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The Woman Behind Run Run Shaw

July 27 2015 at 5:26 AM
LJF  (Login LJF)

 
Most of the past news reports stated that Run Run Shaw and Raymond Chow fell out which eventually led to Chow’s resignation and his set up of GH in 1970. Furthermore, medias reported that Run Run Shaw was solely responsible for dropping Bruce Lee who then joined GH in 1971. Were these incidents true? Research shows otherwise as there were dopes in these 2 incidents. Findings show that the real culprit of these 2 incidents was actually, Mona Fong, the woman behind Run Run Shaw.

Here are photos of Bruce with Mona & Lau Leung-Wah: http://postimg.org/image/tdt1un42p/

Photos of Bruce, Raymond Chow and Run Run Shaw: http://postimg.org/image/d3ahvuqyr/

Mona Fong Yat-Wah (1931 - )
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Mona Fong Yat-Wah was a popular nightclub singer in the 1950s. She met Run Run at the nightclub and they became “friends” soon after. Run Run changed her life by asking her to become the assistant producer of Shaw Bros in the 60s. She was promoted to production manager in 1977 and to chief producer in 1981, subsequently to director in 1988. In 1997 she married widowed Run Run in Las Vegas.
Also, Mona served as a deputy chairman at TVB since October 2000 and took on the role of M.D. in May 2006. Mona stepped down 3 months after the retirement of Run Run in March 2012. However, she was redesignated as a non-executive director of TVB from 1st April 2012 till now.
Following his retirement, in March 2012, Run Run sold his entire TVB shareholding - a 26 per cent stake held through Shaw Brothers (HK) - to a group of investors for HK$6.26 billion. Mona controls a 0.26 per cent stake in TVB and a further 3.64 per cent through Shaw Foundation Hong Kong.
Run Run passed away in early Jan 2014, leaving the complete control of Shaw organisation and his charity organisations (plus the property & assets) to Mona and not to his sons who were once rumoured to inherit his kingdom after his death.

About Her Character
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Mona Fong might be Shaw’s “heavy weapon” but not necessary a “sharp weapn”. According to TVB management staff, Mona’s extreme way of managing people resulted in hatred and disatisfaction among the staff. Reason being, Mona was rather ruthless. For instance, she would just got rid of those that were not pleasing to her eyes without any exceptions. One staff from TVB News department disclosed that if Mona disliked any news broadcaster, she/he would be fired immediately. She is too subjective and never judge or evaluate persons and things objectively. There was once, she laid off a group of staff from the technical department which caused much of a stirr and controversies in HK.

Chow’s Resignation
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Mona was well-known for being picky and stingy. She would personally look into all company matters even if they were very minor and of least important. The older staff was critical of her style of doing things. Raymond Chow (8th October 1927 - ) and Leonard Ho (1925 – 17th February 1998) were once Run Run’s capable right hand men. They helped Shaw to build his empire. Not only did they helped to increase Shaw’s movies earnings but also improved the movies’ quality production and publicities. Raymond Chow knew how to manage difficult people’s relationship. He had helped Run Run resolved numerous boss-staff’s cum director-actor/actress’s issues. He was in fact, more popular than Run Run and Mona in Shaw. Chow was given ample space to roam about in Shaw. However, things changed when Mona joined Shaw. Not long, Mona went overboard to pick on Raymond Chow and his Promotion department. Both Chow and Leonard Ho were not able to endure her continuous intervention and sudden reduction of the publicity budgets. Eventually, they had some heated arguments. Chow and Ho left Shaw with a few other key personnel to set up GH in 1970. When Chow and his gang left, Run Run was upset because he appreciated talents and felt a sudden huge loss. However, regardless of what happened, Run Run would still stand by Mona’s side since she was his only trusted confidant.

Bruce Was Rejected
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In 1970, Bruce had intention of making films for Shaw. He got in touch with Shaw through Unicorn Chan’s connection. However, Run Run appointed Mona to negotiate with Unicorn who acted as Bruce’s representative.
Unicorn related to Mona about the conditions Bruce told him:
1. Remuneration of US$10,000 per film
2. Filming must not exceed 60 days (per film)
3. Script had to be verified by Bruce personally and shooting would start only if he was satisfied with the script.

