Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Ralph Raymond Doyle (1894–1955)

by Diane Collins

This article was published:

Ralph Raymond Doyle (1894-1955), film company manager, was born on 7 April 1894 at Leichhardt, Sydney, third son of English-born parents Frank Doyle, draper, and his wife Jane Grinsell, née Robinson. Educated at public schools, in May 1910 Ralph joined the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney and was sent to Cooma in 1911. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 1 August 1916 and served on the Western Front with the 1st Light Trench Mortar Battery and the 2nd Battalion. Commissioned on 1 August 1918, he was promoted lieutenant in January 1919. His appointment terminated on 20 July in Sydney.

Returning to the bank (at Neutral Bay), Doyle resigned in March 1922 to establish his own practice as a public accountant. At St Philip's Anglican Church, Sydney, on 5 April that year he married Mary Isabel Body (d.1931); they were to have two sons and a daughter. Encouraged by his brother Stuart Doyle, in 1922 Ralph became Victorian sales manager for United Artists (Australasia) Ltd, the only local distributor of American films to operate outside the controversial block-booking system. Within nine months he was appointed general sales manager and in 1924 general manager in Australasia. He was a foundation member of Motion Picture Distributors (Association) of Australia, an influential trade lobby founded that year. Although he publicly expressed sympathy for the plight of struggling Australian film-makers, he offered them no significant support.

An associate of the Commonwealth Institute of Accountants, in 1933 Doyle resigned from United Artists, allegedly to pursue other business interests (he was a director of the British and Mercantile Insurance Co. Ltd), but in May he was appointed managing director for Australasia of the American production-distribution company, R.K.O. Radio Pictures Inc. On 9 January 1935 at Christ Church, Kilmore, Victoria, he married a 24-year-old actress (Helen) Patricia Minchin with the rites of the Church of Ireland; they had a son and a daughter before being divorced. For twenty years Doyle brought Hollywood culture to Australian audiences; he also assisted in the distribution of a few local feature films, most notably Charles Chauvel's The Rats of Tobruk (1944), which R.K.O. also helped to finance.

In a new trend, Doyle was one of the earliest finance professionals to take control of the moving-picture industry from people with direct experience in film-making. He was loyal to his employers and remarkably successful at a time when American companies usually appointed their own nationals to run branch operations abroad. A member of Tattersalls and the Millions clubs, he was vice-president of the British-American Co-operation Movement (Australian-American Association from 1947).

Doyle was 5 ft 8 ins (173 cm) tall, with deep-set, penetrating eyes. He enjoyed playing golf and belonged to the New South Wales Golf and Elanora Country clubs. On 14 November 1947 at the Australia Hotel, Sydney, he married with Presbyterian forms a 36-year-old divorcee Edna Lillian Penn, née Reynolds. After resigning from R.K.O. in 1953, he pursued various business interests and undertook considerable charitable work within the film industry. On 20 March 1955 at Rose Bay he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head; survived by his wife and the children of his previous marriages, he was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • Commonwealth of Australia, Royal Commission on the Moving Picture Industry in Australia: Minutes of Evidence (Canb, 1928)
  • Everyone's, 8 Nov 1922, 5 Apr 1933
  • Australasian Exhibitor, 1 Oct 1953
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Aug 1936, 4 Oct 1944, 13 Aug 1947, 21 June 1954, 21 Mar 1955
  • private information.

Citation details

Diane Collins, 'Doyle, Ralph Raymond (1894–1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


7 April, 1894
Leichhardt, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


20 March, 1955 (aged 60)
Rose Bay, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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