Quiz Show

Produced by Hollywood Pictures and released 1994 Buena Vista Pictures, 35mm widescreen 1.85:1 ratio, DuArt color, Dolby digital sound, 133 mins., DVD released Sept. 1999

poster from IMDb




"Based on a chapter from Richard Goodwin's memoir "Remembering America," Quiz Show follows congressional investigator Goodwin (Rob Morrow) as he looks into the fantastically popular -- and rigged -- TV game shows. Coached contestant Herbert Stempel (John Turturro) helps Goodwin bring down rival contestant Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes), who, like Stempel, was given quiz answers beforehand. The film's liberties include (but are not limited to) elevating Goodwin's role in uncovering the fraud, sealing grand-jury files that in fact were given to Goodwin, mixing facts about Twenty-One with The $64,000 Question, collapsing three years of events into one, and inventing dialogue between key participants. . . . Specifically, both the game show and Quiz Show seem to dodge the truth and create clear heroes and villains for popularity's sake -- more TV viewers in one case, bigger box office in the other. From invented dialogue to fabricated court transactions, Quiz Show often takes broad dramatic license. Because the film uses the names of real people (some still living) and has been positioned by its makers as a righteous statement on ethics and morality, the Quiz Show deviations raise provocative questions about Hollywood's conscience -- or its lack of one. "If Robert Redford had taken this movie and had changed the names, then I would have no argument," says Don Enright, whose father, Dan, produced Twenty-One and is vilified in Quiz Show. "But as this movie sits, it is now a half-truth, and a half-truth is the blackest of lies, because it's based on fact and it's impossible to fight." Says Albert Freedman, Dan Enright's producing partner and a character portrayed unfavorably in Quiz Show: "All of my conversations (in the movie) were fiction. . . . Everything that they have me saying is fantasy. "I think the movie's a lot of bunk," says Jeff Kisseloff, author of the coming TV book "The Box," which includes a chapter on the quiz show scandal. "I was astonished. People will look at it and think it's history -- and it's not. . . . Robert Redford has said in interviews he doesn't believe in lying for profits. But that seems like what he's doing here." Retired New York Judge Joseph Stone is among the film's most knowledgeable faultfinders. Working four decades ago in New York's District Attorney's Office, Stone led the investigation and prosecution of the quiz shows, months before the film's investigator, Richard Goodwin, came along. Stone wrote about the affair in the book "Primetime and Misdemeanors: Investigating the 1950s Quiz Show Scandal." "As far as I am concerned, the movie is a farce," says Stone, listing a variety of errors both large and small. He is especially bothered by the film's lionizing of Goodwin, whom Stone says was a minor player in the scandal and never did half of what he is shown doing. " (quotes from John Horn, AP, Sept. 24, 1994)


Filmnotes | revised 11/20/00 by Schoenherr