Man at Center of Quiz Show Scandal in '50s Dies at 95

Producer Albert Freedman helped Charles Van Doren win on NBC's 'Twenty-One'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 24, 2017 1:48 PM CDT
Producer Involved in '50s Quiz Show Scandal Dies at 95
Albert Freedman in a 2000 interview.   (YouTube)

It was a story made famous for younger generations via the 1994 Ralph Fiennes movie Quiz Show, and now one of the central characters in the 1950s scandal is gone. The New York Times reports that Albert Freedman, once a producer on NBC's popular Twenty-One program, died on April 11 in Greenbrae, Calif., at the age of 95, a victim of heart failure, his stepson Todd Dworman confirmed. Freedman joined the show's staff in 1956 and immediately set out to find a contestant who could take down the reigning champion, Herbert Stempel, who kept on winning, causing ratings to flag. Freedman found Charles Van Doren, a Columbia University instructor, and the Hollywood Reporter notes that Van Doren not only sent Stempel home in December 1956, but kept going until March 1957, ultimately taking home nearly $130,000.

Where Freedman came in: He gave Van Doren answers to questions, as detailed by Van Doren in a 2008 New Yorker article (Freedman said in a 2000 interview with the Archive of American Television he only provided "areas" Van Doren should concentrate on.) A probe by a congressional subcommittee uncovered cheating on other game shows as well. Twenty-One was canceled, Freedman was arrested and indicted for perjury for lying to a grand jury about his role in the scandal (the perjury charges were later dropped), and he lost his job and eventually moved to London, where he started writing for Penthouse's Euro version. He also earned a doctorate in the early '80s and went on to lecture human sexuality and women's rights. Freedman is survived by his second wife, Nancy; a daughter and a son; and three stepchildren. (More obituary stories.)

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