Film producer

Born: October 8, 1927;

Died: November 2, 2018

Raymond Chow, who has died aged 91, redefined action films in the 1970s, turned kung fu into a worldwide cinematic phenomenon and propelled Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan to international film stardom.

Back in the 1960s action movies were largely about soldiers fighting battles in some war or other and Bruce Lee was the sidekick in the American masked vigilante series The Green Hornet (1966-67), which had a devoted audience, but ran for only one season.

At the turn of the decade Chow spotted Lee on television splitting wooden boards with fists and high-flying kicks. Chow was immediately impressed not only by Lee’s agility and skills, but by his charisma and the “terrifying expression” on his face.

Realising Lee was the real deal when it came to action, Chow signed him up to a contract with his Golden Harvest film company, gave him a starring role in The Big Boss (1971) and the kung fu boom was under way.

Having been a key player in transforming Hong Kong into one of the biggest film production centres in the world, second only to the US and India, Chow expanded his activities to America and scored again in the early 1990s with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies, a light-hearted take on the martial arts genre, featuring masked, pizza-guzzling reptiles.

The son of a banking executive, Chow was born in Hong Kong, then a British colony, in 1927. He was educated largely in Shanghai. He trained as a journalist and worked for the Voice of America radio station and several English-language newspapers in Hong Kong before being recruited by the Shaw Brothers film company as head of publicity.

He developed his career in films to include writing and producing, but ultimately felt constrained by low budgets and poor production values. He set up his own company Golden Harvest in 1970 and managed to sign up Lee in the face of rival approaches from the Shaw Brothers company.

Lee made only five feature films but they were huge hits, establishing Hong Kong cinema and Raymond Chow as major forces in international cinema. Enter the Dragon was made in association with Warner Bros and included several American stars. It reportedly cost $500,000 and made $40 million. Lee died before its release in 1973, aged just 32 - his death has been the subject of much conjecture ever since and cemented his legend.

Like Lee, Jackie Chan had had some success before he linked up with Chow and Golden Harvest, but Chow took this to new levels in the 1980s with a distinctive brand of action comedy, much lighter in tone than Lee’s movies.

Chow was executive producer on The Cannonball Run (1981), a starry big-budget comedy that Golden Harvest made for 20th Century Fox with a cast that included Chan, Burt Reynolds, Farah Fawcett, Roger Moore and Dean Martin.

He enjoyed further success with the three Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films, which were adapted from a hit comicbook series and proved another cultural phenomenon.

Golden Harvest produced around 600 films and Chow has almost 200 credits as producer on the International Movie Database. Chow sold his stake in Golden Harvest and officially retired in 2007. He had children, but no details of surviving family have been released.