Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Cloudy 47° Cloudy
News >  Spokane

Jim Kershner’s this day in history

From our archives, 100 years ago

One of Spokane’s early attempts to become a filmmaking center couldn’t possibly have turned out worse.

Here’s a rough chronology of the brief and unfortunate history of A.J. Smith’s Southern Sun Film Co.

Smith gathered a company of local players, including Betty Thorpe and Elmo Deffenbach, to make a “photoplay” series titled “When Betty Marries.”

At some point in the filming, Thorpe was “deposed from her position as star of the piece.” She responded by suing Smith for back wages.

The first installment was then screened at a local theater to an apparently unenthusiastic audience. One of the audience members was the owner of Conley Taxi, who donated the taxis used in the movie with the understanding that the company would get free advertising – an early form of product placement. Yet the name of the taxi company was illegible in the film. So Conley Taxi sued Smith as well.

Both Thorpe and the taxi company won their cases, but Smith failed to pay the judgments and ended up in jail on charges of passing a bad check. The court seized the movie company’s camera, worth $400, and sold it to pay the judgments.

 While Smith was in jail, his wife sued him for divorce on grounds he had given her nothing but “40 cents since they were married.” She won the divorce.

“When Betty Marries” was, alas, never finished.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.