Run Run Shaw (born Shao Yifu) has passed away at the age of 106 in his home in Hong Kong. Shaw will be forever remembered for his movie company, Shaw Brothers Studio, which during its heyday churned out hundreds of movies in literally every genre imaginable from kung fu to musicals, and then some!
Shaw can be seen as partially responsible for the gestation of the Chinese movie and television industry. Shaw got his start in the entertainment industry in the early 1920s with his brother Runme Shaw in Singapore and Shanghai, creating several companies that distributed and produced movies, and late 1920 opened up a series of movie theaters in Malaya that transformed into its own production company. In the late 1960s, Shaw founded Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) which broadcast in Hong Kong, and grew into a television empire that helped launch careers of several now international stars including Chow Yun-Fat and Maggie Cheung.
But it is his Hong Kong movie company, Shaw Brothers Studios, which will forever be associated with his name and be his lasting legend. Founded in 1957, Shaw mimicked the Hollywood system by purchased 46 acres of land and building massive permanent sets to be reused dozens of time and created a housing system to let the cast and crew live on the studio lot. The company was responsible for creating hundreds of motion pictures such as Five Fingers of Death, forging lifelong careers for some of its mainstay actors including Gordon Liu and perhaps most notoriously turning down Bruce Lee when he looking to be backed by a studio.
Though the studio declined in output and financial success as it entered the 1980s, Shaw’s movie company had set itself up to become a major influence on a new generation of filmmakers, most famously Quentin Tarantino, who used the Shaw Brothers movie fanfare for Kill Bill. Shaw Brothers Studio had a spike in resurgence in the early 2000s when Hong Kong based Celestial Pictures remastered and released the entire company’s library on DVD, while US-based companies including Dragon Dynasty and Image Entertainment released a handful of the best films.
Shaw also took to producing a handful of American films as well, including 1982’s Blade Runner. Outside of entertainment, Shaw was seen as an extremely generous philanthropist, and donated millions of dollars to hospitals, orphanages and colleges including Oxford University over his lifetime. His business ventures also included purchasing 10% of Macy’s shares when the company was on the verge of bankruptcy.
For movie fans, especially kung fu fans, we will forever be in debt to the contributions Run Run Shaw made to the film industry. Remember him tonight and pop in your favorite martial arts adventure!
Sir Run Run Shaw
November 23, 1907 – January 7, 2014
[Source: Wikipedia / New York Times]