Frank Howson (born Frank Michael Howson 1952, Melbourne, Australia) has had a diverse career based in entertainment. Noted for film and theatre work, he directed Flynn (1996) on the early life of Errol Flynn and Hunting (1991). Howson, with Peter Boyle, helped establish Boulevard Films which produced thirteen films from Boulevard of Broken Dreams (1988) to Flynn; besides producing for Boulevard Films, Howson often wrote scripts and directed. Major actors in Boulevard Films productions include: Guy Pearce, John Waters, Kerry Armstrong, Claudia Karvan, Terri Garber, Rebecca Rigg, Alan Fletcher, Steven Berkoff, Marcus Graham, and John Savage.
Howson has been in show business since he was seven (on stage: acting, dancing, singing) and is experienced in many facets of the industry. After leaving school, Christian Brothers College, St. Kilda (1963-1967), Howson's first job was with Melbourne radio station 3UZ as office boy. This deepened his love for contemporary music and he met many of his idols. Eventually promoted to panel operator, he worked on John McMahon's popular weekly show Radio Auditions (see 3UZ). Whenever not enough acts showed up, young Frank was summoned to perform under made up names. During this period Howson was nicknamed Magical Frank when asked to perform on a pilot for a TV talent show by 3UZ's Jimmy Hannan. In 1972, Howson was understudy to Reg Livermore in the role of Herod for the Australian theatre production of Jesus Christ Superstar, he had a cameo as a Stage Attendant in the TV broadcast. Also in the Australian production were John Paul Young and William "Billy" Miller.
Legendary DJ Stan Rofe signed Howson to a recording deal and produced his first single: Seventeen Ain't Young (written by Jeff Barry) / Hide and seek (Richie Adams, Mark Barkan) performed by "Frankie Howson" (1969) who was seventeen during recording, it became a Top 40 hit in Melbourne. Barry, Adams and Barkan were all involved in The Archies, both songs were on their first album, The Archies, and are described as Bubblegum Pop.
Howson released two other singles This Night (Howson, Kenneth Firth, Miller) and 1983 The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter (John Capek, Howson), which was later performed by Stephen Cummings. He spent two years recording an unreleased album Wastelands featuring backing musicians, including two tracks by then garage band, Models, in their first recording sessions. “Wastelands” (song) was written by Howson and David Schofield (aka David Springfield). Models later had a #1 hit in Australia with Out of Mind, Out of Sight (1985).
Howson took a demo tape by The Ferrets (with Billy Miller as lead vocalist) to Molly Meldrum who signed them to Mushroom Records, they achieved a 1977 #2 hit single Don't Fall In Love from their début album Dreams of a Love which went Gold. It contains the Howson (and Schofield) song Killing Ourselves. Howson recorded his own version (1978) produced by Billy Miller of The Ferrets.
Howson was manager of the Australian branch of German-based I.C. Records to publish musical works (including his own) (distributed by EMI). He signed New Romantic band Pseudo Echo and co-wrote their songs ‘’Autumnal Park’’ and ‘’Destination Unknown’’ with Tony Lugton, they later had a 1987 #1 hit in Australia with their version of Funky Town and around the world. I.C. Records scored 3 national hits in Australia in its first 12 months of operation. Howson and Peter Boyle were Executive Producers for John Paul Young's 1983 hit Soldier of Fortune (John Capek, Marc Jordan) reaching #15.
Howson and Allan Zavod wrote Time Can't Keep Us Apart which won the 1987 Asian Popular Song contest performed by Kate Ceberano to an estimated TV audience of 500 million.
After an early career in theatre as actor, dancer, singer, in 21 major productions before turning 21. This included a role in Melbourne stage production of Oliver! (1966) ; Howson moved to directing and producing. Four musicals for children were great successes, The Faraway Land of Magical Frank (1976) The Boy Who Dared To Dream (1978, 1981), Aladdin, and Sinbad - The Last Adventure, and two (Magical Frank and The Boy) were recorded as albums (1976). They were performed at the Playbox Theatre, Alexander Theatre, the Ormond Hall and the Athenaeum, respectively. He also wrote the contemporary opera Squizzy (1979) with longtime collaborator Barry Ferrier. The opera is based on the life of Melbourne gangster Squizzy Taylor.
