A special moment for me as a writer came in the late 1980s when the legendary Australian actor Frank Thring read lines I wrote for him. OK, so it was only some 3RRR sponsorship announcements, but Frank brought a lifetime of experience and professionalism to everything he did… from his famous performance as Pilate launching the chariot race in the 1959 Hollywood epic Ben-Hur to frightening Australian consumers who were watching TV without a licence (yes, you needed a licence to watch TV until the Whitlam Government abolished licensing in 1974).
Showbiz was in Frank’s blood. His father, F. W. Thring (Frank Senior) began his career as a projectionist but rose to become Melbourne’s own multi-media mogul.
During the late 1920s, F. W. oversaw the construction of seven palatial Regent cinemas, which were later sold to Hoyts, of which he became managing director in 1926. The last remaining Regent, in Collins Street, was closed for many years through the 1970s as a fierce community debate raged over its demolition.
In 1931, Thring started his own production company, Efftee Films, and set up his studio in Her Majesty’s Theatre, which had closed down due to the Great Depression. He made no secret of his ambitions to build a little Hollywood down under when he introduced his studio’s “stars” in 1931.
Over the next five years, Efftee made eight feature films, nine shorts and a series about the Great Barrier Reef, including three comedies starring great Australian comedian George Wallace. Please enjoy this wonderful trailer for His Royal Highness, directed by Thring and written by Wallace and renowned Australian writer and poet C. J. Dennis (“The Sentimental Bloke”).
In 1935, Thring extended his business into another new medium by founding Melbourne radio station 3XY. Sadly, the next year F. W. Thring died of cancer aged only 53, leaving his second wife and 10-year-old Frank Junior to carry on the family tradition.