The legacy of Hector Crawford

Hector Crawford c.1970

Hector William Crawford AO, CBE (14 August 1913–11 March 1991)

Photo by Michael Cheshire, c1970   NFSA title: 1134953

On the 100th anniversary of the birth of Hector Crawford in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy, it is timely to reflect upon his audiovisual legacy – which is preserved in the NFSA collection – and his contribution to Australia’s cultural life.

An entertainer, musician, entrepreneur, and salesman extraordinaire who possessed a huge passion for all things Australian, Crawford believed that our broadcast waves should resonate with our own voices and with product produced by Australians.

A hint of his capacity, talent, and philanthropy was evident at the beginning of his public career when, in 1938, 25-year-old Crawford inaugurated the free public music concert series, Music for the People.

Music for the People was held in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens, sponsored by the Victorian State Government and the Melbourne City Council, with Hector as director and conductor of the Melbourne Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra (later known as the Australian Symphony Orchestra). The concerts were broadcast on Radio 3DB and in 1959 became one of HSV 7 television’s early ventures into outside broadcasting. They were also used as fundraisers for organisations supporting injured service personnel during the Second World War.

This tradition continued for 40 years and, over later times, was incorporated into Melbourne’s Moomba Festival with performances at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. The concerts always attracted large crowds, but perhaps its zenith was in 1967 when 200,000 people flocked to the concert to see The Seekers perform. Hector’s enduring passion for music, his commitment to bringing Australian talent to the attention of the general public and his desire to popularise classical music were themes across his career via Music for the People, Opera for the People, Music Under the Stars and in concerts for the winners of his radio and TV music talent shows, Mobil Quest (1949-1957) and Showcase (1965-1968, 1973-1974, 1978).

Radio days

It was however in the broadcasting arena that Hector would make his greatest impact on the lives of Australians. Hector’s first position in radio was as musical director of the radio production company Broadcast Exchange and, by 1941, he had become the manager.

It was here that Hector would also meet and discover his future wife, renowned Australian soprano Glenda Raymond, whom he married in 1950.

Listen to Glenda Crawford’s (nee Raymond) description of Hector’s entry into radio in this oral history interview conducted by ex-Crawford staffers Jan Bladier and David Lee, on 8 January 2002. In this interview Glenda discusses the mentorship of David Worrall from Radio 3DB, and the establishment in 1945 of Crawford’s radio production company, Hector Crawford Productions, as well as the romantic story of how she and Hector first met.

Glenda Crawford, interviewed by Jan Bladier and David Lee

  NFSA title: 555350

Hector Crawford Productions was formed in partnership with Hector’s older sister, Dorothy Muriel Turner Crawford. Dorothy was a talented singer with a contralto voice; a radio actor, producer, and newsreader for ABC radio. Together, Hector and Dorothy would go on to produce many of Australia’s most fondly remembered radio productions during its golden age, across a range of genres, including the serials The Melba Story (1946), D24 (1951), and Inspector West (1952-1959), which ran for 728 episodes and was the longest running of their radio serials.

They also produced the interview program Respectfully Yours (1951) and, of course, the highly successful radio talent show Mobil Quest (1949-1957). This program would bring to Australia’s radio waves the talents of Dame Joan Sutherland, who won the Mobil Quest in 1950, and June Bronhill, who came third in 1951.

Read more about Dorothy Crawford and listen to excerpts from The Melba Story and D24.

Enter television

By this time the media environment was changing and Dorothy and Hector began preparing themselves and their staff for the introduction of television in 1956. They went overseas to study television production techniques and on their return established a training facility at the St James Old Cathedral in West Melbourne. The facility included a closed circuit television studio and here their staff learned to think, write, and act in terms of the new visual medium. Hector’s commitment to media education and the nurturing of talent would resonate throughout his career. In 1973 he was appointed to the inaugural board of the Australian Film and Television School and, in 1974, to the interim board of the Australian Film Commission.

The renamed company, Crawford Productions, was one of the few to successfully make the transition from radio to television; however, it was not easy at the start. Hector had to mortgage his home and he and Dorothy went without salaries for a year.

