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Quiz Show
Quiz Show
Actors: John Turturro, Rob Morrow, Ralph Fiennes, Paul Scofield, David Paymer
Genres: Drama
PG-13     1999     2hr 13min

Academy Award(R)-winner Robert Redford's (1981, Best Director, ORIDINARY PEOPLE) critically acclaimed triumph, QUIZ SHOW, was cheered as one of the year's 10 best films by more than 80 critics nationwide. It's an exciting ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: John Turturro, Rob Morrow, Ralph Fiennes, Paul Scofield, David Paymer
Genres: Drama
Sub-Genres: Family Life
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 09/07/1999
Original Release Date: 09/14/1994
Theatrical Release Date: 09/14/1994
Release Year: 1999
Run Time: 2hr 13min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English, French

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Member Movie Reviews

Sharon F. (Shar) from HIALEAH, FL
Reviewed on 4/20/2023...
I love quiz shows and watch several on a regular basis. After watching this movie, I wonder if I'm wasting my time! I'm sure that this issue has been fixed since the 50s and everything is legit now. It was a very interesting and enlightening movie.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Michel D. (michelann) from WALNUT GROVE, MO
Reviewed on 8/22/2018...
Game shows have never been my favorite TV watching but this insider view of the the goings on backstage is exciting and very telling of the corruption and greed involved when there is high stakes winnings involved! Well acted and produced and directed by Robert Redford. Ralph Fiennes could be Bradley Coopers twin in my opinion!
Diane C. from TAMPA, FL
Reviewed on 6/30/2014...
Most people seem to really like this movie. It seemed a little slow moving to me and I gave up on it before seeing the entire movie. I loved the setting and the actors, though.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Edgar R. (edgarshoe) from CALEXICO, CA
Reviewed on 5/27/2010...
It's very smart, naturally, but also funny.

Movie Reviews

A time of innocence and the deception of the pubic
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 03/31/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Directed by Robert Redford and nominated for several Academy Awards, this 1994 film tells the true story of the quiz show "21" in the 1950s and how the contestants were given the answers ahead of time and coached for the show. As a child at the time I remember the hoopla and how whole families would watch this show together, holding their collective breaths during the competitions for big money. It was a time of innocence and the viewing community was deceived. And never again have the networks won that kind of public trust. Paul Attansio adapted the screenplay from the book written by Richard N. Goodwin who was the government investigator at the time. In the film this role is played by Rob Morrow who is determined to uncover the deception. All the other actors are excellent too - most notably John Turturro who is cast as a Jewish man from Queens who is allowed to win for seven weeks before being replaced by Charles Van Doran, a professor at Columbia who came from a long line of scholars. Paul Scofield also shines in the role of Van Doran's father, who stands by his son even though the family is disgraced by the publicity. It's not just the quiz show phenomenon that comes alive in this film. It is the nature of the times as well as the anti-Semitic undercurrent and cultural conflict that was endemic. Usually, when I see a film about the fifties, it looks like someone's imagination of what those times were like. But this film was different. I really felt I was right back there, many years before computers or even color television, sitting wide-eyed in front of that black and white set and admiring the contestants for being so smart. Times have changed. Now, we know we're being manipulated. And there is no outrage. I was unprepared to love this film so much. There is tension throughout and consistently wonderful acting. The dialog was authentic and the actors all played their roles with subtlety. They became the characters in the film and I wound up caring about all of them. "Quiz Show" is a simply wonderful film and I give it one of my highest recommendations. Don't miss it."
"They just wanted to watch the money."
Themis-Athena | from somewhere between California and Germany | 05/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Ah, the good ol' Fifties. The time when, after decades of depression and war, people finally wanted to get on with their lives, rebuild the economy and sweep everything dark and dirty under a big rug (including the escalating arms race with the Soviet Union). When television was everybody's new best friend, and ruled by the likes of Ed Sullivan, Lassie, Bozo the Clown and Lucy ... and by quiz shows.

Well aware of the contests' new, uniquely thrilling live entertainment, studio executives and sponsors quickly capitalized on their appeal, eager to maximize the resulting profits. To that end, however, the shows' outcome couldn't be left to chance: Then as now, viewers were looking for the "right" kind of hero to identify with; so ultimately it was unthinkable to let someone like Herbert Stempel (John Turturro) - not only an annoying nerd with thick glasses and bad teeth but worse, an annoying *Jewish* nerd with thick glasses and bad teeth - win the famous "Twenty-One" for more than a couple of weeks. A more suitable replacement was found in Columbia University lecturer Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes), descendant of one of New England's foremost intellectual families and, in the words of the show's co-producer Albert Freedman (Hank Azaria), soon the TV nation's new "great white hope." A brilliant intellectual who nevertheless felt eternally inferior to his Pulitzer Prize-winning father, poet Mark Van Doren (Paul Scofield), his mother (Elizabeth Wilson), likewise a distinguished author, and his uncle, Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Van Doren, Charles ultimately agreed to sell his integrity for a high flight to fame and fortune on borrowed wings, and thus succumbed to the one force driving a quiz show's appeal more than anything else: money, and astronomically large sums thereof.

