Chris Welles Feder’s “The Movie Director”
I just received a copy of Chris Welles Feder's book of fictional poems entitled The Movie Director and I was struck by several of the pieces which form a "wonderful portrait of Chris Welles' father - although it's a portrait that the author stresses is in many places entirely fictional.
Below is one of the poems that I think beautifully captures the general reception Welles received during his last years in Hollywood.
MARINA AT HOLLYWOOD'S MEMORIAL
Producers, deal-makers, lured by his death
to this hired hall, where were you all
when he needed you? Easy to call him your "Poet of Film"
now he is dead. While he lived, you locked arms
against him and called him a "failed genius."
How sadly he told me, "They think I'm too old,
but what about George Bernard Shaw, Picasso
or Monte Verdi, seventy-five when he wrote his last opera?
For a man of his time, he was older than God,
but nobody told him, 'You're history, baby.'"
Now hear this about your "self-indulgent genius!"
How often he worked from dawn to dawn,
rewriting scripts, cigar stub clamped between his teeth,
the floor around him papered with ideas!
New ways to win you drove him through the days.
When I raged at the lack of justice, he observed,
"I don't believe in justice but in luck. You never know
what kind you'll get; that's why you can't give up.
I learned that from my father who died broke but happy.
If you lose today, you could still win big tomorrow."
The films of your "failed genius" are hailed in every land
except his own, where his foreign work is damned
as "technically flawed" (in other words, not made in Hollywood).
Listen! Genius is not a wisdom tooth a man can lose
but the handprint one man makes on the wall of time!
And thank's to Eve for posting this article with more details on The Movie Director from the Locarno film festival.
My Father The Hero - How it felt to grow up with a legend
by Geoffrey Macnab - Pardo News August 11, 2005
In Locarno for the Orson Welles retrospective, the late director's daughter Christopher Welles reminisces about her father; discusses the book she has written about him, and reflects on her own career as author and inventor.
No specific name is mentioned in Chris Welles's book, The Movie Director, but she doesn't expect readers will have much difficulty in working out who it is about. "This is not meant to be a literal portrait of my father. It's a fictive portrait, a work of imagination. The idea is that the movie director becomes a metaphor for the artist working in Hollywood." The book includes poetry and dramatic monologues. Here in Locarno, she has been selling copies in aid of the Munich Film Museum, where Orson Welles's unfinished films are lodged.
Born in the late 1930s, Chris Welles grew up in Hollywood. Welles divorced her mother when Chris was still a very young child, but her parents remained on amicable terms. They were very friendly. He lived next door to us and was in and out of our house all the time. Chris was five years old when she first saw her father on stage, performing as part of The Mercury Wonder Show to raise the morale of US troops in the Second World War. This was a magic show featuring lions, leopards, clowns and acrobats as well as plenty of magic tricks from the maestro himself. One of Welles routines, captures for posterity in the propaganda film Follow The Boys, especially captivated his young daughter. Every night, he would saw a woman in half. The first time Chris saw the trick performed, the woman in the big long box was Rita Hayworth. He would start sawing away and the box would separate. Then he would put the box back together and the woman would come out and she would be fine.
Chris clearly shares some of her father's ingenuity. In 1992, under the slogan It's OK to be Smart, she invented an educational card game called Brain Quest. The game, based on information children need to learn during their schooling, has become a bestseller. Since Orson Welles died in 1985, she notes, many new books about him have been published. Plays are being written in which he is a character. There are many documentaries. Here in Locarno, Chris has learned something new every day about her father. In particular, she was inspired by Robert Fischer's work-in-progress, Citizen Of America, about Welles's radio campaign to bring justice a racist cop. "I loved learning this because not only was my father a great artist but he was a man of high principle who fought for his ideas, even if it cost him personally."
Her philosophy about how Welles legacy should be handled is unequivocal. "I believe my father's work should be shown at every opportunity, even his unfinished work. Everything should be shown because everything is valuable."
This is not a view shared by her half-sister Beatrice Welles, who has stopped certain screenings of Welles's films at festivals and retrospectives. "I'm not in touch with my sister Beatrice and I am not in agreement with what she is doing," Chris declares. "I am as amazed as you are. I don't understand it."