Though many books have been written about Orson Welles, exploring his success as an actor and producer and his faults as a person, none have given a more intimate reflection than In My Father’s Shadow — a memoir by Chris Welles Feder, Orson’s eldest daughter. The book offers an enchanting and mesmerizing look at a man who was a mystery to many, but also a stranger to his family.
The media is already heating up. An Associated Press feature hit the wire just this week; click here to read it in the San Francisco Chronicle. Other forthcoming media includes NPR‘s Weekend Edition Sunday and Bob Edwards Weekend, Vanity Fair, More magazine, and Turner Classic Movie’s “Movie Reel” TV promos throughout November.
The book–which includes more than 50 never-before-seen photographs–is available in stores now. We’re including an excerpt and a few pics to whet your appetite. Come back tomorrow for a very special guest post from the author!
October 10, 1985. Orson Welles was found slumped over his typewriter. Sometime during the night, his heart had stopped. He had died not in Las Vegas, where he maintained a home for the third Mrs. Orson Welles, but in Los Angeles, where he had been living openly with his Croatian companion, Oja Kodar.
All that day, after I heard the news, nothing seemed real to me. I felt light-headed, as though I had walked into a soap bubble. How could my father have died when he was only seventy years old? It was true he had not been well for some time, but I had never expected to lose him so young, so soon. So suddenly.
Nor could I believe my father was dead when I had only to turn on the television and there he was, vibrantly alive. All day I sat in a daze of disbelief, watching the networks resurrect him. There was the middle-aged Orson Welles whose button nose twitched and whose great belly shook when he let loose with a thunderous laugh on the Merv Griffin Show. In another clip, he had changed from an amiable Santa Claus into a tall, flamboyant youth who looked vaguely like Oscar Wilde, a lock of dark hair falling in his eyes. It was unnerving to see him at every age in his masks and disguises, these versions of Orson Welles for public consumption, so different from the father I had known. Only the deep, resonant voice was unmistakably his. It was the voice of melting chocolate, rich and velvety, the voice that promised to always love his “darling girl.”
It was late at night when I finally turned off the television. For hours I lay beside my gently snoring husband, my mind shut down, my heart closed, everything in me still refusing to measure my loss. At last I fell into a fitful sleep. Then something woke me in the pitch black room, my heart pounding. The illuminated hands of the bedside clock pointed to four in the morning.
It was the hour when nothing moved and New York City slept. I listened for the faint rumble of a car, but even the lone drunk who usually ranted up and down Fifth Avenue had been swallowed up in the silence. Soon it would be first light, and I shivered, for suddenly I knew I had been shielding myself all day, but I no longer could. The soap bubble burst, and I began to cry.