Sad news reached Kung Fu Kingdom on 2nd November 2018 that Raymond Chow Man-wai, the Hong Kong movie producer who introduced the world to martial arts legend Bruce Lee, had passed away aged 91.
Enter the Dragon Trailer
Widely regarded as the “godfather of the Hong Kong film industry”, he helped to change the landscape of Hong Kong action cinema, and break the dominant stranglehold of Shaw Brothers Studios.
Born on 8th October 1927, Chow graduated from Shanghai University with a B.A. in Journalism. As a youngster, Chow studied martial arts under master Lam Sai-wing, the famous Hung Gar disciple of Wong Fei-hung.
Chow gained a valuable insight into the Asian film industry as the head of publicity and the production chief of Shaw Brothers between 1958 and 1970. Along with his fellow Shaw Brothers executive Leonard Ho, they left to form Golden Harvest Studios in 1970. They took a new approach to producing Hong Kong movies, removing the creative and contractual restrictions imposed by Shaw Brothers. This creative freedom and Golden Harvest’s more generous payment terms helped Chow tempt the exciting new prospect that was Bruce Lee away from Shaw Brothers. Their first production together, “The Big Boss“, was a record-breaking box office hit.
The Classic Golden Harvest Intro
With Shaw Brothers owning and dominating local Hong Kong cinematic theatres, Chow with his outward-looking approach and experience of dealing with chains such as Cathay Pacific in regions like Malaysia and Singapore, brought Golden Harvest’s movies to international audiences. Bruce Lee’s subsequent movies, “Fist of Fury” and “Way of the Dragon“, each broke the previous box office records, bringing Lee to the attention of Hollywood.
In 1973, Golden Harvest entered into a pioneering co-production with the American studio Warner Brothers, for the English-language Bruce Lee film, “Enter the Dragon“. It went on to become a worldwide smash, launching the “kung fu craze” of the 1970’s.
Bruce Lee’s Legacy
Following Lee’s untimely passing, Raymond Chow continued to support emerging Hong Kong talents such as the Hui Brothers and their comedy films, female stars Angela Mao and Kara Hui, and talented young filmmakers Sammo Hung, John Woo and Tsui Hark. Chow and Ho would go on to produce the majority of superstar Jackie Chan‘s movies from “The Young Master” in 1980 through to 2001’s “The Accidental Spy“. Tsui Hark’s “Once Upon a Time in China” series would also help elevate Jet Li‘s career to new heights. With huge box office successes in Asia, and international co-productions of movies such as “The Cannonball Run”, “China O’Brien” and the original “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” trilogy, under Chow’s and Ho’s leadership, Golden Harvest became the dominant force in the Hong Kong film industry for the best part of four decades.
Jackie Chan Tribute Video
Chow was not without some controversy in his career with rumours of a cover-up surrounding his involvement in the circumstances of Bruce Lee’s death at the apartment of actress Betty Ting-Pei, and accusations of withholding profits from stars.
Interview with Matthew Polly
Chow won Lifetime Achievement Awards for his work at the 2008 Hong Kong Film Awards and 2011 Asian Film Awards. He also made a cameo appearance in Donnie Yen‘s 2014 movie “Kung Fu Jungle/Killer” by way of tribute to Hong Kong movies from director Teddy Chen.
Raymond Chow’s legacy will be long remembered for bringing Bruce Lee to the masses and putting his name to some of the greatest Hong Kong martial arts, action and comedy films of all time – for that alone, the fans will mourn his loss (RIP).
Raymond Chow – Producer Selected Filmography
The Blade (1995)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993)
China O’Brien II (1991)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze (1991)
China O’Brien (1990)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
Peacock King (1989)
The Protector (1985)
Duel To The Death (1983)
Zu: Warriors From The Magic Mountain (1983)
Dragon Lord (1982)
The Miracle Fighters (1982)
Battle Creek Brawl (1980)
Iron Fisted Monk (1977)
The Man From Hong Kong (1975)
When Taekwondo Strikes (1973)
Lady Whirlwind (1971)
The One Armed Boxer (1971)
No one can underestimate the impact that the legendary Raymond Chow and Golden Harvest Studios brought the world through producing some of the finest martial arts movies ever made. From the list above what are your favourites? Please let us know and leave your thoughts for Raymond below we promise to cherish them as much as we do his films. Like, share and join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter & Instagram. (We hope to continue to do you proud by bringing you the best the FUture has to offer – thank you all, mhgoi, xie xie Raymond, RIP…)