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Shaw Brothers


Shaw Brothers

Shaw Brothers (HK) Ltd.
Public company
Industry Film production
Founded 27 December 1958
Defunct 28 November 2011
Headquarters Hong Kong (main; English-speaking)
Macau (main; Portuguese-speaking)
Kuching, Sarawak (Malaysian)
Products Movies

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The Shaw Brothers (HK) Ltd. (Chinese: 邵氏兄弟(香港)有限公司) was the foremost and the largest movie production company of Hong Kong movies.

From their distribution base in Singapore where they founded parent company Shaw Organization in 1924, Sir Run Run Shaw (邵逸夫) and his brother Runme Shaw (邵仁枚) founded Shaw Brothers in 1930, initially as a movie distribution business in Southeast Asia. It took over the movie production business of its Hong Kong-based sister company, Shaw & Sons Ltd., in 1958.

Over the years Shaw Brothers produced some 1,000 movies, before film production was suspended in 1987 to concentrate on the television industry, through its subsidiary TVB. Movie production resumed in 2009.

In 2011 Shaw Brothers was reorganized into the Clear Water Bay Land Company Limited, its movie production business being taken over by other companies within the Shaw conglomerate.



Shaw Brothers is noted for directors King Hu, Lau Kar-leung and Chang Cheh. King Hu was an early director who is best remembered for his film Come Drink with Me, a martial arts film which differed from those of Chang Cheh in that it featured a capable female protagonist and revolved around romance in the martial arts world, rather than fast-paced action and the tales of brotherhood which Chang Cheh would later popularize. Chang Cheh, who was more fond of the latter components, would go on to be Shaw Studio's best known director, with such films as Five Deadly Venoms, Brave Archer (based on the works of Jin Yong), The One Armed Swordsman, and other classics of Wuxia and Wushu film. Almost equally as famous was fight choreographer turned director Lau Kar-leung, who would produce such highly regarded kung fu films as The 36th Chamber of Shaolin and The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter.


Shaw Brothers was modeled after the classic Hollywood system with hundreds of actors signed to exclusive contracts. While other studios rotated cast members, Shaw Brothers assigned certain groups of actors to work exclusively with certain directors.

During the late 1950s to early '60s productions of the Shaw Studio were dominated by actresses like Li Li-Hua, Ivy Ling Po, Linda Lin Dai, Betty Loh Ti and Li Ching in dramatic and romantic features. In particular, the Huangmei opera The Love Eterne, starring Ivy Ling Po and Betty Loh Ti based upon the Butterfly Lovers folk legend from the Jin Dynasty, is one of the highest grossing features of the Shaw Studio. Its success is in part due to the ingenious casting of Ivy Ling Po, who was a relatively unknown supporting actress, as the male lead. On the surface, the story of Butterfly Lovers is one of forbidden love between two people of different social classes, but there is a hidden subtext of unspeakable homosexual love: the protagonists first met, became friends, and fell in love when they were supposed to be male college students. (In the story, the female lead disguised as a male to attend college because social mingling between the sexes was forbidden during the middle age.) The casting of a female actor as the male lead in this feature makes this unspeakable homosexual subtext clear to some, in a socially acceptable way for the conservative mainstream audience of the early 1960s. The huge economic success was due to emotional appeal. The extent to which this feature resonates with the audience is unbelievable. Reportedly, some members of the audience in Hong Kong and Taiwan repeatedly bought tickets and watched the feature in cinema over and over again in 1962, with some watching it over 20 times, a phenomenon reported for films such as Titanic and Gone with the Wind in the West.

From the late 1960s onward, production of dramatic features was reduced in favor of martial arts features. The group from the 1978 release Five Deadly Venoms—who would become known by that namesake—were among the most memorable. They were Lo Mang, Lu Feng, Sun Chien, Chiang Sheng and Kuo Chui, who had been stars in the Shaw Studio for years but did not become memorable faces until Five Deadly Venoms. Wei Pai, who played the Snake (referred to as "Number Two" throughout the film Five Deadly Venoms) was also part of the Venom Mob which numbered over 15 actors who appeared in almost all of the Venom movies.

