Just getting around to seeing Quiz Show (1994). The scandal of the fixed quiz shows of the 1950s is revealed by a tight focus on three characters, contestants nerdy Herb Stempel and handsome Charles Van Doren — and the author/producer of the movie Richard Goodwin played Rob Morrow. Goodwin is by far the most complex character. Stempel is portrayed as a sort of stock character almost. Van Doren as an over privileged WASP trying to get his famous father’s attention.
Not unlike the phoney “news” shows of today, our phoney press conferences, etc, the quiz shows were seen by the networks and sponsors as entertainment while leading the public to see them as reality.
But the story after the story is more telling. The after credits tell us of the fates, as of 1994, of most of the important characters. Even a brief bit on Goodwin:
Richard Goodwin became a speechwriter for the 1960 Kennedy campaign and then a member of the White House staff. After the assassination of Robert Kennedy, he retired from politics to become a writer.
One bit of trivia not in the aftercredits is that his second wife — his first wife died — is Doris Kearns Goodwin. A Pulitzer Prize (1995) winning historian and author, Kearns Goodwin was discovered to have plagarized large portions of her books from others. The scandal was complex full of denials and cover ups and revelations as this longish description of the “developing story” from the History News Network from 2002 show. Slate’s Timothy Noah was less subtle writing an article in January 2002 entited “Doris Kearns Goodwin, Liar” that she not only plagarized and lied but that she also “paid hush money to one of the people she plagiarized.”
It makes you wonder what she was thinking as she was watching Quiz Show. What was in her mind when the Goodwin character questioned the Van Doren character about his book in progress on Lincoln? What is she thinking now as her next book, due October 2005, is “Master Among Men : The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.”