Mona passed the message to Run Run who thought Bruce’s conditions were too demanding and ridiculous. He refused to accept all the conditions. However, Bruce’s reputation and growing popularity in HK due to the showing of the Kato show had attracted Run Run. At that time, in Shaw, the cost of making the film had escalated to HK$2.5 million. Thus, it was not too much to offer US$10,000 to Bruce. Shaw old senior staff, Wong Ka Hee told the reporters that, Shaw originally wanted to employ Bruce, however, the two big Shaw stars, Ti Lung and David Chang were only getting HK$10,000 but Bruce was demanding US$10,000. Run Run considered it might hurt the feeling of its own artists if he accepted Bruce’s conditions. Thus, he told Mona to re-negotiate with Bruce.

Run Run who was a businessman knew that if Shaw capitalised on Bruce’s popularity and made some movies. He might gain some profit from it but the production cost has to keep it as low as possible. Run Run decided his bottom-line was US$5,000. However, Mona who was not a visionary businesswoman, decided on her own to cut the price from US$10,000 to US$2,500 instead of Run Run’s bottom-line. This was her common practice of giving the minimum price to the new artists. From the information she gathered from Unicorn Chan, she just knew that Bruce was only a former Cantonese child actor, an unknown Hollywood supporting actor and The Green Hornet sidekick. She thought Bruce should deserve to get the minimum price and work as support actor first before becoming a lead actor. Mona also told Unicorn to tell Bruce if he was interested, he should fly to HK to see them personally and sign the contract. Bruce was furious after he heard the message from Unicorn.
The negotiation broke down. Having given the cold shoulder by Shaw, Bruce eventually turned to GH, the biggest rival of Shaw.

Lau Leung-Wah (2 August 1933 – 2014)
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Lau Leung Wah started off as an actress in the 50s and 60s. She was famous for her roles as spider demons in “Cave of the Silken Web” (1967) and the prime minister of the Country of Women in “The Land of Many Perfumes” (1968). Besides those small but memorable roles in Shaw's Monkey King series, she was also unforgettable as the stylish, face-changing villain of “Temptress of a Thousand Faces” (1968). In 1953, Lau married to Lo Wei who was 15 years older than her. Later, they set up “Si Wei Movie Company.”
Lau seems to have been a strong-willed and multi-talented woman: she was a producer, actress, costume designer and furthermore — according to this article from the May 1959 issue of The Happiness Movie Land — a "first-rate automobile driver" and a "real Z-bomb"!
Both Lo and Lau were persuaded by Chow to join GH in 1970. She gradually became GH most outstanding producer.

Bruce Signed GH
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In 1971, GH sent Lau on a mission to U.S. to invite Cheng Pei-Pei (former Shaw’s action queen who had retired from show business after her marriage) to make movies for GH but Cheng Pei-Pei declined the offer as she needed to take care of her young children.
Lau Leung-Wah thought she should not return to HK empty-handed. As she recalled Raymond Chow’s great impression of Bruce Lee in his April 1970 TV performance and the news of the unsuccessful deal between Shaw and Bruce recently, she thought why not visit Bruce who was staying in L.A. too. This was also the alternate mission from Chow.
Unlike Mona who gave cold shoulder to Bruce, Lau gave Bruce the warmest hug and sweet talks. After few rounds of persuasions and negotiations, Bruce agreed to reduce his original price of US$10,000 to US$7,500 per film (Bruce was actually quite broke at that time). He agreed to sign a 2 pictures deals contract, getting a total of US$15,000 from GH. After signing the contract, he flew to Thailand to film The Big Boss in mid July 1971. The director was Lau’s husband, Lo Wei. The film later broke all box office record and grossed 3.2 million.
Chow was the first in HK movie industry to use the bonus distribution and profit sharing system in rewarding Bruce. He also allowed Bruce to freely change and input his ideas into the movie. This was never seen in the HK industry before. After the success of the first 2 films – TBB and FOF, Chow assisted Bruce to become an independent film-maker who jointly started Concord Film Production Company. When Bruce’s third film, “WOTD” smashed the box office record and grossed 5.3 million, GH reaped the continuous flow of profit from all over the world.

