How Did We Miss This One?

On a site featuring Ivy Style, the 1994 movie Quiz Show has received one line of mention.   Yet it stands amongst the great Ivy movies of all time.

There is a piece on here about Charles Van Doren, which is good.  He had Ivy bona fides.  Columbia.  His father, Mark Van Doren, was even-more-Ivy, teaching at Columbia almost 40 years.


This is Mark Van Doren in real life. That’s, um, pretty Ivy.


In Quiz Show, Mark Van Doren’s Ivy got turned up, if that is even possible.


The silver-haired gentleman is Paul Scofield portraying Mark Van Doren. We will get to that other guy in a minute.   Scofield as a ton of killer lines in the movie.  “They gave you all that money to answer questions they knew you knew… now that’s inflation.”


Charles Van Doren is played by Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes.  For real.  That’s his name.  I loved him before, I love him even more now.  A few years ago, if he can do funny (I don’t know if he can do funny, I saw some unintelligible movie he was in about a hotel that lasted about 12 minutes before it got switched off), he would have been my pick to play John Sutter in The Gold Coast.  I’m not going into a ton of plot here because I don’t want to spoil the movie if you don’t know it or the scandal if you don’t know it, but this is One Ivy Brother.


Some photos don’t need captions.


Van Doren becomes a rock star of sorts in the movie, and Fiennes does an amazing job of portraying Van Doren hating loving the fame.


That, my friends, may be the only picture of an Ivy Groupie portrayed in cinema.


I have had on my desk for a year a draft of a piece about how Robert Redford both respects intellectualism and has the best wardrobes in his movies.  I gotta finish that.  It should also include how in Quiz Show (Redford directed) he draws out the difference between the Ivy-educated and the Not via clothes.


One is a game show host, one went to Columbia, one is a smart guy who… didn’t. You do the math.


I really don’t want to ruin the movie for you, but there are some pitch perfect Ivy lines in here:

“Cheating on a quiz show?  That’s sort of like plagiarizing a comic strip.”


Student: Professor Van Doren, I took your course at Columbia – “Hawthorne, Original Sin, and the American Experience”. Well, as silly as it sounds, it changed my life.

Van Doren:  Was it the Hawthorne or the sin?

Or… (this is Mark Van Doren talking about his son Charles)

“Well why not?  He’s 33 years old.  Jesus Christ had a girlfriend when he was 33 years old.” … “And look how that turned out.”


Can’t recommend highly enough if you want to learn the roots of a lot of this.  It is streaming on Apple TV, You Tube, and Amazon Prime.  It’ll cost you $3.99 but this post was free so you are still ahead.

Have a great weekend – JB


29 Comments on "How Did We Miss This One?"

  1. You mean how did YOU miss this one, JB. I’ve watched Quiz Show about 50 times and know all about the Columbia/Ivy League angle. There are other Columbia movies you probably don’t know about either, such as Elegy, starring Penelope Cruz as a student and Ben Kingsley as her love-sick, squash-playing professor.

    • John Burton | August 5, 2022 at 1:54 pm |

      It was an Elizabethan We. But hey, bully for you Win. 50 times. You with think with that much free time you would be a great deal more calm.

  2. sorry, JB–
    bona fides aside,
    high, roped, extended shoulders ain’t ivy.
    Hearkens back to the old Apparel Arts-ish vibe.

  3. Ralph Feinnes’s string of middle names is an absolute parody of British middle names. Thanks for the delightful trivia. Speaking of which, I enjoyed this movie when it came out, but that was certainly before I had a grasp of the Ivy-ness of it all. A rewatch is in order.

  4. Collar roll is inconsistent if you want to get technical.

  5. Charlottesville | August 5, 2022 at 2:33 pm |

    The pictures are great; it looks like I need to watch Quiz Show again. As for The Grand Budapest Hotel, I loved it. I suppose that Wes Anderson is not for everyone.

    Digressing from Ivy talk, if I may, I note that today, is both International Beer Day and National Oyster Day. What a felicitous confluence of celebrations. I plan to observe them simultaneously in a few hours at my favorite local oyster bar, wearing an OCBD and khakis, of course.

  6. roger sack | August 5, 2022 at 2:38 pm |

    Never saw the movie. Probably will now.
    Do remember the show and Van Doren.
    I was in high schooling and dressed very Ivy:
    Paul Stuart, Casual Aire, for tailored clothing

  7. Hardbopper | August 5, 2022 at 4:15 pm |

    The Fiennes in headphones photo shows a fairly large prole gap and some heavily padded shoulders. Fiennes must have some narrow shoulders. Anyone know? Does shoulder padding cause prole gap? His collar points and tie look pretty good in that photo.

  8. Not to say that we can admire the clothes or the film, both of which are excellent, but “gosh, look how great these people look” kinda misses one of the main points of the movie, namely that unfair advantages are often granted to those who don’t necessarily deserve them if they “look the part.” It’s perhaps worth keeping in mind that for all of the crowing about Ivy values such as excellence and dignity, there is also cheating, bigotry, and exclusion.

    • John Burton | August 5, 2022 at 5:18 pm |

      I think they cover that on The-unfair-advantages-are-often-granted-to-those-who-don’

  9. Nick’s point above reminds me of something else I’ve noticed over the past 30-40 years. If there is someone dressed in Ivy (or prep) style in a movie, nine times out of 10 they’re the villain.

    • This is, alas, very true. But it’s only true of films made or set in the 1970s or later. In films made or set in the 1960s or earlier, it was just clothes, not a villain costume. The ’80s version of prep really kicked this whole thing off.

  10. “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”

  11. Hardbopper | August 5, 2022 at 7:18 pm |

    In the photo with the groupie, that appears to be a different jacket, a few sizes too big.

  12. “A few years ago, if he can do funny (I don’t know if he can do funny, I saw some unintelligible movie he was in about a hotel that lasted about 12 minutes before it got switched off), he would have been my pick to play John Sutter in The Gold Coast.”

    Didn’t want to let this pass without mentioning that the “unintelligible” film you seem to be referencing was nominated for nine (9) Academy Awards, including Best Original Screenplay. The accolades of that film aside, Mr. Fiennes’ excellent turn in “Hail, Caesar!” should put any concerns regarding if “he can do funny” to rest.

    • John Burton | August 8, 2022 at 7:23 am |

      Oh, so it was nominated for awards. Then I HAVE TO like it. I get it now. Thanks.

  13. Boston Bean | August 6, 2022 at 1:29 am |

    Nice tie.
    Nice jacket.
    Clear way of speaking English.

  14. Robert Archambeau | August 6, 2022 at 11:05 am |

    In that photo where our protagonist appears with the brunette, do you think she’s about to whisper in his ear “you need a jacket that fits your shoulders”?

  15. The collars may be button-down but they aren’t Ivy. The roll isn’t quite right. The roll has to be perfect to qualify as Ivy.

  16. Black knit with a black suit?

  17. Black knit with a black suit? What is that thing on his tie? Why is that thing on his tie?

  18. You didn’t like Grand Budapest Hotel? To each his/her own, but I think it’s one of the three or four funniest films I’ve seen in the last 10 years.

    • John Burton | August 8, 2022 at 7:22 am |

      You know what happens here sometimes is I say I. don’t like something and then enough people convince me to give it another try and sometimes they are right so I will do that now. THANKS

  19. Laura Arnold | August 8, 2022 at 9:39 am |

    Great movie! And even better that it was filmed at Fordham (my alma mater).

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