Truth & Fiction: Career to 1941

Claims about L. Ron Hubbard's career to 1941

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Red means that the claim is disputable and / or contradicted by written and verbal evidence.

Orange means that the claim is dubious and / or cannot, as yet, be independently verified or refuted.

Green means that the claim is verifiable and can be treated as factual.

He made the time during these same busy college years to act as a director with the Caribbean Motion Picture Expedition of 1931. The underwater films made on that journey provided the Hydrographic Office and the University of Michigan with invaluable data for the furtherance of their research.

Source: 'Mission into Time', 1973
Hubbard certainly claimed at the time that the "Caribbean Motion Picture Expedition" was a major scientific venture which, in his words in the George Washington University magazine The Hatchet,
"was a financial failure, [but] nevertheless the adventures and scientific ends accomplished well compensated for the financial deficit."
There is no evidence to disprove his assertion that cameras and scientific equipment were taken aboard - indeed, the surviving collection of photos of the Doris Hamlin's ill-fated voyage supports that assertion. The scientific value of those photos was questionable from the outset, though, particularly in view of Hubbard's description of what would be photographed:
"Down there where the sun is whipping up heat waves from the palms, this crew of gentleman rovers will re-enact the scenes which struck terror to the hearts of the world only a few hundred years ago - with the difference that this time it will be for the benefit of the fun and the flickering ribbon of celluloid..."

Hubbard, The Hatchet, 24 May 1932

However, the Hydrographic Office and the University of Michigan have no record of ever having received anything from Hubbard's "Expedition". He also claimed beforehand that The New York Times was buying the still pictures and Pathé News the film rights. This also never happened.

It is indicative of the lack of care taken in researching Hubbard's official biographies that many get even the date of the "Expedition" wrong. 'Mission into Time' says 1931; the 1969 'Report to MPs on Scientology' says 1933; in fact, it was 1932.

Corroboration: 'Bare-Faced Messiah' (Russell Miller, 1973) and documents in Miller archive

His first action on leaving college was to blow off steam by leading an expedition into Central America. In the next few years [1933-36/37] he headed three, all of them undertaken to study savage peoples and cultures to provide fodder for his articles and stories.

Source: 'A Brief Biography of L. Ron Hubbard' (Church of Scientology, 1959)
Sadly, no record of these expeditions exists, no photographs exist, none of Hubbard's surviving contemporaries can remember him going to Central America, no explanation has been given of how the chronically cash-starved Hubbard financed the expeditions, US immigration authorities have no record of Hubbard leaving the country during the years in question - in short, there is no evidence whatsoever of the three supposed expeditions having ever occurred at all.

For some reason, this claim no longer appears to be made by the Church of Scientology.

Corroboration: 'Bare-Faced Messiah' (Russell Miller, 1987), documents & interview tapes in the Miller archive

Between 1933 and 1941 he visited many barbaric cultures and yet found time to write seven million words of published fact and fiction.

Source: 'A Brief Biography of L. Ron Hubbard' (Church of Scientology, 1959)
As Russell Miller points out, there are two salient facts which cast doubt on the above assertion:

To have written seven million words, therefore, each story would have had to be on average around 44,000 words; if the stories were a more realistic average of 8,000 words long, he would have had to write 875 to reach the seven million word mark. Both scenarios are equally unlikely.

Corroboration: 'Bare-Faced Messiah' (Russell Miller, 1987)

'In 1935, L. Ron Hubbard went to Hollywood and worked under motion picture contracts as a scriptwriter of numerous films making an outstanding reputation there with many highly successful films. His work in Hollywood is still remembered ... Worked in Hollywood under motion picture contracts with Columbia Pictures.

Sources: 'Facts About L. Ron Hubbard', Flag Divisional Directive of 8 Mar 1974
'A Report to MPs on Scientology' (Church of Scientology, 1969)
This is, perhaps surprisingly, partially true; Hubbard did work for Columbia in 1935, on an adaptation of his story The Secret of Treasure Island. However, that was the only Hollywood film on which he worked; his glittering career as a "Hollywood scriptwriter" was a staple of future biographies and his own accounts. He claimed to have written the scripts for, amongst other films, John Wayne's Stagecoach and The Plainsman, starring Gary Cooper. He was also said to have salvaged the careers of both Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff by writing them into scripts when they were out of work.

These stories - and they are completely unsupported by any evidence and denied by the relevant film companies - originated with Hubbard himself, who described his life as a "Hollywood legend" thusly:

'I used to sit in my penthouse on Sunset Boulevard and write stories for New York and then go to my office in the studio and have my secretary tell everybody I was in conference while I caught up on my sleep because they couldn't believe anybody could write 136 scenes a day. The Screen Writers' Guild would have killed me. Their quota was eight.'

LRH interview, Rocky Mountain News, 20 February 1983

Needless to say, there is no supporting evidence for this claim.

Corroboration: 'Bare-Faced Messiah' (Russell Miller, 1987)