singapore, has not neglected to obtain some beautiful exposures of the adjacent Oriental seascape. Or was it really Los Angeles, harbor?

Martin Dickstein. The Cinema Circuit. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 30 1928, p. 12A

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle journalist was not alone in noticing that Los Angeles was masquerading as Singapore in the film. Another review in the Livonia Gazette notes that “[i]n the Signapore [sic] scenes hundreds of rare articles were borrowed from Chinese residents of Los Angeles and San Fransciso’s Chinatown…” though it praised director William Nigh’s handling of “Oriental details with elaborate skill, due to his extensive research for his [previous] production of ‘Mr. Wu'”

Not everyone was as convinced of the film’s realism as the Livonia Gazette editor, however, as this acerbic review suggests. The main gripe? Joan Crawford’s attire.

[As] soon as I heard the title of Novarro’s new picture, “Across to Singapore” — like a flash I thought of that thrilling Mandalay song with flying fishes and things. Though they have everything BUT in this flicker…monkeys, parrots, cockatoos, Joan Crawford, etc…but NO fishes. And though Joan’s getup is quite demure while the camera is clicking (she’s in crinolines), between scenes her red checkerboard bathing suit would EVEN scare sharks away..without taming lil’ fishes

Patsy: The Hollywood Stenog, The Daily Star, March 28 1928, p. 6

Singapore (and its fishes) is nowhere in the film other than in the title, but even that seemed to be incidental, as this short article from the Schenectady Gazette indicates, the initial title was ‘China Bound’.

Perhaps Singapore’s reputation as ‘Little China’  was already in existence even in the 1920s, with Hollywood directors confusing the two.

Catch the screening of Across to “Singapore” in the NUS Museum on 23 January to see the imagined Hollywood “Singapore” for yourself!

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One comment

  1. Pingback: Yesterday.sg » Blog Archive » When Los Angeles was the stunt double for Singapore

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