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Judith Crawley

Judith CrawleyJudith Sparks
b. April 12, 1914, Ottawa; d. September 16, 1986


A pioneer director, writer, cinematographer and editor and one of the first women to make films in Canada, Judith Crawley was a remarkable woman who was well known nationally and internationally for her many accomplishments and contributions to the burgeoning Canadian film industry. Heralded in her day as the “first lady of Canada’s film industry,” Judith raised five children while working in collaboration with her husband Budge Crawley at Crawley Films – the vitally influential company they founded together – where her contribution was equal to his.

The product of a prominent Ottawa family, Judith was educated at the Ottawa Ladies’ College before attending McGill University, where she earned a B.A. in English and Economics. A young woman with a deeply intimidating intellect, she met Budge through the National Film Society. After enjoying a courtship that was intensely focused on film, they were married on October 1, 1938. Influenced by the folklore scholar Marius Barbeau (the first francophone Canadian to win a Rhodes Scholarship), she suggested they spend their honeymoon shooting a film about L’Île d’Orléans, a rural Quebec community with deep historical roots where villagers still practised a way of life that had not changed for centuries. The charming Île d’Orléans (1938), which Judith scripted and edited, was the first Canadian film to receive the Hiram Percy Maxim Award in New York for the world’s best amateur film.

Inspired by this success, the Crawley’s continued to produce films out of their small apartment before founding Crawley Films in 1939, which they ran out of the attic of Budge’s childhood home. Judith started out as a script supervisor, but as the company grew she became director, editor, cinematographer and even lab technician on many films. She also worked for the National Film Board as a freelance camera operator and occasional director from 1941 to 1943. One of the films she directed at the request of John Grierson, Four New Apple Dishes (1940), was the first Canadian colour film ever made. For Crawley Films, she wrote, directed and edited the award-winning “Ages and Stages” series of instructional child-rearing films, which included The Terrible Twos and the Trusting Threes (1951) and From Sociable Six to Nosy Nine (1954). The series featured Judith’s own children and won her two Canadian Film Awards.

Pragmatic and exacting, Judith was instrumental in the success of Crawley Films, which at its peak rivalled the NFB in the production of sponsored films and had studio and lab space in Montreal and Toronto. The company was instrumental in establishing a filmmaking infrastructure in Canada, and became so prominent and well-equipped that it regularly leased studio space to the CBC and made films for hundreds of corporations and government agencies. It is telling that Crawley Films was actually founded as a partnership between Judith and Budge’s wealthy accountant father, who financed the enterprise. In her biography of Budge Crawley, titled Budge: What Happened to Canada’s King of Film, Barbara Wade Rose notes that “Judy’s talents and sense of direction had garnered the firm numerous awards and, just as important, a lot of revenue, while Budge’s work tended to be higher risk. More than one Crawley Films employee believed that Judy’s films had kept the company in business through its first decades.” (For an extended discussion of Crawley Films, see the entry for F.R. Crawley.)

Judith separated from Budge in 1965 when he left her for his second wife, Lenore (who also became a partner in his filmmaking ventures). However, Budge and Judy continued to reside together for several years as Budge split his time between living with Judy in Ottawa and Lenore in Toronto. Judith remained involved with Crawley Films until 1967 when she began her own production company with her daughter, Jenny. Somewhat notorious for her inability to refuse Budge, she still contributed to the occasional project at Crawley Films, including the Academy Award®-winning feature documentary The Man Who Skied down Everest (1974), for which she wrote the script. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Crawley Films began to flounder in the absence of Judith’s practical guidance and organizational savvy. By the late seventies it was facing serious financial hardship; Budge, who was prone to expensive flights of fancy without Judith to keep him in check, was finally forced to sell the company’s extensive holdings in 1982 for the sum of one dollar.

Judith served as president of the Canadian Film Institute (CFI) from 1979 to 1982. She personally won a total of four Canadian Film Awards, and received the Air Canada Genie Award shortly before her death for outstanding contribution to the Canadian Film Industry.

