Marc Welles: The Prodigal Grandson of ORSON WELLES
This weekend a new documentary Prodigal Sons, about Orson Welles grandson, Marc McKerrow Welles, was screened at the Telluride Film Festival. I haven't seen the film yet, but based on the synopsis from the press kit, it can probably be best described in the same terms as Orson Welles's first movie: "It's Sensational."
In fact, even if Prodigal Sons turns out to be a disappointment, I would have to say just on the basis I've what I've read and heard so far, it has to be seen by anyone remotely interested in the life and work of Orson Welles.
Significantly, the poster uses the same title type we see in the main titles for Citizen Kane. It also features this tag line:
"A brotherly rivalry between a man and a woman... and Orson Welles."
What I found especially interesting, was just this week, while researching Welles and the Todd School in Woodstock, Il. is that Orson Welles (according to The New Yorker's 1938 profile of him), had so desired a son, he named his first daughter, Christopher, because "he had assumed that she would be a boy."
In Prodigal Sons, we discover that Welles second daughter, Rebecca, the child of Rita Hayworth (beauty) and Welles (brains), actually had the grandson Welles would have been happy over, but apparently never knew about! Marc was quickly put up for adoption in 1966, shortly after he was born.
The family who adopted Marc were the McKerrow's of Montana. The father was a doctor (like Welles' own guardian, Dr. Bernstein) and the mother, a schoolteacher (like Roger Hill). Later Mr. and Mrs. McKerrow had two sons of their own, Paul and Todd.
Paul becomes an accomplished athlete, who later shows an interest in movies, (including a love for the work of Orson Welles). Then, in a bizarre twist that no screenwriter could ever imagine, Paul decides to become a trans-sexual. As Kimberly Reed, she goes on to make movies, her most recent being this documentary!
Meanwhile, Paul/Kim's natural brother Todd turns out to be gay. Of course while the three brothers, Marc, Paul and Todd are growing up, none of them know that Marc is actually the grandson of Orson Welles. Marc himself only finds out that his real mother is Rebecca Welles, shortly after Rebecca dies, and he then finds out the truth about his famous grandparents.
Here is the official synopsis from Big Sky productions for PRODIGAL SONS:
Featuring: The McKerrows, Oja Kodar, The Helena High School Class of '85 and Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth (filmclips).
Marc has had a rough life. Adopted as an infant, he was held back in preschool (putting him in the same grade as his younger brother), failed to graduate high school, and suffered a head injury at twenty-one. His entire worldview was that he was cheated by life. Then he discovered he is the grandson of Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth.
Unlike Marc, his sister Kim’s life always seemed to be easy. She was the first child born to her attractive parents, into an extended family of tall Montana farmers. She was high school class president and valedictorian, voted most likely to succeed. She was also captain of the football team — you see, Kim used to be Marc’s younger brother. Having these two siblings in the same grade in a small Montana town made for a perfect storm of brotherly rivalry.
Twenty years later Marc and Kim return home to their small Montana hometown, a springboard that hurtles Prodigal Sons into a year in the life of this Montana family, forcing them to face challenges no one could imagine. Seen through the eyes of Kim, the filmmaker, she is the most surprised of all as she discovers her brother Marc is still trapped in the brotherly rivalry she long ago abandoned. She sets out to unravel this complex history, and learns it is she who needs to resolve bygone days by confronting the ghost of her male past. Her rare access delicately reveals both family’s most private moments and an epic vista, as the film travels from Montana to Croatia, from high school reunion to jail cell, and from deaths and births to commitments of all kinds.
Marc and Kim’s relationship is an ideal polarizing test case for the universal issues every family confronts: sibling rivalry, gender, nature versus nurture, and the question of whether anyone can reinvent oneself. Their bond, which defies both Kim’s gender and Marc’s pedigree, exists as the fascinating heart of the film, and is orbited by a colorful, articulate cast of characters, including jailhouse chaplains, Montana farmers, intrigued high school classmates, and Orson Welles’ soul-mate Oja Kodar, among others. Carol, the remarkably resilient mother who accepts her children’s surprises with grace and optimism, provides a strong backbone for the family, as well as a clear-eyed entry-point to this drama of Wellesian proportions. All along the way surprising revelations abound: Marc’s innate savant ability to play the piano, Kim’s smooth acceptance from schoolmates and community, and their younger brother Todd’s well-adjusted attitude about being gay.
In the end, we see that transformation happens when least expected. After pulling for this family through its trials and tribulations, we learn that a poignant sense of hope will carry them through.