While television dramas such as The Sullivans (1976-1982), All The Rivers Run (1983, 1990) and their police series Homicide (1964-1976), Matlock Police (1971-1976), Division 4 (1969 -1975) and Cop Shop (1977-1984) are the first thing that people tend to recall when Hector Crawford or Crawford Productions is mentioned today, the first program that Hector was able to sell to television was in fact a game show, Wedding Day (1956). Broadcast on Melbourne’s HSV 7 within two weeks of the station’s commencement, Wedding Day was made with practically no budget. Suburban Melbourne weddings were filmed on a Saturday and that evening the bridal party would attend the studio to be interviewed and then showered with gifts during the 9 pm broadcast of the show. Other early shows Crawfords produced for HSV 7 were Hutton’s Family Quiz (1957), the children’s show Peter’s Club (1957), Take That (1957), and for GTV 9, Raising a Husband (1957). These last two titles were also both formerly successful radio programs for Crawfords.

Fighting for Australian drama

Hector’s quest to produce Australian television drama remained elusive. By 1959 Australian television was awash with cheaper imports, mainly from North America. The fight for Australian content quotas had begun and Hector was at its forefront. As part of the campaign he published a booklet, Commercial Television Programmes In Australia, on 14 September 1959. It set out his concerns about the state of the industry, listed comparative figures of the number of hours of Australian produced content versus US content on commercial TV stations in Melbourne and Sydney across a week (see page 11 of booklet, below) and examined the results of TV’s first three years against the recommendations set out in the 1953 Royal Commission into Television and the Broadcasting and Television Act of 1942-1946. The booklet was distributed to members of parliament and, as Hector stated in an article for the Guide in The Sydney Morning Herald on 31 July 1989, to ‘anyone displaying the slightest signs of influence’ (see page 1).

Commercial Television Programmes In Australia by Hector Crawford, Melbourne, 14 September 1959. NFSA: 390574; courtesy of Crawford Productions

It would be four years from the beginning of television before an Australian quota was introduced in 1960, requiring that 40 per cent of all programs be local, with four hours in prime time per month – read more about the history of the introduction of quotas for Australian content.

Crawfords’ entry into drama came swiftly after the first round of the quota wars, with the live broadcast on HSV 7 of the Ray Hastings stage play Seagulls Over Sorrento (1960). The budget was, according to Ian Crawford, ‘about 3,500 pounds and that was a very big deal. Before that we had been limited to about 200 pounds a half hour, be it drama or anything’ (Beilby, p 136).

This was followed by Australia’s first commercial TV drama series, Consider Your Verdict (1961-1964), a show that also had its genesis as a Crawford radio production.

Listen to Hector Crawford’s description of the challenges Crawfords faced in the formative years of television, and their efforts to present Australian drama on TV, in this oral history interview conducted by Queensland academic Albert Moran, on 5 July 1979.

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Hector Crawford, interviewed by Albert Moran. Courtesy of Albert Moran

  NFSA title: 269137

Hector was also busy behind the scenes during this period, bidding for Australia’s third commercial television licence as part of Australian Telecasters Ltd. The bid was ultimately unsuccessful and the licence for ATV 0 was awarded to Sir Reginald Ansett.

Crawfords brought the following dramas to Australian TV screens in the 1960s and ’70s: Consider Your Verdict (163 episodes, 1961-1964), Homicide (510 episodes, 1964-1976), Hunter (65 episodes, 1966-1969), Division 4 (301 episodes, 1969), Matlock Police (229 episodes, 1970-1976), Ryan (39 episodes, 1972), The Last of the Australians (29 episodes, 1974), The Box (335 episodes, 1974-1977), Solo One (13 episodes, 1975), and Young Ramsay (26 episodes,1977, 1980). The Crawfords juggernaut was halted abruptly in 1974-1975, when all three commercial networks cancelled Crawfords’ highly successful and long-running police drama series Homicide, Division 4 and Matlock Police, bringing retrenchments to many of the 400 Crawford Productions staff.

Listen to Glenda Crawford’s description of this ’dark time’ in her oral history interview:

Glenda Crawford, interviewed by Jan Bladier and David Lee

  NFSA title: 555350

While this was a difficult period for Hector and the company, his resilience built from previous experience, entrepreneurship and enduring relationships helped him to return the company to success. At the centre of this success was The Sullivans, which ran for 1115 episodes across 1976-1982. In an article for The Australian Women’s Weekly, date 14 September 1977, Hector prophetically stated that this was ‘a series about everyday human experience and I believe this is where the future of drama lies’ (p 34).

Other productions from this period include All The Rivers Run (4 episodes, 1983), Bluestone Boys (24 episodes,1976), Bluey (39 episodes,1976), Carson’s Law (184 episodes,1983-1984), The Far Country (2 episodes, 1986), The Flying Doctors (221 episodes, 1986-1992), Hotel Story (7 episodes, 1977), My Brother Tom (2 episodes, 1986), Skyways (189 episodes, 1979-1981) and Special Squad (43 episodes, 1984-1985).

