This Week in the Mercury

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Run Run Shaw Has Died, Hollywood Theatre Plans Tribute

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Tue, Jan 7, 2014 at 3:29 PM


The first time I remember seeing producer Run Run Shaw's name was in the credits for Blade Runner—it wasn't until later that I'd get into kung fu movies and realize the impact and scope that the Shaw Brothers' movies had. At age 106, Run Run Shaw has died, and The Dissolve sums up his epic career:

Run Run (real name: Shao Yifu) and his brother Run Me started producing films in the 1920s, and moved to Hong Kong in the late 1950s to found the Shaw Movietown studio complex. Pumping up the lengths and budgets of their movies, the Shaws became the kings of the Chinese film market. Although they made all kinds of pictures, they became most closely associated with the outrageously entertaining kung fu movies they churned out constantly during the 1960s and ’70s. Even today, their classics—Five Deadly Venoms, The One Armed Swordsman, Five Fingers Of Death—and the “Shaw Brothers” brand remain synonymous with the genre they helped establish and popularize around the world. (Via.)

But the best thing I've read about the producer comes from an email sent out today by the Hollywood Theatre's Dan Halsted, whose Kung Fu Theater series shows a ton of Shaw Brothers stuff. Hit the jump for Halsted's email about Run Run Shaw, and note the part where he promises "screenings over the next few months" to pay tribute.

Sir Run Run Shaw, the founder of Shaw Brothers Studio, died yesterday at 106 (or 107, no one was sure exactly). He was a true legend. He and his brothers started making movies (and building their own theaters for distribution) in the 1920's, when the Chinese film industry was in its infancy. They were already wealthy in 1941 when Japan invaded Singapore, and the Japanese shut down their studios and theaters. Run Run and his brothers BURIED their fortune, and dug it up when the war was over. Run Run then went to Hong Kong and started Shaw Brothers Studio.

Shaw Brothers became the MGM of Hong Kong, the largest studio in the country's history, and Run Run ran the studio like a factory. All cast and crew lived at the studio and worked constantly. From the early '60s to the mid '80s, they released around 1000 films. Although they worked in all genres, they are most well known for their hundreds (and hundreds, and hundreds) of kung fu movies. Their films were known for their production value, which was much higher than martial arts fans were used to. The studio had massive sets and outdoor locations, where the top actors, directors, cinematographers and fight choreographers honed their skills. Shaw Brothers completely revolutionized Hong Kong cinema. They ceased film production in 1985, and Run Run moved on to TV.

When I found the huge collection of 35mm kung fu films a few years ago [Read more about that here. —Erik], it was Run Run's niece that I originally tracked down. She put me in touch with Run Run's right hand man to work out the film donation (there was one reel that Run Run personally requested to keep, and I had to overnight it to Hong Kong).

The Hollywood Theatre will DEFINITELY be paying tribute to Run Run Shaw with a few screenings over the next few months. R.I.P. Sir Run Run Shaw!

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