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Jean Rouverol Butler Papers
WGF-MS-085  
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Collection Overview
 
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Description
The Jean Rouverol Butler Papers consist mainly of screenplays and correspondence related to projects that she worked on alone and with her husband Hugo. Notably, the collection includes Rouverol's FBI file from the 1950s when she lived in exile in Mexico with her family.
Background
Born in St. Louis on July 8, 1916, Rouverol was the daughter of Joseph Rouverol and Aurania Ellerbeck Rouverol, who was an actress turned writer. Aurania created the Andy Hardy character for the stage and went on to write plays and the 1931 Joan Crawford film "Dance, Fools, Dance." Jean grew up in Palo Alto, CA and got into acting at a young age. In 1940 she married husband Hugo Butler and they began a family, and Rouverol focused on her writing. While Butler served in World War II, Rouverol wrote her first novella and sold it to McCall's magazine in 1945. By 1950, her first screenplay had been made into a movie, "So Young, So Bad," but her screenwriting career was halted after it was discovered that in 1943, she and Butler had joined the American Communist Party. In 1951, the House Un-American Activities Committee attempted to subpoena the couple. Rouverol and Butler chose to self-exile with their four children in Mexico rather than face a possible prison sentence as endured by some of their friends who were part of the so-called Hollywood Ten. Rouverol and Butler were labeled as "subversives and dangerous revolutionaries" by the government and didn't return permanently to the U.S. until 1964. Acclaimed screenwriter Dalton Trumbo came to live with the couple in Mexico after he was released from an 11-month sentence in a federal penitentiary for contempt of Congress when he refused to give information to the committee. While in exile, Rouverol had two more children and continued to write screenplays, short stories and magazine articles to earn money. Three screenplays she co-wrote with Butler were accepted for filming by Hollywood studios only because they used fronts and kept their identities secret. The couple settled in California upon their return from Mexico. The two continued to collaborate on scripts, and Rouverol wrote the book "Harriet Beecher Stowe: Woman Crusader" in 1968. Butler died in 1968 and Rouverol returned to writing. She was co-head writer for the soap opera "Guiding Light" during the 1970s and earned two Daytime Emmy nominations and a Writers Guild award. Rouverol left the show in 1976. In 1984, she penned "Writing for the Soaps" and taught at USC and UCLA Extension. She served four terms on the WGA's Board of Directors and in 1987, she received the Writers Guild's Morgan Cox Award for service to the union. In 2000, at age 84, she published "Refugees From Hollywood: A Journal of the Blacklist Years" about her family's life in exile, in which she spoke about the blacklisted artists' refusal to plead the 5th Amendment against self-incrimination. Rouverol moved to Pawling, NY in 2005, where she lived with her partner Clifford Carpenter, another former blacklisted artist. He died in 2014. Rouverol died on March 24, 2017 and is survived by her son Michael Butler; five daughters, Susan Butler, Becky Butler, Mary Butler, Emily McCoy and Deborah Spiegelman; eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. [Adapted from LA Times obituary]
Extent
6.25 linear feet
Restrictions
The responsibility to secure copyright and publication permission rests with the researcher.
Availability
Available by appointment only. Material unprocessed but available for use.