Reviewed by David Savage
Directed by: Fiona Cunningham-Reid
Running time: 56 minutes (approx.)
Release date: 23 November 2015
Croc-A-Dyke Dundee is a documentary about how a penniless woman became a shrewd businesswoman amid rumours of being a gangster, arsonist and murder.
Dawn O’Donnell was a bit of a wild child and was sent to a convent by her mother to turn her into a lady. While at the convent she learned to ice skate and became a professional ice skater that travelled the world until an injury forced her to return to Australia in the 1950s, a penniless lesbian. Australia in that era treated woman as 3rd class citizens and homosexuality was illegal.
By the time Dawn died in 2007 she had stormed through the business world and gay scene owning clubs, steam rooms, car parks and sex shops and was well-known for drag acts in her clubs. But despite being shred in business and making money in whatever she turned her hand too she was accused of getting to the top by murdering a rival, burning down her own club and being involved with gangsters although she was never arrested for anything.
Overall, this short documentary (part of a double feature DVD with Wine, Women & Friends) was very interesting not only looking how a woman in the 1950s became a successful woman, especially as a lesbian which was a criminal offense, how she found niches in specific markets like the upcoming drag scenes and exploited it (the film Priscilla Queen of the Desert even had a scene filmed in one of her clubs) to how she was well-known for burning down her own clubs (whether it was true or not).
I enjoyed watching this from the point of view as seeing someone succeed in a variety of businesses in a time where it was almost impossible for a woman to do so and to see if she was indeed the criminal attributed to her. You will have to watch for yourself and decide if she was indeed a gangster, arsonist and murderer.
This documentary is a part of a double feature DVD with Wine, Women & Friends.
Available to buy from Peccadillo Pictures here.