Buffington, Adele (1900–1973)

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Buffington, Adele (1900–1973)

American screenwriter who wrote scenarios for many of the silent screen's cowboy matinee idols, including Tom Mix, Tim McCoy, and Buck Jones. Name variations:(pseudonym) Jess Bowers. Born Adele Burgdorfer on February 12, 1900, in St. Louis, Missouri; died on November 23, 1973, in Woodland Hills, California; daughter of Adolph and Elizabeth (Friedrich) Burgdorfer; educated in public schools.


River Woman (1928); Times Square (1928); Phantom Justice (1929); Swellhead City (1930); Just Like Heaven (1930); Extravagance (1930); Freighters of Destiny (1930); Aloha (1931); A Man's Land (1932); Ghost Valley (1932); Haunted Gold (1932); Forgotten Women (1932); High Speed (1932); The Eleventh Commandment (1933); The Iron Master (1933); West of Singapore (1933); Beggar's Holiday (1934); The Moonstone (1934); Picture Brides (1934); When Strangers Meet (1934); Cheaters (1934); Powdersmoke Range (1935); Keeper of the Bees (1935); Hi, Gaucho (1936); Circus Girl (1937); The Duke Comes Back (1937); Michael O'Halloran (1937); The Sheik Steps Out (1937); Any Man's Wife (1937); The Gunman from Bodie (1941); Forbidden Trails (1941); Arizona Bound (1941); Ghost Town Law (1942); Riders of the West (1942); West of the Law (1942); Dawn on the Great Divide (1942); Below the Border (1942); Down Texas Way (1942); Ghost Rider (1943); The Stranger from Pecos (1943); Six Gun Gospel (1943); Outlaws of Stampede Pass (1943); The Texas Kid (1943); Raiders of the Border (1944); Flame of the West (1945); Bad Men of the Border (1945); The Navajo Trail (1945); The Lost Trail (1945); Frontier Feud (1945); Wild Beauty (1946); Shadows on the Range (1946); Drifting Along (1946); Shadows of the West (1949); West of Eldorado (1949); Haunted Trails (1949); Western Renegade (1949); Raiders of the Dusk (1949); Range Land (1949); Crashing Thru (1949); West of Wyoming (1950); Gunslingers (1950); Jiggs and Maggie Out West (1950); Six Gun Mesa (1950); Arizona Territory (1950); Overland Telegraph (1951); Cow Country (1953); Born to the Saddle (1953); Bullwhip (1956).

At 16, Adele Buffington went to work as a cashier for a movie theater and apparently fell in love with the silents that flickered across the screen, telling the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette in 1919, "there came an hour when I simply had to do it—and I did …. When everyone else was asleep, I would write and write and write." Buffington sold her first script, La Petite, to a film company for $300. She was 19 years old.

Buffington went to work for Thomas Ince, the pioneering motion-picture director known for his realistic westerns, who was the first to employ Native American extras for Native American roles. She wrote scenarios for many of the silent screen's cowboy matinee idols, such as Tom Mix, Colonel Tim McCoy, and Buck Jones. In the 1930s and '40s, Buffington worked with colleagues Betty Burbridge and Olive Cooper for Republic Pictures, a studio known for making hundreds of "B" westerns, nicknamed "horse operas" or "cow epics." Though the genre produced few memorable motion pictures, the fact that such films were authored by women like Buffington dispels any archaic notions that women "couldn't write action." By the time she retired, Buffington had more than 150 screen credits either under her own name or the pseudonym Jess Bowers. "It was a darn lot of 'horse operas,'" she told a reporter for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. Buffington died of arterial sclerosis at the Motion Picture Country Hospital in Woodland Hills, California.


Francke, Lizzie. Script Girls: Women Screenwriters in Hollywood. London: BFI Publishers, 1994.

McCreadie, Marsha. The Women Who Write The Movies: From Frances Marion to Nora Ephron. NY: Birchlane Press, 1994.

Obituary. Variety. December 5, 1973.

Vazzana, Eugene Michael. Silent Film Necrology: Births and Deaths of over 9,000 Performers, Directors, Producers and Other Filmmakers of the Silent Era Through 1993. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1995.

Deborah Jones , Studio City, California

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