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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Thring, Francis William (Frank) (1882–1936)

by J. P. Holroyd

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Francis William (Frank) Thring (1882-1936), entrepreneur, was born on 2 December 1882 at Wentworth, New South Wales, son of William Francis Thring, labourer, and his wife Angelina, née McDonald, both native-born. Little is known of his early years; he became a conjurer in the outback before starting Biograph Pictures in Tasmania. He worked as a bootmaker at Gawler, South Australia, where, on 26 December 1904, he married Grace Wight (d.1920) with Presbyterian forms.

About 1911 Thring began his Melbourne theatrical career as a projectionist at Kreitmayer's Waxworks. He opened the Paramount Theatre in 1915 and in 1918 became managing director of J. C. Williamson Films Ltd. After this company merged in 1926 with Hoyts Pty Ltd to form Hoyts Theatres Ltd, Thring became its dynamic managing director.

In 1930 he sold his large holdings in Hoyts to Fox Film Corporation and announced his intention to establish the talking film industry in Australia under the trade name (from his initials) Efftee Film Productions. The versatile showman Tom Holt (father of Prime Minister Harold Holt) became his manager. Using the derelict His Majesty's Theatre as a studio, Thring imported the latest RCA sound equipment and made his first feature, Diggers, starring Pat Hanna in 1931. It was well received. However, Thring's The Sentimental Bloke (1932) was, according to Ken Hall, a 'pale shadow of the original' Longford version. His Royal Highness (1932), Australia's first musical film to star Thring's protégé George Wallace, succeeded at home and abroad.

Visiting Britain in 1932-33, Thring sold Efftee's entire output: seven features, nine shorts and a series about the Great Barrier Reef made with Noel Monkman. On his return, Thring moved his studio to the Wattle Path Dance Palais, St Kilda. In 1933-35 he also promoted Australian theatre; amongst other plays, he successfully staged the Australian musical, Collits' Inn, starring Gladys Moncrieff, in Melbourne and Sydney. In March 1935 he purchased the operating rights to 3XY radio in Melbourne.

From 1932 Thring had been the leader of a campaign for a quota for Australian films. Two years later he suspended Efftee's operations, announcing that resumption would depend upon the introduction of an effective quota system in Victoria. After New South Wales passed its Cinematograph Films (Australian Quota) Act in September 1935, Thring resumed production in February 1936, in Sydney, becoming chairman of directors of Mastercraft Film Corporation Ltd while remaining managing director of Efftee Film Productions. In March he sailed for Hollywood in search of scriptwriters and actors. Returning in June, he died of cancer on 1 July 1936 in East Melbourne and was buried in Burwood cemetery. He was survived by a daughter of his first marriage, by his second wife and helpmate Olive, née Kreitmayer, whom he had married with Anglican rites at Christ Church, South Yarra, on 25 April 1921, and by their 10-year-old son, the actor Frank Thring.

Contemporaries lamented the loss to theatre and the film industry through Thring's early death. Gladys Moncrieff recalled him as 'a gentle and exceptionally kind man' who 'knew the theatre and what he wanted he eventually got'. Ken Hall considered him the first Australian to 'make professional sound feature films'. If some doubted his artistic ability, all praised his skills as a producer. He was, said Monkman, a man 'whose big body was matched by his courage, vision and ambition'.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Baxter, Australian Cinema (Syd, 1970)
  • E. Reade, Australian Silent Films (Melb, 1970)
  • E. Reade, The Talkies Era (Melb, 1972)
  • G. Moncrieff, My Life of Song (Syd, 1971)
  • E. Samuels, If the Cap Fits (Syd, 1972)
  • K. G. Hall, Directed by Ken G. Hall (Melb, 1977)
  • A. Pike and R. Cooper, Australian Film, 1900-1977 (Melb, 1980)
  • G. Shirley and B. Adams, Australian Cinema (Syd, 1983)
  • Woman's World, 1 May 1932
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 26 Aug 1978.

Citation details

J. P. Holroyd, 'Thring, Francis William (Frank) (1882–1936)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 25 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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