Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon is a gorgeously filmed recount of the Osage Murders, a brutal campaign of terror waged against the wealthy Osage Native American tribe by a cabal of influential white lawyers and businessmen throughout the early 1900s. One of the most prominent players in this conspiracy was Willian King Hale, a cattle baron willing to do anything to claim “his share” of the Osage’s wealth. For those unfamiliar with one of the darkest chapters of American history, here’s everything you need to know about Killer of the Flower Moons‘ William King Hale.
Who is William King Hale?
Born in 1874 in either Greenville or Cambell, Texas, William King Hale was one of the many business tycoons who dominated the socio-political landscape of the United States in the early 20th century. During the decades leading up to the mid-1920s, Hale amassed a sizeable personal fortune through trading cattle to Oklahoman Native American tribes like the Osage, quickly becoming one of the wealthiest men in the state.
While Hale went to great lengths to present himself as a benevolent businessman, his enterprise was built on fraud and intimidation, as he frequently used bribery and threats of violence to ensure he had an unfair advantage against the tribes he traded with. This ruthlessness would reach a terrifying crescendo during the Osage Murders, the tragedy that inspired Killers of the Flower Moon.
What are the Osage Murders?
In 1897, the Osage tribe discovered and claimed a massive oil reserve beneath their reservation. Almost overnight, the Osage tribe became unimaginably rich, drawing the attention and ire of white onlookers. Driven by the racist belief the Osages were too “uncivilized” to manage their newfound wealth, the United States Congress passed a law that required courts to appoint “guardians” to oversee the finances of all Osages of more than half-blood lineage. Many of these court-appointed guardians were influential local leaders like Hale.
After arranging for his nephew Ernest Burkhart to marry Mollie Kyle, the heiress to a wealthy Osage family, Hart conspired with several accomplices to systematically assassinate Kyle’s extended family, with the end goal being to kill Kyle and claim her family’s fortune through Ernest. Fortunately, Hale’s plans fell apart when the Federal Bureau of Investigation was alerted to the suspicious deaths by the Osage tribe’s leading council. Hale, Ernest, and their co-conspirators were arrested after a lengthy investigation, but not before they successfully murdered many of Kyle’s family members.
During his trial, Hale pulled every string he could to try and escape justice, but he was eventually convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Unfortunately, he was released after only eighteen years. He worked as a ranch hand in Montana for several years before moving to Arizona and passing away in a nursing home in 1962, allegedly showing no remorse for his crimes.
Who Plays William King Hale in Killers of the Flower Moon?
Martin Scorsese is regarded as one of the best directors of all time, so it should be no surprise that Killers of the Flower Moon boasts one of the most star-studded casts ever assembled. Academy Award winner Robert Di Nero, a longtime Scorsese collaborator, will be stepping into the shoes of William King Hale. Di Nero has a long track record of playing powerful and unscrupulous individuals who use their power to control others, so he’s a perfect choice to play a man as corrupt and despicable as Hale.
- This article was updated on October 17th, 2023