The Two Frank Thrings

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**WINNER of the National Biography Award 2013 (Australia)** They shared a name and their physical resemblance was startling. And, both Frank Thrings were huge figures in the landscape of 20th-century Australian theatre and film. But, in many ways, they could hardly have been more different. Frank Thring the father (1882-1936) began his career as a sideshow conjuror, and he wheeled, dealed, and occasionally married his way into becoming the legendary "F.T." - an impresario, speculator, and owner of Efftee Films, Australia's first 'talkies' studio. He built for himself an image of grand patriarchal respectability, a sizeable fortune, and all the makings of a dynasty. Frank Thring the son (1926-1994) squandered the fortune and derailed the dynasty in the course of creating his own persona - a unique presence that could make most stages and foyers seem small. He won fame playing tyrants in togas in Hollywood blockbusters (perhaps his most famous role was that of Pontius Pilate in Ben-Hur [1959]), then, suddenly, he came home to Melbourne to play perhaps his finest role - that of Frank Thring, actor and personality extraordinaire. Central to this role was that Frank the son was unapologetically and outrageously gay. In this compelling dual biography, author Peter Fitzpatrick tells the story of two remarkable characters. It's a kind of detective story, following the lives of two men who did all they could to cover their tracks, and to conceal 'the self:' Frank the father used secrecy and sleight-of-hand as strategies for self-protection; Frank the son masked a thoroughly reclusive personality with flamboyant self-parody. It's also the tale of a lost relationship - and of the power a father may have had, even over a son who hardly knew him. *** In Fitzpatrick's expert hands, their stories count among the saddest as well as the most scintillating in our annals. -- Ian Britain, Australian Book Review *** In exploring what made each man tick, and so adroitly placing them in their personal and professional contexts, Fitzpatrick gives a vivid sense of the shifting contours of Australian cultural life across most of a century. -- Brian McFarlane, The Age *** [I]nformed and immensely readable...Their detailed and engrossing double biographies are a welcome contribution both to regional history and to international studies of twentieth-century entertainment careers. -- Theatre Research International *** Few books gave me more pleasure this year than Peter Fitzpatrick's The Two Frank Thrings, not because of any particular veneration for either Frank, but because it is a superbly executed biographical account of them. It is elegantly written, spiked with wit and insight, immaculately researched, and structured with a style and originality that enable the reader to get inside the lives of these two disparate Thrings. -- Brian McFarlane, 'Best Books of 2013', Australian Book Review *** Librarians: ebook available on ProQuest and EBSCO (Series: Biography) [Subject: Biography, Theatre Studies, Film Studies, Australian Studies]