Several years before the martial arts film craze erupted in the U.S. in the early seventies, Chinese action films classified as wuxia, a combination of sword fighting and martial arts in a period setting featuring noble anti-heroes, were already dominating the Hong Kong film industry. The masterminds behind this new trend were Runme and Runde Shaw, who had initially founded the Tianyi Film Company in Shanghai with their brother Runje in 1925. Once they opened their Hong Kong movie studio in 1958, the two Shaw Brothers begin to produce box-office hits like the 1962 historical drama The Magnificent Concubine. Then, the unexpected success of The One-Armed Swordsman in 1967 launched a new action genre for the studio and the floodgates were open. One of the best of these latter efforts is The Boxer from Shantung (1972), which was a major hit in China but is not as well known here. Starring martial arts expert Kuan Tai Chen, the film is a spectacular showcase for the charismatic athlete/performer and a wonderful introduction to martial arts movies produced by the Shaw Brothers.
Could there have been a more ideally matched couple from the Warner Bros. stock company than this pair of New York natives with their street-smart ways and attitudes to match? It seems strange that James Cagney and Joan Blondell aren’t usually included in that rarified group of Gable & Harlow or Tracy & Hepburn or Bogart & Bacall or Loy & Powell and others but Blonde Crazy (1931) alone is reason enough to add this duo to the Hollywood leading couples A-list. Continue reading →