Quiz Show

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Quiz Show is a 1994 film which tells the true story of the Twenty One quiz show scandal of the 1950s. The film chronicles the rise and fall of popular contestant Charles Van Doren and Congressional investigator Richard N. Goodwin's probe of the show's game-fixing.

Directed by Robert Redford. Written by Paul Attanasio, adapted from Richard N. Goodwin's book Remembering America: A Voice From the Sixties.
Fifty million people watched, but no one saw a thing.

Charles Van Doren


I would give almost anything I have to reverse the course of my life in the last year. The past doesn't change for anyone, but at least I can learn from the past. I have learned a lot about life. I have learned a lot about myself and about the responsibilities any man has to his fellow men. I have learned a lot about good and evil — they are not always what they appear to be.

I was involved, deeply involved, in a deception. I have deceived my friends, and I had millions of them. I lied to the American people. I lied about what I knew and then I lied about what I did not know. In a sense, I was like a child who refuses to admit a fact in the hope that it would go away. Of course it did not go away. I was scared, scared to death. I had no solid position, no basis to stand on for myself. There was one way out, and that was simply to tell the truth.

It may sound trite to you, but I have found myself again after a number of years. I've been acting a role, maybe all my life, of thinking I've done more, accomplished more, produced more than I have. I've had all the breaks. I have stood on the shoulders of life and I have never got down into the dirt to build, to erect a foundation of my own. I have flown too high on borrowed wings. Everything came too easy. That is why I am here today.

Herb Stempel

  • Charles Van Doren — he wouldn't know the answer to a doorbell if you didn't give it to him.
  • This week on Twenty One, watch Herb Stempel be fed to the Columbia lions. Watch Charles Van Doren eat his first kosher meal on Twenty One.
  • [To a reporter outside the Congressional hearing room] You know what the problem with you bums is? You never leave a guy alone unless you're leaving him alone.
  • [To his wife] You wanna be worshipped? Go to India and moo.
  • You want to know what? If I do nothing else I will convince them that Herbert Stempel knows what won the goddamned Academy Award for best picture of 1955; that's what I'm gonna accomplish.
  • You know why they call them Indians? Because Columbus thought he was in India. They're Indians because some white guy got lost.
  • [Referring to television] That box is the biggest thing since Gutenberg invented the printing press, and I'm the biggest thing on it.
  • And they love me for the same reason they used to hate me, because I'm the guy who knows everything.

Dick Goodwin

  • I remember five-six years ago my uncle Harold told my aunt about this affair he had. It was a sort of mildly upsetting event in my family... The affair was over, something like eight years. So I remember asking him, "Why did you tell her? You got away with it." And I'll never forget what he said. It was the getting away with it part that he couldn't live with.


  • Mark Van Doren: For $64,000, I hope they ask you the meaning of life.
  • Martin Rittenhome: You see, the audience didn't tune in to watch some amazing display of intellectual ability. They just wanted to watch the money.
  • Rep. Derounian: Mr Van Doren, I'm also from New York, a different part of New York. I'm happy that you made the statement, but I cannot agree with most of my colleagues. You see, I don't think an adult of your intelligence ought to be commended for simply, at long last, telling the truth.


Dick Goodwin: He told me this whole story about when a Jew is on the show, he always loses to a Gentile, and then the Gentile wins more money. I mean, who could dream up a scheme like that? [laughs]
Dan Enright: [laughs] A symptom of his Van Doren fixation!
Dick Goodwin: The thing of it is, I looked it up: it's true.

Dick Goodwin: I have Enright cold — and sir, that means I have you.
Robert Kintner: Really?
Dick Goodwin: Really.
Robert Kintner: Then why are you the one that's sweating?

Dick Goodwin: Don't treat me like I'm a member of your goddamn fan club. Are you telling me everybody got the answers but you?
Charles Van Doren: You're so persistent, Dick. You know, I really envy you that.
Dick Goodwin: Was it just the money, Charlie?
Charles Van Doren: You'll forgive me, but anyone who thinks money is ever just money couldn't have much of it.
Dick Goodwin: Charlie, you want to insult me, fine; but you can't envy me at the same time.
Charles Van Doren: Jesus, Dick, if someone offered you all this money to be on some rigged quiz show, instant fame, the works, would you do it?
Dick Goodwin: No. 'Course not.
Charles Van Doren: No? Throw the whole thing in, the cover of Time, Dave Garroway, $50,000 a year to read poetry on television — would you do it?
Dick Goodwin: No.
Charles Van Doren: And I would?

Herb Stempel: Don't do this to me, it's humiliating.
Dan Enright: For seventy grand, Herb, you can afford to be humiliated.

Toby Stempel: My mother want to know why you only went for eight on the movies.
Herb Stempel: Because my real expertise is pain-in-the-ass in-laws, all right?

Dick Goodwin: [Dick Goodwin questions Dan Enright about evidence of Twenty One being fixed] Dan, I have it on the kinescope, it's clear as day. The man literally did a double-take.
Dan Enright: [laughing] He did a double-take? And who told you this? Is this Herb again? Or is this the Greenwich Village Beatnik?
Dick Goodwin: That's interesting, why is he a beatnik? Because he's not Charlie Van Doren?
Dan Enright: Yeah, you're damn right he's not Charlie Van Doren. You know, you got these crackpots coming out of the woodwork, you're snooping around asking questions. You don't have a shred of concrete evidence.
Dick Goodwin: Dan, let me tell you something. In this envelope are all the questions that James Snodgrass was asked on Twenty One. The odd thing about this envelope is that he appeared on the show January 13th, if you recall. Yet, he somehow mailed this to himself on January 11th via registered mail. I'd say that's pretty damn concrete, wouldn't you?


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