Green Country on the Big Screen: Killers of the Flower Moon

 

During the very last years of the 19th century, vast deposits of oil were discovered under the Osage Reservation (present-day Osage County, Oklahoma). Rights to the royalties generated by the oil production on Osage lands were assigned to individual members of the tribe by the federal government in preparation for Oklahoma statehood in 1907. Known as “headrights,” these royalties were inherited by each tribal member’s legal heirs, regardless of whether said heirs were official members listed on the Osage tribal roles.

By the early 1920s, the market for oil had grown to such an extent that the holders of the Osage headrights were bringing in the modern equivalent of more than $400 million annually. Tragically, a series of murders soon rocked the newly wealthy members of the tribe, murders which would wind up claiming the lives of at least 60 (perhaps more than 100) Osage over the course of the next several years. It was soon discovered that this conspiracy had been led by William Hale, a rancher who had relocated from Texas in an attempt to gain a share of this newfound oil wealth. Along with family members and associates, Hale perpetrated a string of murders to steal the Osage headrights, including convincing his own nephew to marry an Osage woman named Mollie Kyle and arranging the murder of her entire family before being discovered and arrested in 1926.

These facts and many others cataloging the inhumane crimes of the conspiracists were included in journalist David Grann’s 2017 nonfiction bestseller Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. Shortly after the book was published to rave reviews, rights to the film adaptation were bought and news broke that legendary talents such as Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Robert De Niro were attached to the project. Filming began in April 2021 in and around Pawhuska, Fairfax, Bartlesville, and Tulsa, constituting the largest motion picture production Oklahoma has ever seen. Released on October 20, 2023, the film was an instant success with audiences and critics, with star Lily Gladstone becoming the first indigenous woman to win the Best Actress Golden Globe for her portrayal of Mollie Kyle.

Fans of the film and anyone interested in exploring this dark chapter of American history can visit the area to see several of the locations featured on screen in the film, including:

Osage Hills State Park, Pawhuska

The popular natural destination of Osage Hills State Park was used for several outdoor scenes establishing the bucolic loveliness of the Osage County landscape. It wasn’t the first time the park had seen the big screen either, having been featured in the Oscar-nominated 2013 film August: Osage County, which also featured an all-star cast including Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep.

Water Bird Gallery, Fairfax

Located in a building that’s been a fixture of this Osage County community for more than a century, today the Water Bird Gallery offers a wide range of Native American fashion and decor. The building was both the actual and the filming location for the offices of the Shoun Brothers – local doctors who were implicated in the poisoning deaths of several Osage murder victims. Set dressings from the film’s production can still be seen in some of the building’s windows.

Philtower Building, Tulsa

Completed in 1928, Tulsa’s beautiful Philtower Building is one of the area’s finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture, and appears on screen as a historic post office. In addition to this masterpiece, visitors to downtown Tulsa today can explore the Art Deco magnificence of the Philcade Building located just across the street. The lobby of the Philcade houses the Tulsa Art Deco Museum, a treasure trove of historic artifacts and design elements epitomizing the heyday of this vaunted architectural style.

Sister’s Attic, Pawhuska

Situated in the historic building that formerly housed the Oklahoma Hotel, Sister’s Attic now stands as a charming gift shop on Main Street in Pawhuska. The second floor of the building served as a canvas for several of the film’s most important scenes.

First Christian Church, Pawhuska

This picturesque church played a multifaceted role in the film, standing in for the Guthrie County Jail, the federal courtroom, and the judge’s chambers. The juxtaposition of sacred spaces taking on such pivotal secular roles adds one more unique aspect to an already singular narrative.

Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, Pawhuska

Just a short drive from downtown Pawhuska, the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve boasts the largest protected area of tallgrass prairie in the world. Chosen for its scenic beauty, on screen the preserve serves as an immersive backdrop which adds authenticity to the movie’s historical narrative.

Kihekah Avenue, Pawhuska

The heart of historic downtown Pawhuska underwent a remarkable transformation in an effort to recreate the area’s 1920s heyday. Many storefronts were remodeled and redesigned, and several tons of dirt were brought in to cover the city’s paved roads, transporting the viewer back to earlier days.

Big Rain Gallery, Pawhuska

Founded by Addie Roanhorse, who was appointed the Osage Nation’s Ambassador for the film by Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear, the Big Rain Gallery served as the shooting location of the ballet school in Killers of the Flower Moon.

Chandler Park, Tulsa

Donated to Tulsa County in 1958, the diverse landscape of west Tulsa’s Chandler Park was chosen to recreate caves in the Osage County countryside. Today the nearly 200 acres of Chandler Park offer a huge array of amenities and activities, including playgrounds, baseball diamonds, hiking and nature trails, and a splash park for those looking to cool off during those long, hot Oklahoma summers.

 

Although the events recounted in Killers of the Flower Moon represent one of the saddest chapters in Oklahoma history, Green Country is full of sites and attractions celebrating the vivacity of our First Nations brothers and sisters. You can download a PDF document detailing information about filming locations for Killers of the Flower Moon that you can visit to experience the resilience of the Osage Nation that now thrives in northeast Oklahoma. Discover things to see and do when you visit Pawhuska, the capital of the Osage Nation. Or, find more information on the rich array of Native American attractions and events, historic sites, and more places to explore arts and culture all across northeast Oklahoma. 

 

 

   

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