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, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More 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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