The Stars of Malay Film Productions
Besides P Ramlee, the Malay Film Productions produced many superstars of Malay cinema. Among them were (clockwise from top left) Jins Shamsuddin, Zaitun, Maria Minado and Aziz Sattar. Other glitterati were Saadiah, Sarimah, Ahmad Mahmood and Ibrahim Pendek.
The actors and actresses had regular salaries with bonuses thrown in for box-office hits.
While new leading actors and actresses earned between $500 and $700 a month, veteran stars could rake in as much as $1,000-$5,000 per picture.
The MFP stars were often roped in to do promotional work by the marketing department. These usually took the form of attending official opening ceremonies, film festivals and major public events.
P.Ramlee in Hong Kong, 1960
P.Ramlee clowning around with Benny Hill at Jalan Ampas studio, 1960
One such event took the form of KLM's inaugural DC-8 flight from Singapore to Amsterdam in 1961.
Sa'adiah, a popular Shaw star was engaged to fly with the crew as a celebrity guest. Touring Holland and Italy for 6 days, Sa'adiah left radio interviews in the cities she visited.
In the same year, Hasimah Yon and Normadiah made headline news when they flew to the Congo to entertain Malayan Special Forces who were serving there.
Escorting foreign celebrities as they toured the studio had an added benefit of achieving publicity for the local star guide as well.
Over the years, MFP stars such as Saloma and Normadiah escorted foreign celebrities such as Ava Gardner (1954), Martine Carol (1956), John Wayne (1958), Otto Preminger (1958), John Mills (1959) and Benny Hill (1960).
Premiere of Sgt Hassan, Capitol, KL, 1958
Salome and Normadiah with Martine Carol, 1956
Performing for foreign dignataries as they visited Singapore also provided good coverage. One such event was the visit by an Indonesian cultural mission to Singapore in 1959. They was entertained by the MFP dance troupe as well as stars like Normadiah and Aziz Jaafar at the Padang. The performance attracted a crowd of over 50,000 spectators.
Award ceremonies was one of the best ways to promote films and celebrities. Taking a cue from Hollywood, the first local 'Oscar ceremony' was launched by Utusan Film and Sports magazine in 1954.
Held at the Indonesian Club, the Best Film went to B N Rao's 'Hujan Panas'.
Best Actor went to P. Ramlee and Best Actress to Siput Sarawak. Best Supporting Actor went to Haji Mahadi and Best Supporting Actress to Siti Tanjong Perak.
The local Oscars never really took off as Shaw began winning scores of international awards starting from 1956. In that year, Hang Tuah won best music and Best Supporting Actress for Zaiton at the 3rd Asian Film Festival. Other awards won by Shaw at the Asian Film Festivals include Best Actor 'Anak-Ku Sazali' (1957), Best Black and Normal Photography 'Sumpah Orang Minyak' (1958), Best Comedy 'Pendekar Bujang Lapok' (1951), Best Comedy 'Nujum Pa'Belalang' (1960), Best Child Actor 'Lela Manja' (1960), Best Black and Normal Photography 'Ibu Mertua Ku' (1963).
Zaiton representing Shaw at San Francisco Pacific Festival 1958