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In My Father's Shadow: A Daughter Remembers Orson Welles Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 8, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Feder, the daughter of Orson Welles and his first wife, Virginia, tells the story of her search for a relationship with her famous father as well as creating an independent identity through a childhood and adolescence influenced by a list of affectionate guardians and brilliant but dysfunctional grownups. The latter category included her own parents: the author was still a child when they separated and her father married Rita Hayworth; her mother, meanwhile, went on to her own second and third marriages. Feder found affection at times, but it was her years in Illinois with her father's former headmaster and the headmaster's wife that provided her first experience of domestic stability. Her peripatetic life resumed, however, while her father arrived irregularly for extended one-on-one visits that shaped his daughter's budding intellect, but left her hungry for a deeper, more permanent connection. Her story conveys a powerful, intimate sense of Welles's creative struggles and her own part in preserving his artistic legacy. (Nov.)
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About the Author
Chris Welles Feder has spent a great part of her life working in the field of education and is known to many as a writer for the children's educational series Brain Quest. She lives with her husband in New York City.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is beautifully designed with the perfect half-lit, half-shadowed Rembrandtesque photo of Orson Welles for the topic at hand - and that is showing the shadow and light of his presence and non-presence in his daughter's life. (How ironic that he played "The Shadow" on radio!) There are also many wonderful photos and illustrations illumining the text in all the exact, purposeful places. This is a sensitive, touching, tragic and triumphant memoir. The beginning description of Orson Welles' sad, seedy funeral nearly brought tears to my eyes...and made me think of the veritably unheralded tugging away of Falstaff's enormous casket at the end of Welles' masterpiece "Chimes at Midnight," a portent of the director's own empty-seeming end.
But having been so gripped by the people who live within the pages of this book, I wanted to know...what happened to them all. Though not the book's central purpose - which is that of a father and daughter relationship - I really wanted to know what happened to the first Mrs. Orson Welles, Chris' mother who is such a controlling presence throughout much of the book...as well as her third husband, the demeaning, condescending Mr. Pringle. What happened to "Skipper" Hill? Rita Hayworth (the second Mrs. Welles) is in Chris' life for quite-a-bit, but then completely vanishes. Surely, Chris must have known and felt something about the ultimate sad fate of the famous actress: these feelings would have been of deep value to the memoir. I also wonder what happened to the third Mrs. Welles and Orson Welles' third and last daughter. And the mystery of Orson Welles' brother Richard - surely, if there is any "Rosebud" to Welles' life it would be the virtually untold story of his own brother. (The brother's story is teasingly hinted at in Simon Callow's first volume biography of Welles.) I truly would have loved to learn much more of what Mrs. Feder thought of all her father's films, including the many he starred in. One other matter: there is a photo of a superb statue of Welles sculpted by the true love and ultimate muse of his life, Oja Kodar, captioned as being in Croatia with 2007 as its date. Being a sculptor myself, I was - am - extremely curious if this is a life-size monument of the mythic movie-maker or not. Though his movies are his ultimate monument, a life-size statue would be a grand gesture of thanks, also.
Despite the book leaving me with many, many questions it is still and all a very worthwhile read, filled with pain, pathos, passion and....pride. The pride of a daughter...and the pride of a father. I have no doubt that all the shadows have turned to loving sunshine and somewhere, someplace the great spirit of Orson Welles is smiling down upon his "darling" daughter's remembrance as related in the pages of her memoir. And if cigars are allowed in heaven, he surely has one in hand and the tears in his eyes are not coming from the cigar-smoke, no, but from someplace deeper, richer and...forever fatherly.
This isn't really a biography of Orson Welles (and it doesn't claim to be). This is a biography of Orson's daughter and how her life is created, formed and lived around him and his needs as well as that of her mother's. And how Christopher finally broke away from them and forged a life of her own. (I also wish there had been more details about her half-sisters and her uncle Richard, but perhaps she truly doesn't know what happened to them.)