CRAWFORD, HECTOR

Australian Producer/Media Executive

Hector Crawford was a Melbourne-based producer of radio and television programs. The most nationalist of Australian producers, his company was a family company not only in the sense of being dominated by the Crawford family, but also in the sense of being vertically organised so that every production was controlled from the top of the company. The company was also family oriented in terms of the values esteemed in many of the its programs: respect for authority, espousal of domestic values, celebration of Australian history and society. However, these were old fashioned values and practices and they were found especially wanting in the 1980s when Crawford was to lose control, some years before his death, of the company he founded.

Hector Crawford was born in 1913 in Melbourne, where he acquired a musical training. While working as a clerk in the late 1930s, he began the Music For The People outdoor concerts which were broadcast by the Herald and Weekly Times' own radio station 3DB. In 1940 he became music and recording director of Broadcast Exchange of Australia's recording and radio production company, and in 1942 rose to the position of managing director. His sister, Dorothy Crawford, born in 1911, trained at the Melbourne Conservatorium and was a professional singer. She worked for the ABC in radio and drama productions before joining Broadcast Exchange in 1944 as drama producer. With the encouragement of 3DB, the two set up their own radio program production company, Hector Crawford Productions, in 1945.

Thanks to its special relationship with 3DB and sister stations in the Major Network, Crawford's was very successful in radio. In addition the market for local radio programs, which had developed considerably in wartime, continued to expand, and by 1950 the company was one of the largest in radio. The company's radio output specialised in music and drama series and features. Some of its important programs were Melba, Melba Sings, The Blue Danube, John Turner's Family, D24, and No Holiday for Halliday.

Within a week of going to air on television in late 1956, HSV Channel 7 (owned by the Herald and Weekly Times Newspaper Group), Crawford's was producing a quiz/game show, Wedding Day, for the station. However, between 1956 and 1960 HSV Channel 7 bought little except for some quiz shows and a modest sitcom series, Take That. In 1961, the company's fortunes improved, with HSV committing itself to the courtroom drama series Consider Your Verdict. Its modest success helped pave the way for Crawford's next major development. In 1964 the company sold the police series, Homicide, to HSV and the Seven Network. Homicide spawned two other Crawford Police series, Division 4 and Matlock Police. These, together with other company series such as Ryan, Showcase and The Box, made Crawford Productions a veritable "Hollywood on the Yarra". The company employed hundreds and had construction departments, sound stages and its own studios. Crawford's hiccupped briefly in 1975 with the cancellation of the three police series, but in late 1976, The Sullivans began on the Nine Network. It was the quintessential Crawford series, with good production values, solid entertaining drama which treated traditional institutions, most especially the Australian family in wartime, with great respect. The company was less successful with serials such as Carson's Law, Skyways, Holiday Island and Good Vibrations. However, Crawford's was much more successful with two other serials, Cop Shop and The Flying Doctors. In 1983 Crawford's made their first miniseries, the enormously successful All the Rivers Run. Other miniseries included The Flying Doctors, Alice to Nowhere, My Brother Tom, Whose Baby?, All the Rivers Run II, This Man, This Woman and Jackaroo. In addition, Crawford's made several films which had theatrical release. It also made two children's series, The Henderson Kids and The Zoo Family.

In 1974 Dorothy Crawford retired from the company because of ill health. Her son, Ian, then shared executive producer credits with Hector Crawford on all Crawford programs.

The larger companies in television drama packaging in Australia have weathered periods of financial difficulty not only because of the cash flow from past successes but also because of other sources of financial stability. In the case of Crawford's, it was the special relationship enjoyed with HSV Channel 7 and the Seven Network which bought a large number of programs from the company. The Herald and Weekly Times was also ready to help Crawford's with loans in times of need.

In 1972, for example, Hector Crawford privately sold the company to the Herald and Weekly Times, only to buy it back a year later. Again, in 1985 Crawford sold 40% of shares to the group as well as a further 10% to Gordon and Gotch. This was the situation in early 1987 when Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd bought out the Herald and Weekly Times group and, already owning Gordon and Gotch, found itself owning half of Crawford Productions. With the special relationship with HSV Channel 7 at an end, in poor health after a throat operation, and deciding to capitalise on the extensive library, Hector Crawford sold the company to Ariadne, a property and tourist company in 1987. Hector Crawford continued as honorary Chairman and died early in 1991.

-Albert Moran

 

Hector Crawford
Photo courtesy of Crawfords Australia

HECTOR CRAWFORD. Born in Melbourne, Australia, 14 August 1913. Studied at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. Married Glenda Raymond, 1950, two children. Began career as a choral conductor at the Conservatorium; became musical and recording director of radio broadcasting house, Broadcast Exchange of Australia, 1940, managing director, 1942; formed Hector Crawford Productions with older sister Dorothy, 1945; began producing musical radio programs such as Music for the People, Opera for the People, The Melba Story, The Amazing Oscar Hammerstein, The Blue Danube; produced dramatic radio shows Sincerely Rita Marsden, My Imprisoned Heart, A Woman In Love, Inspector West, and Lone Star Lannigan; entered Melbourne television with game show productions, 1956; produced first one-hour drama series, Consider Your Verdict, 1961, followed by the immensely successful police series, Homicide, 1964; production expanded, at one stage having five one-hour drama series playing on all three of the Australian commercial television networks, 1974; sold controlling interests in Crawford Productions, 1987; retired in 1989. Member: Australian Film Commission, 1974; Australian Film and Television School, 1972-76. Died in Melbourne, Australia, 11 March 1991.

TELEVISION SERIES (selection)

1961-64 Consider Your Verdict
1964-75 Homicide
1966-68 Hunter
1974-77 The Box
1976-82 The Sullivans

TELEVISION MINISERIES (selection)

1983 All the Rivers Run

RADIO

Music for the People; Opera for the People; The Melba Story; The Amazing Oscar Hammerstein; The Blue Danube; Sincerely Rita Marsden; My Imprisoned Heart; A Woman In Love; Inspector West; Lone Star Lannigan; Consider Your Verdict.

 

See also Australian Production Companies; Homicide