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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photo courtesy of Crawfords Australia
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
1974-77 The Box
1976-82 The Sullivans
TELEVISION MINISERIES (selection)
All the Rivers Run
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
Production Companies; Homicide