The eastern shores of Singapore were known for their sandy beaches and picturesque views of the sea – a retreat away from the overcrowded urban core. It is small wonder that many of the affluent during the colonial era purchased land there to build sea-fronting bungalows for private use, often as a mark of social status. One such bungalow belonged to film magnates Runme and Run Run Shaw. Built in the 1950s, it was one of the Shaw’s holiday villas and used regularly for hosting film celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor. It was also used to film Malay-language movies produced by the Shaw Brothers, most notably 1962’s Ibu Mertua Ku. In the film, the relationship of a musician and daughter of a rich widow is frowned upon by her class-conscious mother. After a hasty marriage in the affluent house – in reality the Upper East Coast Shaw villa — the mother banishes the couple out of her home.
From 1963, the government implemented a large-scale land reclamation scheme that transformed Singapore’s eastern coastline. Instead of access to pleasing sea views, the villa became landlocked and was for decades neighbour to a forest on the unused reclaimed land (an MRT station is now under construction there). The villa now houses a preschool.