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. Written by
Tim Horrigan <email@example.com>
In January 1957, Herb Stempel and Charles Van Doren actually had a series of three scripted ties, and Van Doren finally won on the fourth game. While Van Doren lost to Vivienne Nearing, he actually tied her three times before losing. He had beaten her husband, Victor Nearing, earlier in the year. In April 1957, he signed a 3-year, $150,000 contract to appear on Steve Allen's show, guest host the Today (1952) show, and be a panelist on NBC's radio show, "Conversations." See more »
When Goodwin is talking to the Geritol rep, you can see oversize volumes of the "Dictionary Catalog of the Research Libraries of the New York Public Library, 1911-1971", which was published in 1979. See more »
Richard Goodwin became a speechwriter for the 1960 Kennedy campaign and then a member of the White House staff. After the assassination of Robert Kennedy, he retired from politics to become a writer. See more »
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.
59 of 64 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?