Boulevard Films was a production company on Errol St, North Melbourne. Executive producer was usually Peter Boyle (sometimes Malcolm Oliverstone or George Birch), with Barbi Taylor as associate/line producer; some films were co-produced with James Michael Vernon.
Howson wrote, produced, acted in and directed various Boulevard Films; they were nominated for 13 AFI awards and sold internationally to such companies as Miramax, Paramount, Warners, J&M Entertainment, Disney, and American Broadcasting Corp.
Boulevard’s notable productions include:
Some Boulevard Films listed at Internet Movie Database did not have a general release, eg. The Final Stage (1995) had it's 'World Premiere' ten years later at Melbourne Underground Film Festival (aka MUFF) 2005 and received a standing ovation from the entire audience. An emotional Howson and actor Tommy Dysart were summoned to the stage to finally see the reaction to their 10 year old work. It is now considered Howson's best film.
“Howson … moved to Hollywood in 1997 after a catastrophic falling out with his business partner and the collapse of Boulevard Films.
Howson has been married three times:
Howson has been debilitated, at times, by Spasmodic Dysphonia which robbed him of his voice: gasping and stuttering; it is periodically mitigated by Botox injections into his larynx. His gravelly voice can be heard in a 2005 radio interview with Paul Harris and Brett Cropley of 3RRR on Film Buffs' Forecast.
John Michael Howson aka Hollywood Howson, flamboyant Australian entertainment reporter, is his cousin.
Howson was on the Crystal Prix Jury for the 1997 Cannes Film Festival with Robert Altman. From 1997 to 2005 Howson worked and lived in Hollywood. He served on the Board of Directors for the Starlight Children’s Foundation of California.
Mr. Insincere, (written / performed by Howson) appears in the Disney movie Burn Hollywood Burn (1998), starring Eric Idle (as Alan Smithee) and Ryan O'Neal; with Whoopi Goldberg, Jackie Chan, Sylvester Stallone, and Robert Evans. Howson was asked by Steven Berkoff to direct the TV version of Berkoff’s international hit theatre show Shakespeare’s Villains (2002).
In Los Angeles, each year the Australian Government presents G’Day L.A to celebrate the best Australia has to offer; this week-long celebration is based on an idea by Howson and business associate John Grimaldi.
Recently Howson has completed writing his memoirs on the film industry A Life in the Circus, and wrote songs for Steve Housden's (Little River Band lead guitarist) solo album. Two former members of The Seekers have recorded Howson songs: Judith Durham (based on his poem Andre) and Keith Potger (on his new album Sunday).
Protégé, Richard Wolstencroft, had formed MUFF in 2000 and upon Howson's return in 2005, Wolstencroft appointed him as President of the Jury. Boulevard Films' The Intruder (directed by Wolstencroft) and The Final Stage (directed by Howson) were both presented at the 2005 festival. The following year saw Howson's film Remembering Nigel tie with Penny by John King for MUFF's 2006 Best Short Film award. Remembering Nigel starred Bud Tingwell, Rhonda Burchmore, Bert Newton and Durham. Howson has proposed to turn it into a full-length feature.
One of Howson's life-long ambitions was to make a movie on legendary Australian boxer Les Darcy and he has spent twenty years research and touting the idea. His screenplay on Darcy called Winter in America was performed as a rehearsed reading at Federation Square, Melbourne.
Howson directed the Caryl Churchill play A Number for its Melbourne premiere in 2005, it was revived at Chapel off Chapel (2006) starring Alex Scott and Ross Ditcham.
In 2008 Rhonda Burchmore is due to perform her one-woman show Cry Me A River – The World of Julie London (written/directed by Howson). He has acted (and script editor) in a new Wolstencroft film The Beautiful And Damned (2008, in post-production).
Howson currently serves as a board member of Open Channel, a non-profit organisation that supports young filmmakers. Recently Howson was invited to direct the premiere production of the short play The Replacement Son for the Short and Sweet festival at Melbourne's Arts Centre in December '07.
Some excerpts from Howson's film Flynn can be seen in the new documentary on the life of Errol Flynn, The Tasmanian Devil.
The new release book The Actors' Handbook by Marnie Hill, published by AT2, contains an interview with Frank Howson.
He has been commissioned to write the screenplay for Fight To Glory (based on the controversial life of Lester Ellis). He plans to direct it during the first half of 2008.