The Golden Producer
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Lau was credited for bringing Bruce to HK and later gaining his superstardom. According to GH staff, Lau was a very capable producer. Chow groomed her and she often played a more significant role than just a producer. She was especially a great communicator, mediator and negotiator in solving major issues and challenges for GH. Although she was a shining star of GH, she always remained in low profile. She was a lady of few words but underneath her pretty look lies her multi-talents, strong-will and intelligence.

Good EQ And Great Courage
======================
As compared to Mona Fong, Lau was a better communicator. She possessed good EQ. This could be seen from how she managed to get the “demanding” Bruce to sign contract with GH through her good communication skills, persistency and sincerity. Another instance would be the case of Bruce for not showing up to film the third movie with Lo Wei. Lau volunteered to fly to Taiwan and mediated with Jimmy Wang Yu who had a dispute with her husband earlier on. She successfully convinced Jimmy Wang Yu to shoot “A Man Called Tiger” with Lo Wei by telling him that this role was specially tailored for him and she thought Jimmy was even more suitable than Bruce in playing this role (Note: She kept the truth of Bruce’s delay in playing this movie).

Lau was also a lady with courage. It was her that tried to protect her husband from being insulted and assaulted after Bruce threatened Lo with his belt knife on 5th Jul 1973. She was bold enough to stand up and told Bruce off. She even reprimanded Bruce for being ungrateful as if it was not for her and her husband’s kindness, he would still be struggling in U.S. to make a living.

However, Lau divorced Lo Wei in the 70s and lived with her son. As she retired, she stayed in low profile by keeping in touch only with Raymond Chow and a few close ones. She remained a mysterious person until she passed away peacefully in 2014. As an actress, she was gorgeous and unforgettable; as a producer, she had a unique way of handling people and things with wisdom and foresight.

Rivalry Turned Politics
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As a matter of fact, Run Run used to cherish talents who could make contributions to his organisation. He knew he had overlooked Bruce in the past and thus, wanted to get Bruce over by giving him big offer and even go to the extent of meeting him personally when Bruce visited Shaw’s studio. Bruce relationship with Mona was not too bad either. This could be seen from the photo they took together in 1972 where both were smiling with Bruce’s hand over her shoulder. Bruce in fact, planned to make movies for Shaw in either late 1973 or 1974. Costumes photos of him taken in Shaw studio had been seen by the public.
Although Shaw was having lawsuit with GH over the copyright issues of GH’s film, “The Blind Swordsman Against One-Armed Swordsman” and many Shaw actors, actresses, directors, producers etc. had joined GH, Run Run and Chow’s personal relationship was not much affected by these business affairs. Chow respected Run Run and treated him like an elder and teacher. Run Run on the other hand, appreciated Raymond’s talent, also wished him well in his career. However, it might be otherwise for Chow and Mona who had feuds since the days in Shaw. Mona was seen as a petty person who would get rid of the person she could not stand the sight of.

Some people had speculated that the above is the reason why Raymond was denied the request to obtain TVB footage (to make BL documentary) from Shaw upon Bruce’s death in 1973. Also, some even speculated that Bruce's TVB footage is in Mona’s or her closed ones' hand and would not be released as long as Raymond is alive. A fact is, Mona is a zillionaire and Shaw's Queen after Run Run's death. Well, business wise, the above speculations sure does not make sense but politics wise, possibilities sure exist. Let the time tell the truth.

Resources:
South China Morning Post dated 22 March 2012
HK-TVB website: http://corporate.tvb.com
HKMDB website: http://hkmdb.com
Softfilm blogs: http://softfilm.blogspot.sg
Shaw Yam-Yam’s blog: Little Bird Nest – “Remembering Lau Leung-Wah” dated 28 November 2014
“Shaws vs GH”: One of HK Movie Legends; The Secrets of HK Movies” dated 15 January 2007

 
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  • Great article! Thanks a lot LJF (nt) - Milo on Jul 27, 2015, 4:14 PM
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  • Re: The Woman Behind Run Run Shaw - JKD54 on Jul 27, 2015, 9:55 PM
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  • Clarification from Tom Bleecker - JKD54 on Jul 28, 2015, 7:15 PM
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