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Butterfly is a 1982 American independent crime drama film co-written and directed by Matt Cimber, based on the 1947 novel The Butterfly by James M. Cain. The starring cast includes Stacy Keach, Pia Zadora, Lois Nettleton, Ed McMahon, James Franciscus, Edward Albert, and Orson Welles. The original music score was composed by Ennio Morricone. The film was financed by Zadora's husband, Israeli multimillionaire Meshulam Riklis, at an estimated cost of US$3.5 million.

Theatrical release poster by Tom Chantrell
Directed byMatt Cimber
Produced byMatt Cimber
Written byMatt Cimber
John F. Goff
Based onThe Butterfly
by James M. Cain
StarringStacy Keach
Pia Zadora
Ed McMahon
Orson Welles
Music byEnnio Morricone
CinematographyEduard van der Enden
Edited byThierry J. Couturier
Brent Schoenfeld
Stan Siegel
Par-Par Productions
Distributed byAnalysis Releasing
Release date
  • February¬†5,¬†1982¬†(1982-02-05)
Running time
108 min.
CountryUnited States
Budget$3.5 million[1]

It received 10 nominations for the 1982 Golden Raspberry Awards including "Worst Picture", with Zadora winning "Worst Actress" and "Worst New Star", and McMahon winning "Worst Supporting Actor". Nevertheless, Zadora won "Best Female Newcomer" at the Golden Globes for her role, over Elizabeth McGovern and Kathleen Turner. This occurred after her husband flew members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to Las Vegas to watch Pia sing, producing accusations that the award had been "bought".[2]


In 1937, in a small mining town on the Nevada-Arizona border, Jess Tyler is the caretaker of an unused silver mine. His wife, Belle Morgan, deserted him 10 years earlier, and took their daughters, Janey and Kady, with her when she ran off with another man, Moke Blue. A 17-year old Kady shows up at Jess's place, telling him her mother is running a brothel, and one of the clients got her pregnant with a son, Danny. Danny's father, Wash Gillespie, is the son of the wealthy mine owner who refused to marry her. Kady is money hungry and has returned home to steal silver from the mine. Jess, initially opposed to stealing silver from the mine, relents and says they can take small scraps after she seduces him. They work in the mine together; afterwards, while Kady takes a bath, Jess ends up giving her a massage, but stops short of having sex.

Soon after, Wash arrives in town and proposes to Kady, and she accepts. Suffering from severe tuberculosis, Belle arrives with Blue and a mutual friend, Ed Lamey, ostensibly to celebrate Wash's engagement. Blue insinuates that he knows about the theft, and while the others are out of the house, Belle stabs him with a hat pin. Jess realizes that Ed must have witnessed the theft and told Blue. Jess rushes to the mine, where Blue is frantically pillaging for silver and taunts him. Jess sees a birthmark near his navel that is similar to one on baby Danny, and thinks that Blue is Danny's father. Enraged, Jess shoots him. Before Jess leaves him to die, Blue reveals that Kady is his daughter.

Returning to the Gillespies, Jess lies and tells them that Danny is Blue's son. Wash decides to break off the engagement, but Jess stops him from talking to Kady about it himself. When Wash fails to arrive on the day of the wedding, she despondently resorts to her original plan to steal the silver. She goes to the mine with Jess, where the two have sex while Ed looks on. The police come out with warrants for the arrests of Jess and Kady, and they are charged with incest.

At a hearing, Judge Rauch calls it "a crime against nature, shocking and repulsive to every basic sense of propriety, decency, and good citizenship." Jess pleads guilty, saying he forced her, so that Kady will not be punished. Jess is sentenced to 10 years in prison, and Kady objects, saying she was never forced, and the judge threatens her with reform school and 10 years in prison, as well as Danny being a ward of the state. Jess reveals that Moke Blue is her real father and the proof is the "butterfly" birth mark. Ed reveals he is Moke Blue's half-brother and has the same birth mark and did not tell her because of the silver. The case is dismissed.

Wash is waiting outside the courthouse for Kady, who realizes what Jess did, and is angry, but quickly forgives him. She says she loves him, but differently from how she loves Wash. She chooses Wash because of the life he can provide for Danny.



  1. ^ For a fistful of dollars The Guardian 6 June 1981: 11.
  2. ^ Waxman, Sharon (January 11, 2008). "Hollywood Con Job: Either Fix the Golden Globes or Get Them Off the Air". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 12 December 2008.

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