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‘The Iron Orchard’ is a Must-See Texas Movie of Oil, Riches, & Love

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Based on the novel of the same name, “The Iron Orchard” is a film centered around Texas oil drilling of an earlier time. Tom Pendelton (the pen name of late author Edmund Pendleton Van Zandt Jr.) wrote the novel which was favored by those in the industry itself. Variety stated that this was most likely attributed to “its brutally authentic yet unmistakably sympathetic portrait of a West Texas wildcatter who traverses a dramatic arc of rags to riches to really bad behavior.” Thankfully, the movie version has its own Texas ties that will lend it the air of authenticity viewers will want to see, and that’s thanks in no small part to Camille Scioli Chambers, co-producer and native of Lubbock.

Of the film and the process of bringing it to fruition, Chambers recently explained to kcbd.com, “The director had it even before I came aboard. It’s been a labor of love. About 8 years to finally get it to this point on the screen. The book was written in the late ’60s. So really 55 years in the making.” Despite the fact that the book was penned 54 years ago, Chambers noted that its message is still on-point. “We love that its resonating. It’s not just an oilfield story, not just a Texas story, it’s a universal story about love and loss and going for your dreams and messing up that journey and getting it back. It’s a pretty universal story about struggle and achievement,” she told kcbd.com.

Shared on their YouTube channel by the Santa Rita Film Co., the official trailer for “The Iron Orchard” is captured from some great West Texas settings. Despite prior attempts to bring this picture to reality over the years, the independent production company succeeded where larger outfits couldn’t, incorporating Texas talent in the process. Following an inaugural tour of film festivals, the movie opened in Texas on February 22, 2019. For the most part, it was filmed in West Texas, with the Hotel Settles in Big Spring as its main backdrop. Filming also took place in the Texas Hill Country, in addition to Midland, Forsan, Coahoma, and Mitchell County.

The narrative is compelling and covers approximately 15 years, from 1939 through to the middle of the ‘50s. In addition to the film’s Texas setting and a native Texan release of the movie, the movie’s Texas ties also include the fact that cast and crew members were hired from within the Lone Star State. “It was done very much with the love and benevolence of West Texans… Just to be able to bring this Texas film home, we feel like we did Texas proud,” Chambers recently noted in an interview with kcbd.com. Oil industry companies donated equipment for the filming, while Texas businesses on location made it easier for the film to make the most of period props and budget restrictions. On a side note, Pendleton opted for his assumed writer’s name, in part, due to the fact that he hailed from a prominent banking family from Fort Worth and didn’t want to offend notables in the Texas oil industry who did business at his family’s financial institution.

The movie’s portrayal of the extents of fortune and misfortune fought for and earned in this Texas industry in the early 20th century is beguiling. Once you get a glimpse of the plot and how it thickens, producing the elusive respect and riches the protagonist often yearns for, only to have a mixture of fate and self-absorption play key roles on the brink of their demise, you’ll become absorbed in this must-see film. More details on “The Iron Orchard” movie can be found on its Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, or you can visit its official website at the link available here.