'The story of the Shaw Brothers is a success story of fairy tale proportions. The main ingredients in the successes of Runme and his brother, Run Run have been sheer business acumen and hard work.'
- Singapore Trade, May 22, 1969
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'In my business, its all a guessing game. You've got to go along with it, watch audience reactions and then guess. I like sitting among the audience, especially in Hong Kong where people make comments continuously. Entertainment is a kind of service to the people. In Hong Kong, people work all the time and have nowhere to go. So keeping them amused and entertained is a challenge.'
- Sir Run Run Shaw, interview for American Express Company, 1981
At 95 years of age, Sir Run Run Shaw, CBE, continues his active role as Founder/Chairman of Shaw Brothers Ltd. (Hong Kong) and Chairman of Television Broadcast Ltd., Hong Kong. He has two sons, Vee Ming and Harold and two daughters, Violet and Dorothy. He was married twice, the first to Lady Lily Shaw who died in 1987 and the second to Mona Shaw.
Run Run was born in 1906, the sixth child of seven children (Hence his popular local name of 'sixth uncle').
As a boy, he studied English at the YMCA school in Shanghai. At 19, he left school to join his elder brothers on their pioneering efforts to build up an overseas distribution market for Chinese films.
Lin Dai toasting Run Run
They started with one cinema, but by 1939, the brothers had their own exhibition arm of 139 cinemas across the region.
The post-war years proved even more successful for the Shaws as they spread their wings throughout Southeast Asia, Europe and North America, operating more than 160 cinemas as well as various commercial and residential property developments.
In 1959, Run Run made the move to Hong Kong where he set up Shaw Brothers Productions and Movietown in order to produce world class chinese films. By the late 1970s, the studios was the largest privately owned studio in the world, with an output rivalling that of Hollywood.
Sir Run Run and Lady Lily Shaw
In his heyday, Sir Run Run produced over 40 films a year ranging from costume epics to modern action and even musicals.
Many of these films garnered awards from various film festivals including the Cannes Film Festival. It was a glamourous life thrusting Sir Run Run in the limelight, often flanked by beautiful starlets.
Run Run and Mrs Shaw with
Jean Simmons at Shaw Villa,
Hong Kong, 1962
But hidden from the public eye was the hardwork behind the scenes. Run Run would joke then that he was so busy, he had no time to be ill.
'A report by Life magazine journalist Ron De Paolo in 1966 described a typical day in the life of Run Run in the heyday of Shaw studios:
'He rises each day of the week at 6 am, eats a spare breakfast of Chinese noodles and tea, does Chinese calisthenics, dresses, reads a script or two and heads for the studio in one of his Hongkong based Rolls Royces. The drive takes five minutes down the winding Clearwater Bay Road. He arrives by 8 am, completes a tour of the working stages by 9.15 and settles in for a morning of watching rushes from the previous day's shooting, looking at competitors' movies and reading more scripts. Conferring with his Production Supervisor Raymond Chow, Run Run also advises writers on stories or directors and actors on scenes. He lunches briefly at the bungalow, has a half hour's nap, then returns to the office until nightfall. He turns in at midnight and repeats the schedule everyday except Sunday, when he comes to the studio to see a selected sampling of competitors' films (six or seven at a sitting). On Sunday afternoons, he retires to a Shanghai style bath house where for two hours he soaks' .
By the time the studios wrapped production in the early 80s, Sir Run Run could claim credit as the producer of the largest Chinese language film library in the world. The 800 title library was sold in 2000 for US$84 mil to a multi-media company, Celestial Pictures.
In 1973, Sir Run Run Shaw launched TVB, the premier station in Hong Kong and the leading producer of Chinese language programmes in the world. Today, distributed via satellite, TVB programmes are enjoyed by millions.
A well known philanthropist, Sir Run Run Shaw has a long and brilliant record of social service. Prompted by his desire to enrich the cultural life of the community, to help the sick and to provide better education, he set up the Shaw Foundation (Hong Kong) in 1973. To date his donations to various educational institutions worldwide have exceeded 200 million U.S. dollars.
The benefactors include the Shaw College in the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Baptist College, the City University of Hong Kong as well as libraries and other academic buildings in over 50 universities in China. Medicine in China was given a huge boost in 1994 when the 14-story, 400 bed Sir Run Run Shaw hospital in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province was opened to the public. Technically one of the most advanced hospitals in the country, the Sir Run Run Shaw hospital continues to be managed by the Loma Linda Medical Centre.
In Hong Kong, Sir Run Run has served as Chairman of the Hong Kong Red Cross, Chairman of the Arts Festival Committee, Chairman of the Hong Kong Arts Centre and the Community Chest. He is also an active member of the Board of Trustees of several educational institutions.
Run Run in his Clearwater
Bay mansion, Hong Kong, 1990
The late Princess of Wales with Run Run
opening the divisional headquarters of the
Hong Kong Red Cross, 1989
In 2002, Sir Run Run established an international award for scientists in three areas of research - astronomy, mathematics, and life sciences. The award is up to one million US dollars. The press has dubbed it the "Nobel prize of the East". The first prize will be awarded in 2004.
In recognition of his philathropy, Sir Run Run Shaw has been the recipient of numerous awards and accolades worldwide including his 1977 knighthood conferred by Great Britain.
Run Run and daughter, Dorothy, at his Knighthood ceremony, England, 1977
Today, still energetic in his mid 90s, Sir Run Run credits his mental and physical well being to the 'Chi Gong' exercises he has been practicing for decades. He also credits staying busy and meeting new challenges as a secret of longevity.
So besides keeping regular office hours, he continues to actively travel the world. His favourite destination is China where he is the patron of numerous local schools, hospitals, and welfare homes as well as the conservation work of ancient sites and relics.
In Hong Kong, Sir Run Run continues to participate in various social and fund raising events.
In his private life, he enjoys his collection of Rolls Royces, paintings, Chinese ceremics, jade and of course, the latest movies.
These are screened in the private screening room in his spectacular bayside mansion in Hong Kong where he entertains friends and business associates.
Sir Run Run with one of his Rolls, 1990