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Redford's Van Doren & Mine

- Abstract

When I read that Robert Redford was about to release a movie about the 1950′s quiz-show scandals, my first thought was: poor Charlie, poor damned—possibly genuinely damned—Charlie. Charlie, of course, is Charles Van Doren, the central if by no means major figure in those scandals. I worked with Charlie between 1965 and 1970 in Chicago, where he was in effect in exile, and found him, and his position as a national pariah, of keen interest.

Charles Van Doren has had to bear a heavy load as a symbol for much that was wrong with America in the 1950′s and, for those who like to push these things a bit further, for much more that would continue to go wrong later. The appearance of the Redford movie, Quiz Show, would mean, among other things, once more against the firing-squad wall for Charlie, who is now nearing seventy: an opportunity for every moralizing wiseguy to fire off a few more rounds of the journalistic equivalent of rotten tomatoes at him. Being a pariah in America is not only a full-time job but, apparently, one from which no retirement short of death can be expected.

About the Author

Joseph Epstein is a regular contributor to COMMENTARY.