Charles Van Doren, portrayed by Ralph Fiennes' in Quiz Show, dies at 93
Charles Van Doren, known for his involvement in the 1950s game show rigging scandals, died Tuesday of natural causes, according to his son. He was 93.
Van Doren, the son of two then-prominent literary figures, rocketed to fame with a 14-week winning streak on the NBC quiz show Twenty-One starting in November 1956. He earned $129,000, a record at the time, and a job at NBC News. But in 1959, he testified to Congress that the show’s producers had provided him with the answers, and pleaded guilty to perjury for lying to a grand jury. The admission cost him his NBC job as well as his teaching position at Columbia University.
The Twenty-One scandal was dramatized in Robert Redford’s 1994 film Quiz Show, in which Ralph Fiennes played Van Doren. Van Doren himself retreated from the spotlight after the scandal and did not address it publicly again until a 2008 essay in The New Yorker, in which he related his account of his recruitment and streak on Twenty-One, and the aftermath.
Van Doren lived out his later years with his wife in rural Connecticut, writing several books and avoiding public scrutiny.