Killers of the Color Moon Teams Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese
Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone play a married couple at the center of Martin Scorsese’s Western crime saga The Killers of the Color Moon.
Spoiler alert! This story includes detailed plot points from the new movie ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ and the real-life events it’s based on.
Martin Scorsese’s new film ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ plays like an incredibly human horror story full of deceit and death in 1920 Oklahoma.
The 3-hour, 26-minute film, starring Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone, tells the story of members of the Osage Nation tribe, newly wealthy from the discovery of oil on their otherwise dry reservation, and the duplicitous non-Native Americans , who pounce to steal their prize.
But while it plays as an allegory, the story is true. Based on the 2017 bestselling book by journalist David Grahn, Killers is the result of years of research and interviews with Osage elders. The story explores both the death surrounding the family of Molly Burkhart (Gladstone) and the exploits of the fledgling FBI.
USA TODAY spoke with Gran to get the details on how the movie compares to his book.
Were the Osage Indians as rich as the Killers of the Color Moon series?
“Absolutely,” Gran says. “Because of the vast oil deposits on their lands, by 1920 the Osage were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world.”
The Osage Nation people were relocated by the federal government for years before ending up in a barren part of Oklahoma that wasn’t worth much in the early 1920sth century. But when oil deposits were discovered, everything changed.
Gran says that in 1923, with roughly 2,000 people on tribal rolls, the group “collectively received more than $30 million (in payments from oil companies leasing their land),” which translates to about $500 million in today’s dollars. dollars. And while “few Americans owned a car at the time, many Osages had many cars, as well as many servants, often white.”
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How many Osage Indians were killed to steal their oil rights?
Gran says at least 24 members of the Osage tribe were killed to obtain their oil rights, so-called “head rights.” A typical way to obtain these rights was to marry into the Osage family. But as the book and movie explain, there were sometimes shootings or slow poisonings to make the deaths look like mysterious illnesses.
While The Assassins focused on the evil plans of one man, William Hale (De Niro) and his hapless nephew Ernest Burkhart (DiCaprio), “the actual murders were less about a single plot or an evil figure with henchmen, and more -soon many murders that were never properly investigated. Many people were complicit: doctors with their poison, tombs concealing the causes of death, officers of the law who remained silent. Many have concluded that the actual death toll is in the tens, if not hundreds.
Did Molly Burkhart really meet with President Calvin Coolidge to discuss the Osage murders?
Unlikely, Gran says. “There is no evidence that I know of that Molly spoke to the president about the murders,” he says. “But it should be emphasized that the Osage did go to Washington and she may have been on a trip.”
Gran says that Burkhart, as seen in the film, was so distraught by her sisters’ deaths that she “vigorously fought for justice, offering to testify when necessary and hiring private detectives to help find the killers “.
Were the Osage murders the first big case for the new FBI?
In 1921, the young J. Edgar Hoover, who would go on to become the famed and long-time director of the FBI, took over a new office, then simply called the Bureau of Investigation. Hoover was eager to put his new group on the political map, so he eagerly sent ex-Texas ranger Tom White (Jesse Plemons) to Oklahoma to investigate the mysterious Osage murders after local law enforcement failed to solve the case.
“It was among the first major complex homicide investigations by the newly created Bureau of Investigation, which would become the FBI,” Gran says. “At the time, that office had limited jurisdiction over crimes at the national level, but had jurisdiction over crimes on federal (Indian) lands.”
Grahn adds that thanks in part to that case, laws were passed in the 1930s that gave the FBI greater reach.
William Hale was convicted in connection with the Osage murders, but did he ever confess his guilt?
“There was something undeniably evil about Hale, at his core,” Grann says. “According to the record, he has shown no remorse. It had created and reflected a pathological ideology of Western expansionism, boosterism, and a belief that the Native American way of life was ending.
the world went on.”
Hale served his sentence and died aged 87 in Arizona in 1962.
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Was there really a Lucky Strike radio play that retold the story of the Osage murders?
At the end of Scorsese’s The Killers, the director makes a cameo appearance as an actor in a radio play sponsored by Lucky Strike cigarettes about the Osage murders, years after the case closed.
Grann says the story was the subject of a radio play, but its purpose was less to share outrage over the treatment of Native Americans than to glorify the work of the FBI.
“Hoover wanted this to burnish his reputation and the reputation of the Bureau, so he organized these propaganda retellings of what happened,” Gran says. “The scene in the film touches on the question of how history is recorded, and is often recorded incorrectly. Of course, Hoover closed the case, but there was a deep conspiracy surrounding the murders that the Bureau never uncovered.”