Run Run Shaw (1907-2014)

Run Run Shaw (1907-2014)

By Stephen Cremin

Tue, 07 January 2014, 11:30 AM (HKT)

Obituary News

Film industry legend Run Run SHAW 邵逸夫 died at home this morning in Hong Kong. He was 106-years-old.

Born in China in 1907, he was the youngest of four sons of a textile merchant. His older brothers founded their first film company in the early 1920s while Run Run was still a high school student, helping out with distribution in his spare time.

Eldest brother Runje SHAW 邵醉翁 directed the films that second brother Runde SHAW 邵村人 wrote. In 1924, third brother Runme SHAW 邵仁枚, in charge of distribution, left Shanghai for Southeast Asia to establish an exhibition network.

When he was 19-years-old, Run Run joined Runme. They struggled to break into Singapore's cartel-operated exhibition business. With their films boycotted, they operated mobile cinema and then began leasing cinemas in Singapore and Malaysia.

In 1932, Runje produced the first Cantonese talkie, The Platinum Dragon 白金龍, an extraordinary hit that screened in cinemas for over a year. The US$1500 production is estimated to have made more than US$1 million in profit.

In 1934, Runje entrusted the Shanghai business to Runme and established a film studio in Hong Kong's Kowloon, where he produced ten films in 1935 alone. After two unexplained studio fires, Runje retired, handing over the business to Runde.

When the Japanese invaded Shanghai, Hong Kong and then Singapore, their studios were seized and most of their cinemas destroyed. After he was almost imprisoned for projecting anti-Japanese films, Run Run went to Europe to study.

After the war, Runde returned to Hong Kong and began making Mandarin language films, employing film-makers that had fled from Shanghai. Facing strong local competition in the 1950s, he slowly shifted the company's interests into real estate.

In 1957, Run Run relocated from Southeast Asia to Hong Kong and founded Shaw Bros (HK) Ltd 邵氏兄弟(香港)有限公司, building the world's largest privately owned film studio at Clearwater Bay on land purchased cheaply from the government.

In 1959, Run Run hired Raymond CHOW 鄒文懷. Together they created a mass production system with in-house talent. Directors in their stable included LI Han-hsiang 李翰祥, King HU 胡金銓, CHANG Cheh 張徹 and, later, CHOR Yuen 楚原.

Films produced by the directors included such classics as The Love Eterne 梁山伯與祝英台 (1963), Come Drink with Me 大醉俠 (1965), The One-Armed Swordsman 獨臂刀 (1967) and The House of 72 Tenants 七十二家房客 (1973).

In 1970, Chow left Shaw Brothers with several colleagues to form Golden Harvest Entertainment Co Ltd 嘉禾娛樂事業有限公司, starting a bitter rivalry. The new company also brought over Shaw actors, included action star Jimmy WANG 王羽, and recruited Bruce LEE 李小龍 when his terms were rejected by Shaw Brothers.

Run Run had moved into television in 1967, launching Television Broadcasts Ltd (TVB) 電視廣播有限公司. He became chairman of the board in 1980 and, in full control for the first time, created a multi-billion dollar television empire with its own studio and in-house talent that was modelled on the Shaw Brothers' studio system.

Run Run's first wife died in 1987. In 1997, he married former singer Mona FONG 方逸華. Fong had joined the management of Shaw Brothers in 1969, a move that arguably led to the departure of Chow. She has been general manager of TVB since 2000. Run Run had stepped down as chairman in Dec 2011.

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