The Two-Way
6:27 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Run Run Shaw, Kung Fu Movie Pioneer, Dies

  • On 'Morning Edition': NPR's David Greene talks about Run Run Shaw

"If you've ever enjoyed an action-packed Kung Fu film," Morning Edition host David Greene says, "take a moment to thank Sir Run Run Shaw, who passed away Tuesday."

There are conflicting accounts about whether Shaw was 106 or 107 at the time of his death. There's no disagreement, though, about his influence on the film industry.

The New York Times calls Shaw "the colorful Hong Kong media mogul whose name was synonymous with low-budget Chinese action and horror films — and especially with the wildly successful kung fu genre, which he is largely credited with inventing."

Bloomberg News notes that:

"Shaw Brothers movies from the 1960s such as the kung-fu film The One-Armed Swordsman and the musical The Kingdom and the Beauty once accounted for more than half of Asia's box-office receipts. The Magnificent Concubine, a picture about a Tang Dynasty beauty, became the first Chinese movie to receive an international award when it won a prize at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival."

Shaw studio's 1972 film Five Fingers of Death (also known as King Boxer) is "considered a kung fu classic," the Times writes.

The BBC adds that Shaw "will be remembered for launching the careers of stars such as Chow Yun-fat and Maggie Cheung."

The movie mogul, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1977, told Signature magazine in 1981, Bloomberg News adds, that "films are an art; they are also an industry. Forget that a moment and you have a money loser in your hands."

Shaw ran the studio with his brother Ronnie, and as the Los Angeles Times says, "they churned out more than 1,000 films over more than five decades, from romances and musicals to action pictures. He even co-produced American films, including Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. The legacy of Shaw Bros. films can be seen in the works of contemporary filmmakers from Quentin Tarantino to John Woo and Ang Lee."

As his wealth grew, Shaw became "a generous philanthropist, especially in the education sector," CNN says. "The Shaw Prize, an international science award which he established, has become known as the 'Nobel of the East.' "

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