Hector’s legacy

Hector’s commitment to Australian television was celebrated often throughout his career, beginning with a Logie in 1969 for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Australian Television’, an award he would receive another five times across the 1970s. His productions also garnered over 70 Logies, 22 Sammys and numerous awards for scriptwriting.

In 1980 Hector was awarded a CBE for service to the Arts and, in 1984, he was also the first winner of the TV Week Hall of Fame Logie Award, an industry-voted category award in recognition of outstanding contribution of an individual to the Australian television industry.

In September 1984 the members of the Australian film and television industry also put their collective hands together with a testimonial dinner for Hector. Read Phillip Adams’ irreverent tribute to ‘The Silver Ghost’, published in this booklet for the event:

Testimonial Dinner for Hector Crawford, 14 September 1984. NFSA: 390574

In 1990 the Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA) gave Hector a Life Membership Award for outstanding contribution to the Australian independent film and television industry and his continued support of SPAA. In addition, at the Association’s annual conference, the Hector Crawford Memorial Lecture is conducted in his name.

With ongoing health issues Hector sold Crawford Productions in 1987 to Ariadne, formally retiring in 1989. In 1990 the company was on-sold to Bruce Gordon’s WIN Television Corporation Pty Ltd, which remains the owner today of the 4,500 hours of the Crawford Productions library holdings. The doors of the eight hectare Crawfords’ studio site at 259 Middleborough Rd, Box Hill, Victoria were finally closed in 2005 when it was sold and demolished and in its place now stands a Bunnings store. Crawford Productions under their new ownership has gone on to produce a range of productions, their most recent is Series 3 of the highly successful children series, The Saddle Club (see also The Saddle Club – Series 1 Episode 1, 2001 on ASO).

Perhaps the final words on Hector should come from those who worked with him across the Crawford Productions years in front of and behind the camera:

Nick McMahon, former CEO of Crawford Productions Pty Ltd, who began his career in 1973 in Crawfords’ then Concert Division. Interviewed by Jan Bladier and David Lee on 2 June 2004

  NFSA title: 670658

Actor, director and producer Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell, who commenced work at Crawfords in 1969. Interviewed by Jan Bladier and David Lee on 12 June 2003

  NFSA title: 586874

Actor Val Jellay, who starred in many Crawford Productions across her career. Interviewed by Jan Bladier and David Lee on 14 December 2004

  NFSA title: 670547

It’s also worth remembering Hector’s great wisdom, quoted from his interview with Albert Moran, that ‘TV is a gamble’.

Award-winning episodes from Crawford Productions police series Homicide, Division 4, Matlock Police and Cop Shop can be viewed at the Australian Mediatheque in Melbourne and copies can be requested for auditioning at NFSA’s access centres.

Citations

'Australian Television is 21’, The Australian Women’s Weekly, 14 September 1977, p 34
Beilby, Peter (ed.) Australian TV: the First 25 Years, Thomas Nelson Australia in Association with Cinema Papers, 1981
'The House Of Crawford’, The Sydney Morning Herald: The Guide, 31 July 1989, pp 1, 6 and 7

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Comments

There was a variety show, "The Entertainers", a joint Crawford & HSV7 production with Tommy Hanlon & Barry Humphries. It lasted only 14 shows and I have never been able to track down any reminants or even a mention of the show. It was produced live in the HSV7 Teletheatre in Victoria St Abottotford. I was a props assistant and really enjoyed the company of Tommy & Barry in the days before Barry evolved into his most famous charatacters.

If anyone has a link or a contact that could lead to some visual of the show, I would be most grateful.

Thanks

Neil Spencer

Neil Spencer on 14 Aug 2013, 1:13 p.m.

Does anyone recall ENCOUNTER WITH BARRY JONES broadcast during 1968 and included interviews with Malcolm Muggeridge and Arthur Koestler? One of Crawford's few non-dramatic productions -although there was plenty of drama surrounding the Koestler conversations.

Veronica Young on 14 Aug 2013, 1:18 p.m.

Extraordinary man, backed by an extraordinary wife (well do I remember Glenda in our loungeroom, singing as my mother accompanied her on the baby grand). Terrific article, and appreciated by all we Crawfords' kin - probably especially by those who keep up with Sam Hardman's wonderful Crawfords site.
No-one will ever be able to eclipse Hector in his field ... but then there's Ian; and I'm glad I shan't be around his his centenary article. (How can an uncle and a nephew look so bloody ALIKE?!)
So many of us still here to reflect on our great good fortune in having been participants in what Hector started. And so many gone.

