Almost 40 years (and seven presidential administrations) have passed since Orson Welles narrated Freedom River. And although the animation shows some age, the parable, the commentary on America, still resonates today. Or, at least I suspect many viewers will think so.
The backstory behind the film deserves a little mention. According to Joseph Cavella, a writer for the film:
For several years, Bosustow Productions had asked Orson Welles, then living in Paris, to narrate one of their films. He never responded. When I finished the Freedom River script, we sent it to him together with a portable reel to reel tape recorder and a sizable check and crossed our fingers. He was either desperate for money or (I would rather believe) something in it touched him because two weeks later we got the reel back with the narration word for word and we were on our way.
And now another Orson Welles bonus. Tonight, we stumbled upon Welles’ 1937 radio dramatization of Victor Hugo’s classic novel, Les Misérables. You can stream/download recordings at the Internet Archive, or find it listed in our Free Audio Books collection. A previous Open Culture post points you to other vintage Welles radio recordings (including his famous War of the Worlds broadcast) right here.
For more free films, visit our mega list of Free Movies Online.