Of all the myriad stars and celebrities Hollywood has produced, only a handful have achieved the fame - and, some would say, infamy - of Orson Welles, the creator and star of what is arguably the greatest film ever, Citizen Kane. Many books have been written about him, detailing his achievements as an artist as well as his foibles as a human being. None of them, however, has come so close to the real man as Chris Welles Feder does in this beautifully realised portrait of her father.
In My Father's Shadow is a classic story of a life lived in the public eye, told with affection and the wide-eyed wonder of a daughter who never stopped believing that some day she would truly know and understand her elusive and larger-than-life father. The result is a moving and insightful look at life in the shadow of a legendary figure and an immensely entertaining story of growing up in the unreal reality of Hollywood.
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.