Citizen and Father

Nov 11, 2009

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.”