Christopher is the daughter of Welles’ first wife, Virginia Nicolson, a socialite who had a brief acting career and an equally brief marriage to the mercurial young Orson.
Their relationship came to a sudden end when Virginia visited a hotel room Welles was keeping in New York City and found a cache of love letters from other women, including her nest friend. Even though Virginia was pregnant with Christopher, she tried to throw herself out a window but couldn’t get it to open.
The fact that Virginia’s last name is often misspelled (as Nicholson) in writings on Welles is a sign of how deeply she and her daughter vanished into obscurity, making them tantalizingly vague figures in biographies of Welles. You could get cryptic glimpses of Christopher, at age nine, acting in her father’s 1948 film of “Macbeth,” oddly cast as the murdered boy child of Macduff.
Welles assumed his first-born would be a boy. When she was born he sent a telegram to friends and associates that stated, ‘Christopher, she is born.’
When she asked him about her name, he replied, ‘Your name has a marvelous ring to it, don’t you think? You’re the only girl in the world who is named Christopher, and that makes you unique as well as beautiful.’
Chris became the only girl to attend the Todd School for Boys, the progressive Illinois boarding school run by Roger Hill, Orson’s surrogate father. The same school Orson and his forgotten brother, Richard, attended.