Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sir Run Run Shaw (1907-2014)

The younger of the two Shaw brothers (born Shao) who built the family entertainment business into an empire, Run Run (born Renleng) was like America's Adolph Zukor in his longevity -- the founder of Paramount lived to 103. Shaw and Zukor were two of a kind, and Shaw, whose death was announced today, may have been the last of that kind. He may have been the last true movie mogul, though for all I know there may be claimants to that title in India. No one there, I suspect, can have it claimed for him that he founded a genre of film, but the lead on many of Shaw's obits is that Shaw Bros. created the kung fu movie as we know it today. If Bruce Lee created the demand, Shaw Bros. had the supply before, during and after Lee's meteoric career. Credit is due all the performers and directors, Chang Cheh above all in the latter department, for making it happen on screen, but Shaw Bros. pretty much created their world the way Zukor, Mayer, the Warners, Zanuck etc. created worlds for Hollywood to conquer. Shaw's relationships with his talent were what you would expect from a mogul, and as with his American counterparts, the results matter. The truth is, you don't really see so many kung fu movies like the ones Shaw made anymore, but the wuxia fantasies that prevail today have roots at Shaw Bros. too. Thanks to home video, the Shaw Bros. brand name is probably better known now than it ever was, even though Shaw hardly makes films anymore. Run Run Shaw was simply an epic figure in the history of the wild world of cinema.

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