Robert Redford

Quiz Show (1994)

Quiz Show (1994)

  • Born: 1936
  • Rank: 96
  • Score: 481.10
  • Awards: Oscar, DGA, Golden Globe, National Board of Review
  • Nominations: 2 Oscars, 2 DGA, 4 Golden Globes
  • Feature Films: 7
  • Best: Quiz Show
  • Worst: The Legend of Bagger Vance

Top 5 Films:

  1. Quiz Show – 1994
  2. Ordinary People – 1980
  3. A River Runs Through It – 1992
  4. The Milagro Beanfield War – 1988
  5. Lions for Lambs – 2007

Top 10 Director finishes (Nighthawk Awards):

  • 1980 – 10th – Ordinary People
  • 1992 – 8th – A River Runs Through It
  • 1994 – 6th – Quiz Show

Kenneth Turan summed him up the best when Ordinary People premiered: “Never a very expressive actor, he has turned to directing to reveal a depth of feeling he couldn’t seem to manage in front of the camera.” Redford was always a star, but he wasn’t that much of an actor, although unlike a lot of stars, he could at least act. But as a director he has taken emotional (and often political) stories and made powerful films.

Unfortunately, Redford will never live up to the fact that he won the Oscar the first time out of the gates, both because he can’t measure up, and because he won the Oscar over Raging Bull. It’s too bad because Redford is a very good director, though his last several films are significantly weaker films than his first four really good films.

Quiz Show – #5 film of 1994

A good chunk of the film Quiz Show comes from the book Remembering America: A Voice from the Sixties by Richard Goodwin (Veronica writes about Goodwin for her work blog here because he is a Tufts alum). The book is out of print, which is a shame because it’s a fascinating book about Goodwin’s time working for JFK and LBJ. The stuff on the Quiz Show scandal takes up only about 10 pages in the early part of the book. But I recommend finding a used copy. On a side note, I once asked Doris Kearns Goodwin if her husband really looked like Rob Morrow when he was younger and she said he did. I didn’t ask her if his first wife had looked like Mira Sorvino.

I still remember seeing Quiz Show on opening night and thinking, is this really the same guy who just played that evil Nazi commandant in Schindler’s List, because this is an amazing transformation. Of course, this was before other films had come along like The English Patient and The End of the Affair to show that Ralph Fiennes was among the best actors to ever appear on film.

In the showdown between Gump and Pulp Fiction and in the aftermath when Shawshank has become widely accepted as one of the great films of all-time, Quiz Show has kind of been lost in the shuffle. It did win Best Picture from the New York Film Critics and was nominated for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay and Supporting Actor from the Globes and the Oscars, but didn’t win anything from either. More importantly, Ralph Fiennes and John Turturro were both ignored, in spite of their brilliant performances.

It’s interesting to think back on the Van Doren family. I have books both by Charles and his father. Charles was sucked into the cult of celebrity that seems so prevelant in the United States. I don’t think he did it for the money. He did it because it was nice to be famous, nice to have someone smart be famous, to make intelligence interesting and sexy. Everytime my browser opens to MSNBC.com and I see some item at the top of the page about Brad or Angelina or any other inane celebrity, I scream at my computer, “that’s not news!” It’s too bad that Van Doren got involved with that. I would have been happy to be an instructor at Columbia.

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