Legendary and prolific movie producer Run Run Shaw, who co-founded the iconic Shaw Brothers film studios, helped bring Chinese martial arts films to an international audience and jumpstarted the careers of countless screen stars, died in his home in Hong Kong on Tuesday. He made it to the badass age of 106.
HK movie mogul Run Run Shaw has died at age 107
Shaw is nothing short of cinematic pioneer, credited with popularizing the kung fu genre. Shaw Brothers studios, founded with his elder brother Run Me in 1958, helped launch the careers of dozens of powerhouse directors and star actors, and produced nearly a thousand movies. Produced under assembly-line conditions, Shaw films weren't always the highest quality flicks, but they made an impact -- and a lot of money.
Films were produced with assembly-line methods and stars and technical staff lived in dorms on site. Budgets were low and production schedules were quick — 35 days to three months, according to a 1976 Time magazine report.
The producer acknowledged that the quality of the films was not his foremost concern. "We're here to make money," he told Time. Even Shaw protege Raymond Chow complained about the B-movie quality of the films when he was first hired to work in the publicity department.
"I told Sir Run Run to forget it," Chow told Asiaweek magazine in 1983. "I said I did not think I could keep my job because the pictures were so bad," said Chow, whose comments earned him a promotion to the production department.
While Shaw didn't create the kung fu movie, he was quick to capitalize on the genre's trendiness and used a modernized studio system and centralized production techniques to pump out films quickly, beating out rivals to satisfy audience demands.
In their heyday, Shaw films were reportedly seen by 1.5 million people a week, many of them in the cinemas owned by Shaw and his brothers in southeast Asia.
Despite his countless credits, it's funny that all the obituaries note that Shaw's most notable career misstep, hands down, was losing an up-and-coming talent named Bruce Lee to upstart studio Golden Harvest, which promised the star more creative and financial independence. We all know what happened to that guy.
Later in his career, Shaw switched his focus to television, co-founding Hong Kong's first free-to-air station TVB. The network remains one of the world's most influential Chinese-language broadcasters, and helped launch the careers stars like Chow Yun Fat, Wong Kar-wai, Andy Lau and Stephen Chow.
You might be surprised to know that Shaw also produced a handful of U.S. films, including Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner. Whaaaaaat.
For me, that iconic 'SB' logo will always have a special place in my cinema-loving heart. Rest in peace.
More here: Run Run Shaw, Movie Mogul Seen as Creator of Kung Fu Genre, Dies at 106