Dick Goodwin discovers game shows are fixed: pretty boy WASP Charles Van Doren is fed answers so he beats geeky Jew Herbie Stempel.
Release Year: 1994
Rating: 7.5/10 (30,857 voted)
Critic's Score: 88/100
Stars: Ralph Fiennes, John Turturro, Rob Morrow
An idealistic young lawyer working for a Congressional subcommittee in the late 1950s discovers that TV quiz shows are being fixed. His investigation focuses on two contestants on the show "Twenty-One": Herbert Stempel, a brash working-class Jew from Queens, and Charles Van Doren, the patrician scion of one of America's leading literary families. Based on a true story.
Writers: Paul Attanasio, Richard N. Goodwin
Charles Van Doren
Mark Van Doren
Dorothy Van Doren
Fifty million people watched, but no one saw a thing.
Release Date: 14 September 1994
Filming Locations: Bronx, New York City, New York, USA
Opening Weekend: $757,714
(16 September 1994)
Did You Know?
Although the setting is supposed to be Columbia University, portions of the movie were filmed at Fordham University in the Bronx.
The address written on Goodwin's legal pad does not match the street address when they visit.
Mark Van Doren:
Cheating on a quiz show? That's sort of like plagiarizing a comic strip.
Excellent '50s tale of reality TV that wasn't
I was growing up during the Charles Van Doren scandal, and I remember
his face on the front page of the paper and my mother crying. When I
asked her what happened, she said, "He told a lie." He told a whole
bunch of them, in fact, and was part of the quiz show scandal of the
'50s, which Quiz Show so beautifully dramatizes. Robert Redford does a
fantastic job of recreating the atmosphere in perfect detail, as well
as the fascinating story of the '50s version of reality TV, the quiz
shows, going awry.
Paul Scofield is absolutely mind-boggling as Van Doren Sr., and Ralph
Fiennes is wonderful, handsome, and charismatic as Charles Van Doren.
The rest of the cast is marvelous – John Turturro, David Paymer, Hank
Azaria, and Rob Morrow.
Van Doren was a dream contestant – good-looking, educated, with a
beautiful speaking voice – and captivated the country with his
intelligence. Unfortunately, it wasn't reality at all, just fantasy.
But, as Van Doren says while verbally sparring with his dad, "It was
mine own." It sure was, and he went into oblivion because of it.