Rare 1930s clip of Singapore and Johor goes viral – here’s what it was like 80 years ago

Singapore was a thriving city with more than 6,000 inhabitants in the 1930s.
Fitzpatrick Travels

If you ever wanted a glimpse of what Singapore and Johor, in Malaysia, looked like in 1938, a video posted on social media recently can offer the rare insight.

The eight-minute clip which was released about 80 years ago as part of a travel documentary series called Fitzpatrick Travels.

It was shown to American and British audiences by US media company Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

The clip was posted on Facebook on Sunday (Sep 3) by a group called Persatuan Bangsa Johor and has since been viewed more than 17,000 times.

The full-colour video is entitled “Singapore and Jahore”, and begins with footage of the Singapore port and the Causeway – a far cry from what it is today – before moving on to scenes of Johor Baru.

Johor’s rulers of the time are also featured.

Almarhum Sultan Ismail Ibni Almarhum Sultan Ibrahim, the Johor sultan’s son, is seen driving a vintage car before greeting the clip’s production crew in “perfect English”, inviting them into the palace grounds.

The crew later meets Johor’s second ruler Almarhum Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Bakar.

The clip’s narrator says the sultan revealed a “bit of his former self” when he said in his parting words: “Give my regards to Jeanette MacDonald and tell her she’s still my favourite movie star.”

MacDonald was an American singer and actress who rose to fame through her musical films of the 1930s.

Malaysian local historian Kamdi Kamil has urged people, especially the young, to view the clip and learn about Johor’s rich history, reported The Star.

“To have such a major international production company depicting Johor Baru provies that the city was already well-known to foreigners back in the early days,” he told the media outlet.