Butler, an Irish immigrant to the United States, moved his family from Ohio to Hollywood, California, in 1908. At the age of 48, he wanted to get involved in a new industry called motion pictures. He appeared in more than 200 silent films. He made frequent appearances in films made by famed silent film producer/director D. W. Griffith, who made more than 500 films beginning in 1908. In addition to acting, Butler was a crew member and screenwriter of early films.
William's son, Larry Butler, born in Akron, Ohio, just prior to the family's move to Hollywood. Larry grew up in the film business, dropped out of Burbank High School to work with his father on special effects projects. In 1940, Larry won his first of two Oscars. He was nominated five times for Oscars. His first Oscar was for special effects work done on "The Thief of Baghdad." Larry is credited with inventing the blue screen and the traveling matte, both processes were necessary for all special effects and are used today.
Butler's grandsons, Michael C. Butler and David Butler, became highly respected cinematographers. William's grandson, Christopher Butler, is also a cinematographer.
The Butler family which began with William Butler in 1908 have made movies for 100 years, and the generations span the silent era, the studio era, the independent director era and the current era