By Andrew McIntosh

Film and video work includes

L’Île d’Orléans, 1938 (writer; editor)
Canadian Power, 1939 (writer; editor; co-producer with F.R. Crawley)
Ottawa on the River, 1941 (writer; editor)
A Study of Spring Wild Flowers, 1939 (co-directed with F.R. Crawley)
Four New Apple Dishes, 1940 (director; co-writer with F.R. Crawley, co-producer with F.R. Crawley)
Canadian Landscape, 1941 (editor)
Who Sheds His Blood?, 1941 (director)
La Cité de Notre-Dame, 1942 (editor)
Alexis Tremblay, Habitant – The Story of a Farmer in Quebec, 1943 (cinematographer)
New Scotland, 1943 (cinematographer)
Four Seasons, 1944 (co-cinematographer with F. R. Crawley)
Montréal, 1944 (writer)
West Wind, 1944 (cinematographer; editor)
Know Your Baby, 1947 (director; writer; editor; actor)
Spring on a Quebec Farm, 1947 (cinematographer)
Summer on a Quebec Farm, 1947 (cinematographer)
Winter on a Quebec Farm, 1947 (cinematographer)
Creative Hands series, 1948 (director; writer; editor)
L'Île aux vacances, 1948 (director)
The Loon’s Necklace, 1948 (co-director with F.R. Crawley; editor)
Why Won’t Tommy Eat?, 1948 (director; writer; editor)
He Acts His Age, Ages and Stages series, 1949 (director)
Child Development series, 1950 (director; writer)
The Terrible Twos and the Trusting Threes, Ages and Stages series, 1951 (director)
Food For Freddy, 1953 (director; writer)
The Frustrating Fours and the Fascinating Fives, Ages and Stages series, 1953 (director)
From Sociable Six to Noisy Nine, Ages and Stages series, 1954 (director)
Dangerous Journey, 1956 (writer)
From Ten to Twelve, Ages and Stages series, 1956 (producer)
Legend of the Raven, 1958 (writer; producer)
Picture Making By Teenagers, 1956 (writer)
Beaver Dam, 1957 (writer; producer)
The Teens, Ages and Stages series, 1957 (writer)
Craftsmen of Canada, 1958 (writer)
Canadian Diamonds/Diamants du Canada, 1960 (writer; English version)
Ka Ke Ki Ku, 1960 (writer; English version)
The Land of Jacques Cartier/Toutes Isles, 1960 (writer; English version)
On the Sea/Les Goélettes, 1960 (writer; English version)
Soirée at St. Hilarion/En revenant de St-Hilarion, 1960 (writer; English version)
Three Seasons/La Pitoune, 1960 (writer; English version)
Turlutte/La Rivière du Gouffre, 1960 (writer; English version)
White-Whale Hunters of Anse-Aux-Basques/L'Anse-aux-Basques, 1960 (writer; English version)
Winter Crossing at L'Isle-Aux-Coudres/La Traverse d'hiver à l'Isle-aux-Coudres, 1960 (writer; English version)
Top of a Continent, 1962 (director; writer)
Quality of a Nation, 1962 (writer; producer)
Saguenay, 1962 (writer)
The Jean Richard/Le Jean-Richard, 1963 (writer; English version)
Whalehead/Tête-à-la-Baleine 1963 (writer; English version)
Winter Sealing at La Tabatière/L'Anse Tabatière, 1963 (writer; English version)
Growing Up Safely, 1966 (writer)
Global Village, 1967 (writer) Motion, 1966 (writer)
The Perpetual Harvest, 1972 (writer)
The Man Who Skied down Everest, 1974 (writer)
The Narwhals Came, 1976 (writer)
Evidence of Progress, 1977 (writer)
Song of Seasons, 1978 (writer)
There’s No Place Like Home series, 1978-1979 (writer)
Developing Tomorrow’s Energy, 1979 (writer)
The Food Connection, 1979 (producer)
Two-Way Window, 1979 (writer)
Dialogue and Definitions for the Third World, 1984 (producer)
A Path of Their Own: CUSO in Papua, New Guinea, 1984 (producer)
To Sense the Wonder, 1984 (writer)
Farm Energy Management, 1985 (writer; producer; executive producer)
The Start of a Lifetime, 1985 (director)

Note: Updated to June 30, 2005


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