February 20, 2011

Orson Welles' First Daughter Speaks!

The shadow of Orson Welles has forever loomed over any discussion of cinema in my lifetime and if one were to ponder, even for a moment, what it must have been like to be one of his three daughters, then please take my advice and purchase IN MY FATHER'S SHADOW by Chris Welles Feder, the eldest of Welles' daughters by first wife Virginia Nicholson. Make no mistake, this is no "Daddy Dearest" by any means. If anything, this is the portrait we Welles buff's have longed to read. A first person account of what Orson Welles was really like away from the spotlight.

Welles was not without his faults and Chris Welles addresses his failure to be a father with great style and pathos. Welles chose her name Christopher with great care telling the world "Christopher she is here!" The book is divided into segments and none is more compelling than the prologue describing Welles' death and burial in the most shoddy of circumstances. He had asked not to be cremated and this was ignored by second wife Paola Mori out of spite. The book shines with Feder's candor and love of her father that never ceased even when he disaapeared from her life for years at a time.

I was delightfully surprised at how well Oja Kodar comes off in his daughter's eyes. Chris Welles see Kodar as the real love of Welles' life, a soulmate who inspired his art and well as his life. They would live together for the last 20 years of Welles' life. Kodar's life after Welles at her fablulous home "Villa Welles" is described here in loving detail.

This is a cornerstone book for any one who admires the art of Orson Welles because it fills in the shadows of his public persona with the insight of one who saw him away from Hollywood, as well as, a part of it. Chris Welles Feder has written a beautiful love letter to her father that reflects the tears and the laughter that was such a part of Orson Welles. His genuis has never been in question with those of us who fell under the spell of CITIZEN KANE at whatever age you saw it. What his daughter creates here is a 'fly-on-the-wall' access to Welles as a husband, who was not only a rather icy figure to her mother, but a delightful portrait of Rita Hayworth, the childlike stepmother whom she adored, as well as, Paola Mori, who remained married to Welles even after he left her for Oja Kodar.

Chris Welles Feder comes through the pages of this book as a proud independent woman, who, while neglected by Welles, never fell out of love with him and now carries the flame of his legacy with this wonderful book....and as always, Orson has the last word---he told his daughter just before he died that, "There going to love me when I am dead". My one and only meeting with Welles at the famous eatery Ma Maison is described in some detail in my own book LOST HORIZONS BENEATH THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN in the chapter on Christopher Lee. I hope you are now curious enough to pick up a copy.


  1. Great find! I will have to look for this book now based on you putting it over.

  2. Did he specifically ask not to be cremated? I thought his friend said that he had simply hated the idea of cremation and told him in the past that he never wanted to be cremated.

  3. Welles didn't actually make out his will, did he? Because of how sudden his death was.