Blacklisted: Cliff Carpenter & Jean Rouverol

2012-42 FEA Blacklist Cliff Carpenter Jean Rouverol H IPAD
Wesley Mann

"I went to the peephole, looked through, and it's two men with hats .. I was so terrified, tears were on the verge." -- Rouverol, on HUAC agents coming to her front door in 1951 to issue subpoenas.

Cliff Carpenter, 97, a prolific film, radio, theater and TV actor, is best remembered for voicing Terry on the popular Terry and the Pirates radio show for years until the outbreak of World War II, at which point he left to serve his country. A founding member of AFRA, the radio union, he first got himself into hot water at a 1942 meeting of the TvA, the pre-AFTRA television union, when he spoke out against the unjust treatment of fellow actor Philip Loeb, who had been listed in Red Channels. The sponsors of The?Goldbergs, the show on which Loeb was starring, demanded his termination; Loeb eventually accepted a payoff and resigned. (Not long after, he committed suicide.) The situation prompted Carpenter -- who was an active member of the Communist Party -- to submit a motion calling for blacklisting to be labeled an unfair labor practice. "I was so disturbed by what was happening to Phil that I had to do it," he has said, "though I knew it could take me down a treacherous road from which I might never return." The motion passed by an overwhelming margin, he was elected chairman of the committee and, shortly thereafter, his own name was added to the Blacklist, rendering him unemployable for years. Carpenter got the last laugh, though, as he continues to do voiceover work for radio and occasionally appears on TV shows such as The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and in films like 2008's Synecdoche, New York. Today, he lives with fellow Blacklist victim Jean Rouverol, whom he met nine years ago. He says, "It is a happy ending."

Jean Rouverol, 96, won a contract with Paramount Pictures at age 17 and made her big-screen debut opposite W.C. Fields in the classic comedy It's a Gift (1934). She went on to appear in 12 other films during the next six years, including Stage Door (1937) with Katharine Hepburn and Western Jamboree (1938) opposite Gene Autry. Then, at 24, she married screenwriter Hugo Butler and gave up film acting for radio work and writing. In 1943, before Butler went away to serve in World War II, the two joined the Communist Party. In 1950, So Young, So Bad was produced, based on her script, and her career held promise. But in 1951, agents for HUAC came looking for the couple. "I knew when the doorbell rang who it was," she has said. "I went to the peephole, looked through, and it's two men with hats … I was so terrified, tears were on the verge." They spent a month at various friends' homes in order to dodge subpoenas but, eventually, rather than risk jail time in America, they and their four young children fled to Mexico, where they lived for the next 13 years. They continued to write, often together (until Butler died in 1968), and always using pseudonyms or fronts. Decades later, when she returned to the U.S., Rouverol served four terms on the board of the Writers Guild and received its Morgan Cox Award for exemplary service and values. In 2001, she wrote a book about her years in Mexico, Refugees From Hollywood: A Journal of the Blacklist Years.

Carpenter and Rouverol were photographed Oct. 18 by Wesley Mann at their home in Pawling, N.Y.