Faculty of Arts in the Media: 60 years of Shaw Brothers movies

19 December 2018 (Wednesday)



Photo credit: TimeOut

Of all Hong Kong film studios, none has had the lasting impact of Shaw Brothers. Established by Run Run Shaw in 1958, the studio brought Hong Kong cinema into the modern age and launched the careers of directors like King Hu and Lau Kar-leung and actors such as Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan. It’s the Shaw Brothers logo which appears at the start of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, not Golden Harvest’s, despite the latter’s association with Bruce Lee and continued presence in filmmaking. 

The Shaw Brothers story begins in Shanghai, where the four Shaw siblings – Runje, Runme, Runde and Run Run – were involved in the local theatre scene. In 1924 the family expanded into cinema for the first time, founding the Tianyi Film Company, and by the late 1930s the Shaws were well established among the Chinese diaspora across China, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. 

Yet with the Mainland market closed following the Communist Revolution of 1949 and Runde Shaw, who headed Shaws and Sons in Singapore, increasingly moving away from film production in the 1950s, a new headquarters had to be created. It was Run Run, the youngest of the family, who took the lead and established Shaw Brothers. “Hong Kong was the best location for a number of reasons,” explains Dr Aaron Magnan-Park, assistant professor in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Hong Kong. “There was the laissez-faire capitalist attitude; there existed a certain freedom of artistic expression; land was available; plus there was the availability of raw film stock from the UK.” 

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