Father of Kung Fu Movies Dead at 106

Run Run Shaw launched careers of Chow Yun-fat, John Woo
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 7, 2014 8:31 AM CST
Father of Kung Fu Movies Dead at 106
In this Tuesday, Sept, 28, 2010 photo, Hong Kong movie producer Run Run Shaw poses for a photograph during the Run Run Shaw prize presentation ceremony in Hong Kong.   (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Run Run Shaw might not be a household name, but these are: Chow Yun-fat and John Woo, who got their starts at his studio, and Quentin Tarantino, who was one of many filmmakers inspired by him. Shaw, the Hong Kong producer who is considered the father of the kung fu movie genre, died today at home in Hong Kong, aged 106. Shaw was born Shao Yifu; "Run Run" was a nickname. He and his older brother, the similarly-nicknamed Run Me, made their first film in 1924. By 1927, they had moved to Singapore and were producing movies as well as importing others to play in their theaters, the New York Times reports. After World War II, Run Run ended up in Hong Kong, where, by the late 1960s, he was enjoying great success making modern martial arts movies including Five Fingers of Death and Shaolin Avenger. The Shaw Bros. studio was the largest in Asia at that time, and produced the region's most popular films, the Los Angeles Times reports.

"We were like the Hollywood of the 1930s," Shaw once said; he had created Shaw Movietown, a huge complex where his employees both lived and worked. "We controlled everything: the talent, the production, the distribution and the exhibition." But he lost out on one very big name: Bruce Lee. Lee wanted $10,000 per movie and a long-term contract, which Shaw rejected; a competing company, founded by a former Shaw employee, ended up backing Lee instead. But Shaw's success continued: In addition to the nearly 1,000 films his companies released, he eventually expanded into television, publishing, real estate, and more—he became one of Macy's biggest shareholders in the 1990s, to help save it from bankruptcy—and even co-produced US movies including Blade Runner. He was also a generous philanthropist who was eventually knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. He is survived by his second wife and four children, the AP reports. (More Run Run Shaw stories.)

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