In the first half of the 1970s, two other stars were particularly well known and favoured by the "Million-Dollar Director" Chang Cheh in his movies: Ti Lung and David Chiang. Ti Lung is considered one of the most, if not the most handsome martial arts actor to grace the Shaw Studio. He is also accredited as a capable actor who reinforced his muscular glamour with strong characterisation over his many films. Chiang, on the other hand, was slight and wiry and often played sarcastic anti-hero to Lung's standard archetype. Chang Cheh with his stars Ti Lung and David Chiang were known as the cinematic "Iron Triangle" throughout Southeast Asia. In the middle of that decade the duo were overshadowed by the rise of Alexander Fu Sheng who had played supporting roles opposite them on many occasions. Fu was killed in 1983 in a car accident, at age 28, ending a brief but spectacular career.

Members of the Peking Opera School, including Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung, played extras and bit parts in several Shaw Brothers films in the 1970s, although they were unknowns at the time.

Better-known female martial arts actresses of the Shaw Studio include Cheng Pei Pei, Lily Ho, Lily Li and Kara Hui Ying-Hung. Cheng Pei Pei in particular is relatively well known for her starring role in King Hu's Come Drink With Me and more recently in Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as Jade Fox.

Celestial Pictures acquisition and distribution

Many Shaw Brothers classic films have been bootlegged due to the popularity of particular kung fu/martial arts titles. Celestial Pictures acquired rights to the Shaw Studio's legacy and is releasing, on DVD, 760 out of the nearly 1,000 films with restored picture and sound quality. Many of these DVDs have come under controversy, however, for remixing audio and not including the original mono soundtracks.

Karmaloop TV's licensing deal

Karmaloop TV, a multi-platform programming network designed to help operators "reclaim" viewership among the 18- to 34-year-old demographic, announced its first film licensing deal with Celestial Pictures. The Hong Kong based company owns, restores and licenses the world's largest collection of Chinese-made films including the Shaw Brothers library of fan favorite kung fu and action classics such as The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Five Deadly Venoms and The One-Armed Swordsman.

The licensing deal with Karmaloop TV means that kung fu and action fans in the United States will see these films in their digitally restored versions, many of which will be premiering for the first time on U.S. television in high definition. The licensed collection includes more than 60 of the greatest martial arts masterpieces, movies which launched the careers of stars like Jet Li, Ti Lung, David Chiang, Alexander Fu Sheng, Gordon Liu and Jimmy Wang Yu.

Shaw Studios

The Clearwater Bay site at Clearwater Bay Road and Ngan Ying Road is the former home of Shaw Studio (built 1960-1961), as well as the vacated TVB headquarters and studios (1986–2003, since relocated to TVB City) and Celestial Pictures.[1] There are also apartment blocks used to house Shaw actors. The newer Shaw House and Shaw Villa are there. The studio site has been vacant since 2003 and will likely be re-developed with no new tenants targeted.[2]

A new Shaw Studios (note the plural s) has been built at Tseung Kwan O Industrial Estate, and was opened in stages between 2006 and 2008.

See also


Further reading

  • Glaessner, Verina. Kung Fu: Cinema of Vengeance. London: Lorimer; New York: Bounty Books, 1974. ISBN 0-85647-045-7, ISBN 0-517-51831-7.
  • Wong, Ain-ling. The Shaw Screen: A Preliminary Study. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Film Archive, 2003. ISBN 962-8050-21-4.
  • Zhong, Baoxian. "Hollywood of the East" in the Making: The Cathay Organization Vs. the Shaw Organization in Post-War Hong Kong. [Hong Kong]: Centre for China Urban and Regional Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University, 2004. ISBN 962-8804-44-8.
  • Zhong, Baoxian. Moguls of the Chinese Cinema: The Story of the Shaw Brothers in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore, 1924–2002. Working paper series (David C. Lam Institute for East-West Studies); no. 44. Hong Kong: David C. Lam Institute for East-West Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University, 2005.

External links

  • Shaw Studios
  • Big5))
  • The Shaw Story—at the official company website.
  • Shaw Brothers History — at Hong Kong Cinema UK.
  • Shaw-Brothers_Reloaded - Global international site
  • The Rise and Fall of the House of Shaw - scholarly essay by Tom Green.
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