January 9, 2014 2:09 PM EST

Movie bosses can enjoy oddly long lives; Paramount Pictures founder Adolph Zukor lived to 103. But for endurance and influence, no mogul can top Sir Run Run Shaw, who died Jan. 7 at 106. Shaw Brothers, the Hong Kong studio run by Run Run, dominated Chinese movie production for decades and popularized martial-arts films around the world.

The youngest son of a Shanghai textile manufacturer, Shao Yifu and several of his brothers formed the Unique Film Production Co. in 1924. By 1960, Run Run had taken Hong Kong; his Movietown studio made 40 films a year on 12 soundstages operating in three eight-hour shifts–the Hollywood system with a Hong Kong work ethic.

The 1972 King Boxer (Five Fingers of Death), the first martial-arts film to be a hit in the West, made Run Run the sifu of kung fu. But rival Golden Harvest studio snapped up Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, and Shaw Brothers was sharply curtailing film production by 1985. Having earned billions from real estate and the TVB television channel, Run Run donated much of his fortune to scientific research. But the grand Shaw Brothers legacy is his forever.

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