The defining core of the sorry mess was the extraordinary spectacle of a father who represented an incorruptible side of our national tradition and the son who betrayed his legacy, his family, and profession to become the symbol of America's descent into cynicism.

QUIZ SHOW

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


"Quiz Show" is Robert Redford's thundering insight into the American psyche. He captures the dark side of a nation nurtured on individualism and trained to chase the first smell of power, money, and fame. The televised eruption of the quiz show scandals of 1958 marked the beginning of America's self-examination.

The defining core of the sorry mess was the extraordinary spectacle of a father who represented an incorruptible side of our national tradition and the son who betrayed his legacy, his family, and profession to become the symbol of America's descent into cynicism.

Mark Van Doren (Paul Scofield), Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and Columbia University legend, was the patriarch of a renowned academic family. Son Charles (Ralph Fiennes), a gentle, popular young Columbia professor was propositioned by producer Dan Enright (David Paymer) to defraud the American public. He was given all the answers in advance.

Chosen to dethrone current champ and fellow cheat, Herbie Stempel (John Turturro), an untelegenic and pedestrian whiner, Van Doren stepped into the nasty class warfare being discussed behind closed doors by Enright and sponsor Geritol. In an inflated version of his real-life role, Richard Goodwin (Rob Morrow) plays the congressional investigator who uncovers the deception.

Directing a terrific cast, Robert Redford has caught beautifully the morality play of the rigged quiz shows as well as the ugly truth that the public who loved them was as seducible then as it is now. Whether it is the seduction of Stempel and Van Doren, or the frightening ecstasy of audiences bewitched by the sight of celebrity and money, we watch Robert Redford's sure hand clarify the steady erosion of American values.


Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Word Count: 287
Studio: Buena Vista
Rating: PG-13 2h10m


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