Woman Crawford, Dorothy Muriel
- Actor, Radio announcer, Radio producer and Television producer
Written by Maryanne Doyle, National Film and Sound Archive
Dorothy Crawford not only excelled as a radio drama producer, but was also a pioneer in the production of Australian television drama. Known within the industry as a hard taskmaster, Crawford was respected for her knowledge and attention to detail. As co-founder of Crawford Productions she made a significant contribution to the success of the company, which not only dominated radio production in Melbourne, but was one of the few independent production companies to successfully transition from radio to television in Australia.
Born in Melbourne in 1911, Dorothy Crawford studied voice and piano at the Albert Street Conservatorium in the Victorian Artists' Society building in East Melbourne. Following her studies she initially focused on speech and drama, becoming an elocution teacher and leading the Dorothy Crawford Players, who performed at church and charity functions. Having demonstrated initiative in establishing the Players, Crawford then entered the group in amateur dramatic radio competitions. This led to her being offered regular radio appearances on Melbourne station 3UZ in 1939, playing various characters on the program Happy Days, as well as the title role in the comedy series Little Audrey. In 1942 she was engaged by the ABC as an announcer but left to join her brother Hector at the Melbourne radio production company Broadcast Exchange in 1944. A year later with the help of David Worrall, manager of the radio station 3DB, the siblings started their own production company. During their early days in radio production, the Crawfords also established the Crawford School of Broadcasting to train radio announcers. The school was not only useful for nurturing talent but also raised funds for radio production.
Dorothy Crawford's experience in both music and drama was evident in her production of several radio series, editing, casting and producing each script. These innovative productions were a complex blend of drama and music, incorporating the skills of professional actors and trained singers. Broadcast in 1946, The Melba Story, a radio dramatisation of Nellie Melba's life with music, featured the newly discovered singer Glenda Raymond with the Australian Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hector Crawford. The series 'The Blue Danube', a dramatised musical story of the life of Johann Strauss, was awarded the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations Academy Award for the best half-hour radio program of 1948. In an ambitious move, Dorothy Crawford produced a series about the American theatrical impresario Oscar Hammerstein, The Amazing Oscar Hammerstein, said to be the costliest Australian radio production when it premiered in 1954. The reputation of the company was established by the success and popularity of such series, which incorporated concepts that may have seemed initially highbrow and uncommercial. Another successful vein for their radio drama proved to be crime. Their crime series D24 was based on files from the Victorian Police Force, who sponsored production costs and studio time for the first two years. This concept was later transformed into the successful television series Homicide.
Crawford's reputation as a perfectionist was well earned. Her grounding in drama was one of the reasons for her success in spotting issues in scripts and performance. In an oral history conducted for the National Film and Sound Archive, Wynne Pullman, who worked with her for six years as a casting director, described Crawford's attention to detail and dedication to the company, often working long hours and hosting working dinners with scriptwriters (Pullman interview). She not only excelled in writing, directing and acting, but also had the desire and ability to pass on her knowledge to others. In 1954, the Crawfords set up a television workshop in West Melbourne where writers, editors and producers were trained in the new medium. In 1960, Crawford produced Seagulls Over Sorrento for HSV 7 Melbourne, the first full-length television drama produced by an independent TV production company.
Dorothy Crawford contracted Parkinson's disease in the 1960s. She continued to work, though her influence gradually waned as she was unable to maintain her usual demanding workload. She retired in 1974 and passed away in 1988.
National Film and Sound Archive
- Crawford, Hector: Interviewed By Albert Moran: Oral History; Howard, Diane: Interviewed By Albert Moran: Oral history, 5 July 1979, 269137; National Film and Sound Archive. Details
- Pullman, Wynne: Interviewed By Beverley Dunn: Oral History, 16 July 1993, 270522; National Film and Sound Archive. Details
- Moran, Albert and Keating, Chris, The A to Z of Australian radio and television, Scarecrow Press, Lanham, Maryland, United States of America, 2009. Details
- Berkeley, Margaret, It's A Family Verdict, The Australian Women's Weekly, 4 July 1962, 38 pp. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page4917360. Details
- 'Radio Plays', The Argus (Melbourne, Victoria), 24 August 1938, p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12477817. Details
- 'Radio Features', The Advertiser (Adelaide, South Australia), 2 February 1946, p. 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article48689435. Details
- 'Academy Award of the Radio', The Examiner (Launceston, Tasmania), 7 January 1949, p. 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article52660834. Details
- 'New £20,000 Serial From 5 AD', The Advertiser (Adelaide, South Australia), 26 June 1954, p. 11. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article48132970. Details
- Doyle, Maryanne, Women in Radio - Crawford, Dorothy Muriel, Women and Leadership in a Century of Australian Democracy, National Film and Sound Archive, 2014. http://www.nfsa.gov.au/research/papers/2014/02/28/women-and-leadership-century-australian-democracy/#crawford. Details
- Crawfords Australia, http://www.crawfords.com.au/index_about.html. Details
- Colligan, Mimi, 'Crawford, Dorothy Muriel (1911-1988)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University (ANU), c.2012, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/crawford-dorothy-muriel-12367/text22221. Details