Biographer visits Petersburg to research film star Joseph Cotten

PETERSBURG, Va. -- Movie buffs can easily spot Petersburg native Joseph Chester Cotten. He was in some of the most important films ever made, including Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, the Third Man and Gaslight.

He had a career on Broadway including starring opposite Katherine Hepburn in "The Philadelphia Story".

And he was best friends with a young man named Orsen Welles, who in the early 1930's would take radio by storm and bring Joseph Cotten along with him.

Cotten was born in Petersburg, Virginia in 1905 and had a wonderful and varied career.

His name, though, is often forgotten. Writer Marya Gates hopes to change that.

Marya Gates

Marya Gates

Gates spent this week researching the man who made Petersburg proud and whose family lived and worked in the city.

The research, Gates says, will lead to a biography she hopes to write in the next few years.

Gates also works for Turner Classic Movies and spent Friday giving a tour to Joseph Cotten fans, who met her at a recently unveiled highway marker, honoring the movie legend.

"He is a guy whose name isn't as well known as Orson Welles, you can picture Kane, as soon as you say the films that he is in, people say 'oh yeah that guy," Gates said. "so hoepefully he will go from being that guy, to a guy you remember his face and his work."

Joseph Cotten lived in California but when he died in 1994 at the age of 88, he was buried in the family plot in Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg.

Gates hopes that the new book will add a name, and a story, to a famous face.