The Good Doctor: The Paul Fleiss Story (1996)

Genres - Drama, Crime  |   Run Time - 120 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Synopsis by Hal Erickson

Critics were somewhat amused when this made-for-TV movie first aired over CBS on February 21, 1996. They could understand why someone would want to make a biopic about notorious "Hollywood madam" Heidi Fleiss (here played by Tricia Leigh Fisher)--but of what possible dramatic value was a film about Heidi's father, California consulting pediatrician Paul Fleiss? Well, that question was sufficiently answered throughout the film's 90 minutes, told largely in flashback from the point of view of Dr. Fleiss, portrayed by Michael Gross. According to Karol Ann Hoeffner's teleplay, Fleiss was a good, caring, almost saintly family man, whose misguided liberal sympathies led him to excesses of self-indulgence when it came to raising his children. So far as as the spoiled and pampered Heidi is concerned, Dr. Fleiss doesn't believe in discouraging her on any issue, including sex--and this, coupled with the neurotic attitudes of Heidi's repressed, high-strung mother Elissa (Cindy Pickett) led the girl into her life's work, using sex for profit while remaining coolly detached from her work and using her associates and customers rather than ever allowing them to use her. That Heidi is clearly the villain of the piece is made obvious not only by actress Fisher's vitriolic performance, but also by the dramatic core of the story, in which Dr. Fleiss ends up being charged with fraud when Heidi pressures him into signing a highly suspicious bank loan application. The sweeping inaccuracies in The Good Doctor: The Paul Fleiss Story evidently didn't hurt its ratings, nor did the film lack viewers when it was subsequently rerun on cable TV under the title The Making of a Hollywood Madam.