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 the popular contestant Charles Van Doren after the rigged loss of Herb Stempel, and Congressional investigator Richard N. (Dick) Goodwin's probe of Twenty-One'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

  • Congress investigates Communists. Congress investigates mobsters. That is not me!
  • 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

  • This child has to learn the depths that humanity can sink to.
  • You want to be worshipped? Go to India and moo!
    • To his wife, who is complaining about his attitude.
  • Beethoven was 23 when he composed his first piano sonata. In 1923, Jack Betney set the record for average by a pitcher, batting 427. There are 23 chromosones in the human egg, also the human sperm. 23rd President, Benjamin Harrison. Asian countries along the 23rd parallel –
    • Demonstrating his general knowledge after he has been told to lose the next game, Stempel asks the waiter at a restaurant for a random number; the waiter gives him 23.
  • 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.
    • Supplying his own trailer for the game which he will lose.
  • It's a fix! It's all a fix, a set-up! I made a study of it. They always follow a Jew with a Gentile and the Gentile wins more money. What is that, a coincidence?

Dick Goodwin

  • [on the phone to a Railroad company official who has not filed a tax return] I'll send you a little helpful reminder, OK? You'll notice it because it'll look very much like a subpoena.
  • I asked myself, why would he make a statement like that? He knows I'll come after him. And then it occurred to me: he knows I'll come after him.
  • 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.
  • I thought we were going to get television. The truth is, television is going to get us.

Mark Van Doren

  • For $64,000, I hope they ask you the meaning of life.
  • A swamp, that traded malaria for politics.
    • His definition of Washington, D.C.
  • Well, Dick, if you look round the table and you can't tell who the sucker is, it's you.
  • But your mother always said you were the actor in the family, Charlie.
  • They gave you all that money to answer questions they knew you knew. Now that's inflation.


Martin Rittenhome: I don't think he [Herb Stempel] works any more.
NBC official: Stempel is an underdog. People root for that – It's a New York thing.
Martin Rittenhome: Queen's is not New York.

Elizabeth: Professor Van Doren, I took your course at Columbia, Hawthorne, Original Sin and the American Experience, and well, as silly as it sounds, it changed my life.
Mark Van Doren: Was it the Hawthorne, or the sin?
Dorothy Van Doren: Perhaps you'd like to meet my son, the unmarried Van Doren?

Charles Van Doren: I'm just trying to imagine what Kant would make of this.
Albert Freedman: I don't think he'd have a problem with it. [does a double-take indicating he hasn't a clue who Van Doren is talking about]

Herb Stempel: That should be me on the cover of Time!
Dan Enright: Shit, Herb, just sign the statement.
Herb Stempel: Charles Van Doren, he wouldn't know the answer to a doorbell if you didn't give it to him.
Dan Enright: Sign the statement, Herb, and get on with your life.
Herb Stempel: 'Sign the statement, Herb, sign the statement'. Who cares if it's true?
Dan Enright: I'm giving you a chance!
Herb Stempel: You promised me! You get me that panel show, or I'm going to bring you down with me, you lousy lying prick, you and Charles Van Fucking Doren.
Dan Enright: No, you're not.
Herb Stempel: I'll just tell everyone that it's a fraud, that ought to liven it up. "The fix is in this week on Twenty-One".
Dan Enright: When's my next appointment?
Herb Stempel: The cover of Time? His mug-shot will be on the cover of Time!

Cousin: Charlie's famous, like Elvis Presley.
Mark Van Doren: Like Leopold of Belgium, usurped by his son before his time.
Charles Van Doren: I suppose that makes me King Baudouin?

Charles Van Doren: The money, meanwhile, no-one knows what to do with it, though every stockbroker in New York seems eager to try.
Mark Van Doren: Why don't you just put it in the bank? What I've always done with my prize money.
Charles Van Doren: No, it's just, you don't understand, dad, it's – there are all sorts of tax implications.
Mark Van Doren: I think I can understand the concept of taxes.
Charles Van Doren: At this level it's a bit more complicated.
Mark Van Doren: And at my level? Never thought of myself having a level, Charlie. What level might that be?
Charles Van Doren: I mean, it's not as if the money fell into my lap. I worked for it.
Mark Van Doren: Work? Oh, oh, oh.

Dick Goodwin: [Herb Stempel] 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: [laughing] A symptom of his Van Doren fixation!
Dick Goodwin: [serious] The thing of it is, I looked it up, it's true.

Herb Stempel: The point is, Van Doren got the answers.
Dick Goodwin: He did not get the answers. If anything he gave them the answers.
Herb Stempel: I know he got the answers.
Dick Goodwin: Ah, bull shit, Herb, how do you know he got the answers?
Herb Stempel: Because I got the answers!

Herb Stempel: What do I care if a bunch of saps —
Toby Stempel: I was one of those saps, Herbert.

Charles Van Doren [Playing poker, has just raised the pot by $50]: What d'you say, Dick
Dick Goodwin: I know you're lying.
Charles Van Doren: Bluffing. The word is bluffing.

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?

Dan Enright [Has been confronted with proof Twenty-One is rigged]: I just had a thought. Would you be interested in your own panel show? Seriously.
Dick Goodwin: [laughs] I'll get back to you on that, Dan.

Dick Goodwin: Don't treat me like I'm a member of your god-damn 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?

Charles Van Doren [Talking about his appearance before the Congressional Committee]: Dad, I can't simply just tell them the truth.
Mark Van Doren: Can't – tell them the truth? Why on earth not?
Charles Van Doren: It's complicated.
Mark Van Doren: Complicated?
Charles Van Doren: Yeah, I can't.
Mark Van Doren: Charlie, from what I understand it's just this bunch of frauds showing off an erudition they didn't really have. All you have to do —
Charles Van Doren (interrupting): The problem is, it seems I was one of those frauds.
Mark Van Doren: What? [long pause] What do you mean?
Charles Van Doren: They gave me the answers.
Mark Van Doren: They gave you the answers? They gave you the answers?


  • Robert Kintner: You're a producer, Dan. Produce.
  • Albert Freedman: I got the guy!
  • Dan Enright: What if we were to put you on the show, put you on Twenty-One, and ask you questions that you know – say the questions that you answered correctly on the test this morning.
  • Sandra Goodwin: You are ten times the man Charles Van Doren is, Dick, ten times the brain and ten times the human being. Meanwhile you're bending over backwards for him. You are like the Uncle Tom of the Jews.
  • 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. [applause]


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