Run Run Shaw, at 106; mogul seen as creator of kung fu genre

Run Run Shaw’s studio was considered Hong Kong’s own Hollywood.
2006 file/Reuters
Run Run Shaw’s studio was considered Hong Kong’s own Hollywood.

NEW YORK — Run Run 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 — died Tuesday at his home in Hong Kong. He was 106 years old.

Born in China, Mr. Shaw and his older brother, Run Me, were movie pioneers in Asia, producing and sometimes directing films and owning cinema chains. His companies, including Television Broadcasts Ltd., are believed to have released about 800 films globally.

After his brother’s death in 1985, Mr. Shaw expanded his interest in television and became a publishing and real estate magnate, as well. For his philanthropy, much of it going to educational and medical causes, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and showered with public expressions of gratitude by the Communist authorities in Beijing.


Mr. Shaw enjoyed the zany glamor of the Asian media world he helped create. He presided over his companies from a garish Art Deco palace in Hong Kong, a cross between a Hollywood mansion and a Hans Christian Andersen cookie castle. Well into his 90s, he attended social gatherings with a movie actress on each arm.

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Asked what his favorite films were, Mr. Shaw, a billionaire, replied, “I particularly like movies that make money.”

In Hong Kong, Mr. Shaw created Shaw Movietown, a complex of studios and residential towers where his actors worked and lived.

He also plumbed the so-called dragon lady genre with great commercial success. “Madame White Snake” (1963) and “The Lady General” (1965) offered sexy, combative, sometimes villainous heroines. By the end of the 1960s, he had discovered that martial arts films in modern settings could make even more money.

His “Five Fingers of Death” (1973), considered a kung fu classic, was followed by “Man of Iron” (1973), “Shaolin Avenger” (1976), and many others. Critics dismissed the films as one-dimensional, but spectators crowded into the theaters to cheer, laugh, or mockingly hiss at the action.


A former employee, Raymond Chow, formed his own firm, Golden Harvest, which advanced the genre through movies starring Bruce Lee.