Margaret Rose STRINGER on 14 Aug 2013, 1:36 p.m.

I'm grateful, as are a lot of other show business people, for the start provided by Hector (the salesman) and his clever clever sister Dorothy (the creative one). I had the honor of producing many episodes of Homicide and Matlock Police. All of Young Ramsay, creator of Solo One and initiating producer of The Sullivans. We also did tours of Liberace, Glenn Campbell, and the precursor of talent shows, SHOWCASE. You were a great inspiration Hec, and I wish you a happy birthday!

henry crawford on 14 Aug 2013, 2:31 p.m.

In 1968 I was the "Homicide"music editor.During this time "Ëncounter with Barry Jones" was produced.I was asked to edit the opening music down to a 30 second piece.I can't remember its name but I recall it was a commercial recording of one of Barry's favourite pieces.

Richard Felstead on 14 Aug 2013, 5:39 p.m.

Replying to a request from Neil Spencer looking for items from 'The Entertainers'- we have scripts for shows 1 - 7 and show 13 here at the AFI Research Collection, RMIT University, Melbourne.
Crawford Productions kindly donated a number of resources to us when they demolished their Box Hill studio site in 2005. These resources have become our 'Crawford Collection', a wonderful resource for scholars as well as fans of Australian Television.
We are open to the public, and our details can be found on our website http://www.afiresearch.rmit.edu.au/

AFI Research Collection on 14 Aug 2013, 6:17 p.m.

My three friends and I were young aspiring singers and musicians in the 1970s when Hector Crawford gave us the chance of a career in professional music. He had us trained, nurtured us and then invited us to perform with him several times at Music for the People where we became known as The Pied Pipers. As a result, we've all since had professional careers in music, so thank you Mr Crawford.

Colin Stephen on 14 Aug 2013, 7:38 p.m.

My Mum used to clean Dorothy's house!

Many years later I worked on the last episode of "The Sullivans".

Then before working on "Cop Shop" I was given all kinds of fill in roles.
I was Ian Crawford's secretary - for one day! He asked me to "take a letter" and was most unpleased that I couldn't take shorthand. So he wrote it out for me to type. He was most frustrated when I couldn't do that either.

Great days...
Happy Birthday Hector
Thank you for Australian drama...

I am currently finishing a PhD with Murdoch University (Perth) titled "Crawford Creations: What Would We have Done Without Crawfords?" Over the last seven years after talking to many Crawford people, I have come to hold Hector in great awe for his achievements; in particular, his relentless fight to create an "Australian consciousness" through local drama content lobbying, the opportunities he provided that made stars of many, not to mention the unprecedented nursery system of training that helped set up the industry for years to come - just ask George Miller!! Yes, losing the ATV 0 license was a big blow after so much hard work: Australian Telecastors Limited just didn't have the financial and managerial resources. But as it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. And Hector worked well with Ansett with three great shows on ATV0.

I am currently writing a chapter about Showcase and would like to share this amazing coincidence. As Helen has noted, Joan Sutherland became a "Crawford Creation" when she won Mobil Quest in 1950. In 1973, current Opera Australia baritone Jonathan Summers was the Judges' choice in Showcase 73. In 1981 Jon, my good friend from my days in The Proclaimers, and Dame Joan shared lead roles in La Traviata at the Sydney Opera House. Dame Joan was by then well established of course; Summers just starting out on a career that flourishes to this day. But for both "Crawford Creations" coming together like that 31 year apart is truly amazing. And what Hector did to help Summers win Showcase, the Sydney and Melbourne Sun Arias in 1973, among others, is an incredible story.

Hector's vision was far-reaching and to be deemed the "Father of Australian TV" is most apt. But we must never lose sight of Dorothy Crawford's outstanding contribution and ponder how Hector would have got on without her, and indeed many other core creative people such as Ian Jones, Sonia Borg, Phil Freedman, Terry Stapleton and Tom Hegarty. Dave Lee and Ian Crawford were the technical pioneers; Ian devoted his life to the company and his contribution cannot be overestimated! As Ian told me: "To make a program, to design a program, to make it, to storyline the whole package and to produce it, eventually – that was Dorothy. Dorothy made the bullets and he [Hector] fired them. And then Dorothy and I made the bullets and he fired and then it was Dorothy and Sonia who made the bullets and he fired, and then I made the bullets, and then Ian Jones."

