Is It Always Right to Be Right?: Orson Welles Narrates a 1970 Oscar-Winning Animation That Still Resonates Today

Is it possible for a short film made during the Nixon administration to perfectly describe America’s current, completely screwed up political situation? Sure, Lee Mishkin’s Oscar-winning animated short Is It Always Right to Be Right? (1970) might date itself through oblique references to hippies, the Vietnam war and the Civil Rights movement, not to mention the movie’s groovy animation style, but the message of the movie feels surprisingly relevant today. You can watch the movie above.

The short, which is narrated by none other than Orson Welles, describes a land where everyone believed themselves to be right, and where indecisiveness and complexity were considered utterly weak. “When differences arose between the people of this land,” intones Welles at one point, “they looked not for truth but for confirmation for what they already believed.” Wow, that sounds just like cable news. As the divisions grew and deepened, the land eventually ground to a halt. “Everyone was right, of course. And they knew it. And were proud of it. And the gap grew wider until the day came when all activity stopped. Each group stood in its solitary rightness, glaring with proud eyes at those too blind to see their truth, determined to maintain their position at all costs. This is the responsibility of being right.” Wow, that sounds like Congress.

Then someone tried to temper this stark black-and-white world by saying things like “I might be wrong,” which starts a cascade of introspection and tolerance. Ah, the 70s – that innocent time before the 24-hour news cycle. A time before network execs realized that bloviating morons preaching the rightness of their own position just plain makes good TV.

A year later, you might be interested to know, Orson Welles narrated another animated parable. Watch Freedom River here.

Is It Always Right to Be Right? will be added to the Animation section of our collection, 700 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc. as well as our collection of Free Oscar-Winning Films.

Related Content: 

Listen to Eight Interviews of Orson Welles by Filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich (1969-1972)

Watch Orson Welles’ The Stranger Free Online, Where 1940s Film Noir Meets Real Horrors of WWII

The Hearts of Age: Orson Welles’ Surrealist First Film (1934)

Orson Welles Explains Why Ignorance Was His Major “Gift” to Citizen Kane

Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring one new drawing of a vice president with an octopus on his head daily. 


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  1. Jeff Blanks says . . . | August 13, 2014 / 9:19 pm

    Maybe it’s just my politics talking, but it strikes me that the left side of that divide has been doing this “I may be wrong” business a lot more than the right one, which still interprets it as weakness and acts accordingly. Much better, all told, to acknowledge others’ rightness first.nnAs for “datedness”: Go out some time and notice all the crewcuts, porkpie hats, and bowling shirts, and then get back to us.

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