Based on former Congressional investigator and Kennedy speechwriter Richard Goodwin's "Remembering America: A Voice From the Sixties" and scripted by Paul Attanasio, Robert Redford's 1994 film brilliantly traces the "Twenty-One" scandal - the biggest of several scandals involving rigged quiz shows - from the moment Stempel was told to take a humiliating dive and pass the helm to Van Doren (Goodwin also co-produced). The movie's tone is set from the opening scene, which focuses on neither of the contestants but Goodwin himself (Rob Morrow), newly arrived in Washington with a first-in-his-class Harvard Law School degree in his pockets, and admiring the latest thing in automobile technology in a Chrysler showroom ("Used to be the man drives the car, now the car drives the man," he eventually comments, wowed by the dealer's sales talk). Turning on the radio, they catch an announcer's remark on the Sputnik launch: "All is not well with America" (but "America doesn't own the [Chrysler] 300," the dealer responds). Then Goodwin changes the station and the film's opening credits begin to roll, significantly over Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife" from Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's "Threepenny Opera:" Although originally conceived as a "Moritat," a darkly cynical ballad, Darin's swinging, upbeat 1959 version, a No. 1 hit for all of 22 weeks (1 1/2 times as long as Van Doren reigned on "Twenty-One") musically pulls every last tooth out of the song's sharp-edged lyrics; just as television's goody-two-shoes pseudo-reality and America's newfound prosperity seemed to obliterate the era's grimmer sociopolitical truths.

"Quiz Show" has been described, in turns, as a political thriller, a morality play, a parable on the loss of innocence and a fact-based drama; and it is all that, and more. It obviously has to be seen in context with "All the President's Men," Redford's 1976 film costarring Dustin Hoffman and Jason Robards, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Woodward-Bernstein account on Watergate. Just as America lost its political innocence there, it had already lost its innocence vis-a-vis showbiz in the quiz show scandals. But this is also a fascinating exploration of the scandal's underlying psychology; of that mix of insecurity, greed, ambition, hero-worship, prejudice and self-deception which made the manipulation possible in the first place and allowed it to go undetected for so long.

Of the movie's tremendous cast, John Turturro, Ralph Fiennes and Paul Scofield particularly give standout performances as the nerdy, deeply humiliated Herb Stempel, the dazzling Ivy Leaguer Charles Van Doren and his intellectually brilliant, unwaveringly supportive and profoundly moral father Mark, who can snap out a Shakespeare quote appropriate to any situation at the drop of a hat. Rob Morrow's Dick Goodwin, the Jewish kid from Brookline who made it to Harvard and D.C. but is still occasionally up against prejudice, is not far behind (although I confess I sometimes find his accent a tad unconvincingly thick; more so than Fiennes's and Scofield's more refined New England versions). Not to be overlooked are also their female costars - besides Elizabeth Wilson, Mira Sorvino and Johann Carlo as Goodwin's and Stempel's wives - and of course the gang responsible for the goings-on at "Twenty-One:" David Paymer as slick producer Dan Enright, Hank Azaria as his sidekick, Christopher McDonald as host Jack Barry, Allan Rich as NBC boss Robert Kintner and Martin Scorsese in a rare and deadpan appearance as an actor as corporate sponsor Geritol's chairman Martin Rittenhome. (Besides, watch for Barry Levinson as "Today Show" host Dave Garroway and Calista Flockhart and Ethan Hawke [uncredited] as star-struck students).

When first setting out to investigate "Twenty-One," Goodwin aimed no lower than putting television itself on trial. But while the Congressional hearings did cause the downfall of the show and its greatest champion, Enright and Barry soon returned to television, and none of the others responsible for the manipulations suffered any consequences at all. Quiz shows are more popular than ever. "Give the public what they want ... It's entertainment. We're not exactly hardened criminals here. We're in showbusiness," was Al Freedman's cynical conclusion. And the movie's last words are again those of Berthold Brecht, but this time in Lyle Lovett's much darker version of the Moritat: "Mackie, how much did you charge ...?"

"Millionaire," anyone?

Also recommended:
Remembering America : A Voice From the Sixties
American Justice - Quiz Show Scandal and Other Frauds
The Fifties
As Seen on TV: The Visual Culture of Everyday Life in the 1950s
Good Night, and Good Luck (Widescreen Edition)
All the President's Men (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Strange Days
The Threepenny Opera - Criterion Collection"
Superb recounting of the Quiz Show Scandals
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 10/01/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Although not a reason this movie is so good, I would like to begin by stating that as a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University of Arkadelphia, Arkansas, I believe this is the only movie ever made that mentions Arkadelphia. And not just once, but twice!There are many, many reasons this movie succeeds so marvelously, but I would like to focus on three.First, this movie benefits from an exceedingly fine cast. Not merely the leads, but many of the lesser roles are filled with extremely good actors and actresses. While Ralph Fiennes, John Tuturro, and Rob Morrow all shine in the leads, lesser parts are filled with people like David Paymer, Hank Azaria, Mira Sorvino, and Martin Scorsese. I was especially impressed by the always superb but underutilized Paul Scofield (who won the Oscar portraying Thomas More in A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS). He seems the very embodiment of the man of reason, erudition, and courtesy portraying Mark van Doren, and his pain upon learning his beloved son has lost his teaching position at Columbia is one of the great poignant moments in the film. Look very carefully at the scene where several attractive coeds interrupt Ralph Fiennes and Rob Morrow and you will spot Calista Flockhart (a.k.a. Ally McBeal).A second reason this film succeeds so well is its tremendous period feel. The movie looks and feels like the late 1950s at every second. QUIZ SHOW does a great job of [pulling] you in and giving you an almost tangible sense of time and place. Finally, the movie is easily one of the most accurate historical films I have ever seen, although drama is never sacrificed for the mere sake of being accurate. If one has done any reading about the scandals or perhaps if one remembers the events, the film constantly impresses with the amount of accurate detail it contains. Too often when watching a movie dealing with historical events, one can become irritated of the events are inaccurately portrayed. For instance, although LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is a truly great movie, Peter O'Toole was nearly a foot taller than the real T. E. Lawrence, which is a huge problem, since Lawrence's self-consciousness about his short stature was a major factor in his self-image. There are no such moments such as this in QUIZ SHOW.But if you watch, or rewatch, this film, please note those references to Arkadelphia! My undergraduate hometown!"