Hector's amazing entrepreneurial prowess and skills as a salesman represent, arguably, 50% of his vision; the other 50% by those who "provided the bullets" for him to fire!

Philip Davey on 15 Aug 2013, 10:11 a.m.

Thirteen wonderful years in the Music Department and on Film Crews. Crawford's kick started my career, as they did for so many others. For some, Crawfords was just a job, for many though, if you wanted it, it also became your career and a second family.
Garry Hardman
Housekeeper - crawfordproductions.tv

Garry Hardman on 15 Aug 2013, 3:30 p.m.

The Crawfords family and company made dreams come true for 17 year old kids like myself. The Crawfords Music Department was alive with creative driven people, who mostly still work in the Film/TV industry. Thanks Hector, I use to love those Breakfast boardroom meetings that reviewed finished Episodes.

Warren Pearson on 15 Aug 2013, 6:13 p.m.

Thanks Hector for giving me a start in the Film & Television Industry - In Matlock Police..
Best years of my life.. Forever grateful to you

Tom Richards on 18 Aug 2013, 9:25 a.m.

I was 19 years old when I walked into Mr Pascoe's office and asked for job in TV. It was a Friday - I started work on the Monday morning at 4 AM walking footsteps ( foley ). 4 AM because the trams were not running along Collins Street at that time of the morning and the "studio" was quiet. Spent many wonderful years at Crawfords as a music editor, assistant producer, director, script editor and just about anything else that I could possibly find to do.
Fond memories of Crawfords and lasting admiration for Hector - his legacy lives on.

Bill Hughes on 19 Aug 2013, 2:11 p.m.

BTW, NO relation to Bob Pascoe...
As a teenager I was tolerated and tutored by John Jacob and Ian Crawford; it was Ian who explained to me EXACTLY how a patch field worked!!(NEVER forgotten) while from time to time as we worked with footsteps and music tracks for Homicide, Hector would dart in and out doing god knows what.... at those times we became SO focused on our work, (weren't we Sam!!). After work, mother (Della Paine, writer for CP) would talk about the last "plotting conference" and how the show would develop as a result. The enthusiasm, optimism and sheer sense of satisfaction we all felt as we saw our work broadcast was something special. What the Crawfords, beginning with Hector and Dorothy, have done deserves all the recognition it gets and then some; we were privileged to be part of it.

Bruce Pascoe (Paine) on 21 Aug 2013, 12:10 p.m.

We have a wonderful collection of press clippings about Hector Crawford, Crawford Productions and many of their programs in the NFSA Library. It's wonderful seeing the development of the business over time, and all the little details about the programs.

NFSA Library on 23 Aug 2013, 1:29 p.m.

Thank you Hector for my 45 year career in film and TV.
All due to Crowford production's family of staff and crews that I had the pleasure working with, and learning from. This working and training environment gave me a fantastic interesting lost time of starting work 45 years in the industry thanks Hector for crowfoot productions, thanks to David Lee and Jan Blader for emplying me in the first place sitting me up in so many ways in this wonderful family fun environment ( a young guy with no experience only a keen interest and enthusiasm to learn)

Regards
Ray (Jake)

Ray McKenna on 02 Sep 2013, 5:59 a.m.

In 1976 I undertook work experience at Crawford Productions during shooting of 'The Sullivans'. Whilst the details are sketchy now, I remember that there was a friendly and collegial vibe. Cars seem to constantly come and go, and it had a dusty quality.

So many Australians got a boost to their careers in the place, which saw people like George Miller, Tony Morphett, Ken Sallows, Roger Le Mesurier and Mel Gibson go through the doors—people who are still in the film or television industries now. Except for the actors, there weren’t many women, and where they were there, it was mostly in traditionally female roles like wardrobe, continuity and casting—although there was one in art direction. Grace Sullivan (Lorraine Bayly) was a great female character—smart, centred and strong (although in the end they did have to blow her up!).

Luckily women are doing so much better in key creative roles in television now, having cracked into the director roles with enormous success.

Lisa French, RMIT

Lisa French on 17 Sep 2013, 3:16 p.m.

My father Bob Cunningham was runner up in the 1968 Showcase. He sang & yodelled 'mountain echo yodel'.
He sounded and looked magnificent with a full orchestra backing him. I still have it on cassette tape from when mum recorded the original on the reel to reel.
If anyone has memories of my dad who passed away 28 years ago, I'd love to hear from you.
voakley.vo@gmail.com
Vicki Oakley

Vicki Oakley on 16 Jan 2015, 1:52 a.m.

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