Van Doren confessed to cheating on the 1950s game show Twenty-One

By Alexia Fernandez
April 11, 2019 03:57 PM
Charles Van Doren 
AP/REX/Shutterstock

Charles Van Doren, the man who confessed to cheating on the popular game show Twenty-One in the 1950s, has died. He was 93.

Van Doren’s game show cheating scandal was the subject of the 1994 movie Quiz Show starring Ralph Fiennes, Rob Morrow, John Turturro and Martin Scorsese. It was directed by Robert Redford.

His son, John Van Doren, told the Associated Press his father died of natural causes on Tuesday at a care center in Canaan, Connecticut.

Van Doren’s funeral services will be private, according to the AP.

The son of a prominent literary family, and a writer and editor himself, Van Doren rose to fame as the winner of the game show Twenty-One, where he made 14 appearances in the late 1950s.

He would go on to win 13 times and earn a record-breaking $129,000. His winning streak earned him the cover of TIME magazine in 1957 and a job at NBC as a commentator.

Twenty-One host Jack Berry (left) and Charles Van Doren in 1958
Hulton Archive/Getty

It all came crumbling down in 1959 when he came under investigation for cheating, eventually confessing before a committee in Congress that he had been given the correct answers by producers while on Twenty-One in order to win.

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After the scandal, Van Doren avoided the spotlight, choosing to live a quiet life with his wife Geraldine in Chicago and Connecticut.

He opened up about the rigged game show in 2008 when he wrote an account of what happened for The New Yorker called “All the Answers,” in which he admitted he was “foolish, naive, prideful and avaricious.”

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“People who knew the entertainment business didn’t have much doubt about what was going on, although they didn’t speak out,” he wrote at the time.

After he was terminated by NBC, he joined the Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., where he became a vice-president while writing and editing books before retiring in 1982.

He is survived by his son, John, and daughter, Elizabeth.