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Frank Thring

Thring in the Trailer of King of Kings
Born Frank William Thring
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Died 29 December 1994 (aged 68)
Spouse(s) Joan Cunliffe (divorced)

Frank William Thring (11 May 1926 — 29 December 1994) was an Australian character actor.


Early life

Thring was born in Melbourne and educated at the Melbourne Grammar School. His father, Frank W. Thring, was the head of Eftee Studios, in Melbourne, in the 1920s, and is said to be the inventor of the clapboard.[1] Thring, Sr., was also a noted film producer (The Sentimental Bloke), and partner in the nationwide Australian theatre circuit Hoyts. Frank said his earliest memory is of his mother - Olive Kreitmeyer - standing on a stepladder in the foyer of the Regent Theatre in Melbourne, and arranging gladioli in the vases attached to the pillars.


His career spanned over 35 years, much of it spent alternating between stage, film and television. Perhaps his most famous role was that of Pontius Pilate in Ben-Hur (1959).[2 ]



Thring trained as an actor at Melbourne radio station 3XY and began acting in professional stage roles after his discharge from the Royal Australian Air Force in 1945. He made his British theatrical debut performing as Herod in Oscar Wilde's play Salome in 1954. Two years later, he played Sir Lancelot Spratt in Doctor in the House, which ran for 240 performances at the Victoria Palace in London.[3]

He was Saturninus in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre production of Titus Andronicus with Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh and Anthony Quayle. He also played Captain Hook opposite Peggy Cummins' Peter Pan. Among his other acclaimed stage roles were George Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man, Captain Ahab in Orson Welles's Moby-Dick, Falstaff in Henry IV, Part 1, and Bertolt Brecht's Life of Galileo.[3]


Thring's most well-known screen role was as Pontius Pilate in Ben-Hur (1959). He also appeared as Al Kadir in El Cid (1961). Thring was also awarded the 'Erik Kuttner Award for Acting' (1965). In addition to these roles, Thring played Herod Antipas in King of Kings (1961) and the usurping king Aella (Ælla of Northumbria) in The Vikings (1958). He played numerous glowering bad guys in Hollywood epics of the 1950s and 1960s.[2 ] Back in Australia, he appeared in two biographical films about famous bushrangers: Ned Kelly (1970) and Mad Dog Morgan (1976). He played suave gangsters in Alvin Purple Rides Again (1974) and The Man from Hong Kong (1975). In his later years, screen roles included the devilish Collector in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), and a comedic role as an Alfred Hitchcock-like film director in the horror movie spoof, Howling III (1987).


Thring's television credits include the Australian miniseries Against the Wind and Bodyline. He was also the recurring villain Doctor Stark who immobilizes echidnas with a lethal drug in several episodes of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo.[2 ]

Personal life

Off-screen, Thring was known for his flamboyant, often waspish, persona. He was featured in numerous TV commercials and guest-starring roles on popular weekly series, variety programs and quiz shows, often dressed in black funereal attire and other sinister costumes. However, his acting career was interrupted by bouts of alcoholism and periods of ill health.

Thring was appointed 1982 King of Moomba, "this doyenne [sic] of film and theatre looked nothing short of majestic in his regal garb and riding on a thespian-inspired float".[4]

Although homosexual, Thring was briefly married to actress Joan Cunliffe during the 1950s; this ended in divorce. Joan lived in London, and was manager of both Rudolf Nureyev and Dame Margot Fonteyn. In 1994, he died from cancer, aged 68. He was cremated and his ashes scattered off the coast of Queenscliff, Victoria. A celebration of his life was held at the Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne, in 1995.[5]


  1. ^ Frank Thring biography at IMDb
  2. ^ a b c "The Real Thring" (in English). ABC Radio National. 2008-09-21. Retrieved 2009-04-12.  
  3. ^ a b Dawes, Sally (1995), "Frank Thring", in Parsons, Philip, Companion to Theatre in Australia, Currency Press, ISBN 0868193577  
  4. ^ Craig Bellamy, Gordon Chisholm, Hilary Eriksen (17 Feb 2006). Moomba: A festival for the people.: pp.17-22; photo p. 21
  5. ^ A Tribute to Frank, booklet published for the celebration of Thring's memory, Victorian Arts Centre Playhouse, 5 March 1995


  • The Dictionary of Performing Arts in Australia — Theatre . Film . Radio . Television — Volume 1 — Ann Atkinson, Linsay Knight, Margaret McPhee — Allen & Unwin Pty. Ltd., 1996
  • The Australian Film and Television Companion — compiled by Tony Harrison — Simon & Schuster Australia, 1994

External links


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