Frank "Budge" Crawley and Judith Crawley started out making films for Canada's National Film Board (NFB) during World War II. After the war they started their own Ottawa studio, Crawley Films Limited. One of a handful of independent studios in post-war Canada, Crawley Films and its competitors subsisted largely by making newsreels and commissioned industrial and educational films. Their first effort was an industrial film called "Bacon for Britain".
An early success for Crawley Films was 1949's 11-minute animated film "The Loon’s Necklace.” Written by Judith and directed by Frank, the film retells a Tsimshian "just-so" story in which a loon restores a blind man's sight. He rewards it with a beautiful shell necklace, which becomes the white neck band and hatched back pattern of nature's common loon.
The film was named “Film of the Year” in 1949, and has since been declared a “Canadian Masterwork” in honour of its charm and enduring popularity.
Crawley Films made hundreds of educational and so-called "mental hygiene" short films. The films were of a very high quality for the genre, with solid writing and good production values. They touched on serious psychological and social issues, areas usually avoided or treated very superficially in similar efforts from American film houses. A wise narrator or authoritarian character was usually featured - often Canadian icon Lorne Greene. Crawley Films made numerous sex education films in their "Adolescent Development" series such as 1953's "Age of Turmoil", "Physical Aspects of Puberty" and "Social-Sex Attitudes in Adolescence", 1957's "Social Acceptability", and 1958's "How Much Affection?". Other classics included "Why Won't Tommy Eat?" and "Whom Should I Marry?".
Crawley's educational films were distributed to North American schools and churches by the NFB, McGraw-Hill and the U.S. International Film Bureau.
Crawley Films also made numerous industrial films with titles like "Sinews of Industry". An excellent example of this work is the Imperial Oil sponsored "Mural" which documents artist York Wilson's commissioned installation mural "Story of Oil" which can be found in Imperial's offices at 111 St. Clair Avenue West in Toronto. Crawley's film, and other information on the mural, can be found on the York Wilson website, the unsurprisingly-named http://www.yorkwilson.com/.
With the dawn of the television age, Crawley films made a half-hour series called "R.C.M.P." Again, an unusal attempt to story and depth of character typified this uniquely Canadian series.
Crawley Films was a jumping-off point for numerous Canadian actors, writers, and film-makers. At its peak Crawley Films employed over 100 people, and many more passed through its doors, only to leave after a blow-up with the notoriously short-tempered Budge Crawley. Veterans of the studio include Geneviève Bujold, Lorne Greene, Rich Little, Gordon Pinsent, and Christopher Plummer.
In 1976, Budge Crawley’s feature-length film “The Man Who Skied Down Everest” chronicled Japanese skier Yuichiro Miura's quest to do exactly what the title says. Crawley acquired the raw Japanese footage. He extensively re-edited it, following a script written by Judith based on the skier's diary. The film won an Oscar for Best Documentary, the first Canadian feature film to take home an Academy Award. As Budge himself said, it was an "American award for a Canadian film about a Japanese adventurer who skied down a Nepalese mountain."
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Inspired by, but not eligible for, Everything Quests: Hollywood's Golden Age.