Horn & Thomes, Inc. Funeral Home
March 25, 2017
Jean Rouverol Butler passed away in Pawling, Friday, March 24, 2017 at the age of 100. Born in St. Louis, MS on July 8, 1916, she was the daughter of Joseph Rouverol and playwright Aurania (Ellerbeck) Rouverol, who created Andy Hardy and many films for MGM. After spotted in a high school production, she acted in her first Hollywood movie at 17, appearing as W.C. Fields’ daughter in It’s a Gift (1934). She acted in another eleven films until 1940 when she married screenwriter Hugo Butler.
Having four children, she did not return to film acting during the 1940’s, but performed on radio, including playing Betty Carter on One Man’s Family. While her husband served in WWII, she wrote her first novella and sold it to McCall’s magazine in 1945. By 1950 she had her first screenplay made into a film, but her career was interrupted as a result of investigations by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) into Communist influence in Hollywood.
In 1943, Jean and her husband joined the American Communist Party. In 1951, when agents for HUAC attempted to subpoena them, Jean and her husband chose to self-exile to Mexico with their four small children rather than face a possible prison sentence endured by some of their friends who were dubbed the “Hollywood Ten”. Labeled as “subversives and dangerous revolutionaries” by the government, they did not return permanently to the US for thirteen years, during which time they had two more children.
While in exile she continued to write screenplays; she wrote short stories and magazine articles to earn money. Three screenplays she co-wrote with her husband were accepted for filming by Hollywood studios because agent Ingo Preminger (brother of director Otto Preminger) arranged for friends from the Writer’s Guild of America to put their names on the scripts.
In 1960, the family moved to Italy so she and her husband could work on a film script. In 1964, they moved to Mexico for a short time and then returned to the United States for good. Living in California, she and her husband continued to collaborate on screenplays, and she wrote a book on Harriet Beecher Stowe. Her husband passed away in 1968.
She returned to writing in the 70’s. She scripted an episode of Little House on the Prairie, wrote three books in three years (two young adult biographies and a Gothic novel), and was then hired as co-head writer for the CBS soap opera Guiding Light, receiving a Daytime Emmy nomination and a Writers Guild of America Award. Jean left the show in 1976 at the age of sixty. In 1984 she authored “Writing for the Soaps” and taught writing at the University of Southern California and at the UCLA Extension. She also wrote scripts for the soap operas Search for Tomorrow and As the World Turns.
She served four terms on the board of directors of the Health and Pension Plan of the Producer-Writers Guild of America, and in 1987 she received the Guild’s Morgan Cox Award. In 2000, at the age of eighty-four she published "Refugees from Hollywood: A Journal of the Blacklist Years", that told of her family’s life in exile.
Jean moved to Pawling, NY in 2005, where she lived with her beloved partner, Clifford Carpenter, another former blacklisted artist; he predeceased her on January 9, 2014.
She is survived by her son Michael Butler and five daughters, Susan Butler, Becky Butler, Mary Butler, Emily McCoy, and Deborah Spiegelman; eight grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
A memorial service to be held at a future date.
Arrangements are under the direction of the Horn & Thomes, Inc. Funeral Home, 83 East Main Street, Pawling, NY.
To leave an online condolence, please visit www.hornandthomesfuneralhome.com.
Born: 7/8/1916, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.
Died: 3/24/2017, Pawling, New York, U.S.A.
Jean Rouverol’s westerns – actress, writer:
Bar 20 Rides Again – 1935 (Margaret Arnold)
The Law West of Tombstone – 1938 (Nitta Moseby)
Western Jamboree – 1938 (Betty Haskell)
Little House on the Prairie (TV) – 1974 (writer)