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The Secret IQ Diaries : They Were Guinea Pigs in the Longest-Running Psychological Study Ever, Their Identities Largely Kept a Mystery. Now in Their 80s, the 'Children' of Lewis Terman Are Still Defining What It Really Means to Be A Genius.

July 30, 1995|Richard C. Paddock | Richard C. Paddock covers Northern California for The Times

In one early Terman survey, Dmytryk wrote that he wanted to be a cameraman. One of Terman's assistants sniffed that this offered little opportunity for advancement. But at the Famous Players-Lasky studio--soon to be Paramount Pictures--Dmytryk quickly rose from messenger to projectionist to assistant cutter to film editor to director. In 1936, when Dmytryk was 28, Terman wrote him, "I am very happy indeed to know that you are getting along so well and that your future in the film industry looks bright." And Terman returned to his constant yardstick for success: "Your salary, by the way, is far above the average of the boys of the group who are near your age. Now that you have done so well, I expect great things of you." Later, Terman would take a more paternal delight in Dmytryk's success, sending him a letter of congratulations after his movie, "Murder, My Sweet," won an award from the Mystery Writers of America. "I am always proud of the honors that come to my 'children' and especially so in this case," he wrote.

In 1947, Dmytryk was one of the "Hollywood Ten," prominent writers, directors and producers called before the House Un-American Activities Committee to answer questions about the Communist Party's influence in Hollywood. Dmytryk had belonged to the Communist Party for about 18 months in the mid-1940s, quitting when he became disillusioned. But he joined with the other nine and refused to testify, citing the constitutional right of free speech.

The Ten were cited for contempt of Congress and quickly blacklisted. Dmytryk and his new wife, actress Jean Porter, went to England and made movies while U.S. court and publicity battles raged. In these, Dmytryk's darkest hours, Terman wrote a memo expressing confidence in Dmytryk's integrity, concern about his future and sympathy for him and his "fellow victims."

Dmytryk was sentenced in 1950 to six months in prison and served 4 1/2 months. Feeling betrayed by former friends and angry at the Communist Party's attempts to manipulate him, Dmytryk decided to clear his name. Soon after his release, he went before Congress, told his story and named names--without regret. "I was the only one who had the guts to come out against it openly," he says now. "The only way you could break with them was to do it openly. Otherwise, everybody considered me a Communist, whether I liked it or not." After his rehabilitation, the director went on to make dozens of movies with stars the caliber of Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, Kirk Douglas and Gregory Peck.

What became of Arthur showed his brother just how little a high IQ can matter. He, too, ran away from home, but at age 12. He, too, was put in foster homes, but he kept running away. He stole a car and was sentenced to reform school. Terman and his assistants fretted that this would turn Arthur into a hardened criminal, but this time letters from the professor had no effect. By his mid-20s, Arthur tried to pull himself together, taking college classes. Terman promised to help. "I am going to do all I can for your brother," the professor wrote Edward Dmytryk in 1936. "There is no reason why lack of money should keep him from realizing his present ambition to complete his college education. I shall hope to keep in touch with him constantly." But Arthur never finished college. His short stories showed potential, but nothing sold. So he drifted from odd job to odd job until he died in 1978. He was 67.

"He knew he was bright, of course," his brother says today, "but he didn't respect himself as much as he should have. He wound up cleaning swimming pools. With all that high IQ, he never did anything with it."

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