• When one thinks of Orson Welles, one can’t help but imagine a genius alone, monolithic—an image perhaps fostered by his greatest creation, the colossus Citizen Kane. Yet as the new book In My Father’s Shadow: A Daughter Remembers Orson Welles, by his eldest child, Chris Welles Feder, reminds us, he was also a dad and husband. In a lengthy Bright Lights Film Journal review of this “beautifully written, disturbing, and painfully sad memoir,” Joseph McBride describes the author’s revelations about the difficult relationship she had with Welles growing up. The daughter of the first of the filmmaker’s three wives, she writes about Welles’s “chaotic” parenting, long absences, and inability to exist within any domestic parameters, and McBride does a terrific job of summarizing all the trying years the child spent—or didn’t spend—with her father. But McBride proposes a light at the end of this dark tunnel, ultimately calling In My Father’s Shadow “a poignant account of a girl and woman struggling to carve out her own personality and triumphantly succeeding, despite great odds, unlike many children of Hollywood figures who wind up being crushed into oblivion by their parents’ shadows.”

2 comments

  • By warren leming
    July 02, 2013
    12:43 PM

    welles was a great filmmaker, who led a marginal existence traveling the world in search of the money to produce his films. the fact that he wasn't a "good dad" seems rhetorical. this is not to say that the old boy could not be a tremendous "pain in the ass" devoted to his own pleasure and performance. one does not negate the other.
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    • By Barry Moore
      July 17, 2013
      05:02 PM

      Great artists are often flawed human beings. We can admire an artist's creative legacy without necessarily condoning or respecting their behavior, whether public or private. Having conceded this, I do think that it is more important to be a loving, compassionate person than a great artist, though, happily, the two are not mutually exclusive.

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