Quiz Show is a 1994 American historical drama film produced and directed by Robert Redford. Adapted by Paul Attanasio from Richard Goodwin's memoir Remembering America, the film tells the true story of the Twenty One quiz show scandal of the 1950s. It stars John Turturro, Rob Morrow, Ralph Fiennes, Paul Scofield, David Paymer, Hank Azaria, and Christopher McDonald.
The film chronicles the rise and fall of the popular contestant Charles Van Doren after the rigged loss of Herb Stempel and the Congressional investigator Richard Goodwin's probe of Twenty One's game-fixing. Goodwin co-produced the film.
From a secure bank vault, the answers to Twenty One, a popular primetime quiz television show, are sent into a television studio as studio producers Dan Enright and Albert Freedman watch from the control booth. The evening's main attraction is Queens resident Herbert Stempel, the reigning champion, who answers question after question. However, both the network and the corporate sponsor of the program, a supplementary tonic called Geritol, find that Stempel's approval ratings are beginning to level out, meaning the show would benefit from new talent.
Enright and Freedman search for a new contestant, and find one in Columbia University instructor Charles Van Doren, son of the renowned poet and intellectual Mark Van Doren and the prize-winning novelist Dorothy Van Doren. The producers subtly offer to rig the show for him but Van Doren uprightly refuses. Enright soon treats Stempel to dinner at an upscale restaurant, where he breaks the news that Stempel must lose in order to boost flagging ratings. Stempel begrudgingly agrees, only on the condition that he remains on television, threatening to reveal the true reason of his success: the answers had been provided to him.
Stempel and Van Doren face each other in Twenty One, where the match comes down to a predetermined question regarding Marty, the 1955 winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture. Despite knowing the correct film, Stempel gives the wrong answer, allowing Van Doren to be asked a question he previously answered while in Enright's offices, to which he provides the winning response.
In the weeks that follow, Van Doren's winning streak rises him to national stardom, becoming a city-wide celebrity. Buckling under the new pressure, he begins to let the producers directly give him the answers instead of researching for them himself. Meanwhile, Stempel, having lost his financial prize winnings to a fleeting bookie, begins threatening legal action against the NBC network after weeks go by without his return to television.
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