Score: 1.5 stars *1/2 out of 4 stars ****
More “inspired by” than “based on” the memoir “Full Service” by Scotty Bowers, “Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood” (SATSHOH) is a movie that’s about 50 years too late in arriving. It’s late because it dishes the dirt on the stars of Hollywood’s “Golden Age,” all of whom are dead, many of which are household names only to the most ardent of cinephiles.
If you’ve heard of Walter Pidgeon, George Cukor, Tom Ewell, or Charles Laughton, you’re already essentially aware of their checkered pasts and if none of those names ring a bell, you probably won’t care. All of them were either allegedly gay or bisexual and at one point or another they allegedly all crossed paths with Bowers, a Midwestern-born World War II veteran who arrived in Hollywood with big dreams and like far too many unfortunate thousands of others drifted into prostitution.
However, unlike almost anyone else who ever worked the sex trade in Tinseltown, Bowers was on a first name basis with the rich and famous and the go-to guy to arrange for discreet and exotic horizontal refreshment — at least according to him. And there’s the rub. Bowers claims he stayed silent for well over a half-century out of deference to those who counted on his silence and trust. He thinks now that they’re gone he can’t hurt them. If you hire a good attorney, tell them things in confidence and then you die, said attorney still won’t spill any beans. What Bowers does here is worse than snitching as he betrays people en masse who cannot defend themselves. It’s his word against, well… nobody.
For the duration, Bowers scoffs and harrumphs whenever the words “prostitute” or “pimp” are uttered and his jovial, “Lucky Charms” leprechaun demeanor quickly turns sour and it’s obvious he’s hurt and offended as if on a programmed loop. All he ever wanted to do was to “bring people together and make them happy.” Employing that logic, disillusioned illegal drug and arms dealers could make the same argument with equal conviction and authenticity.
Bowers pushes his gall further by adding the only money he ever made was for “tricks” he performed. He never took “commissions” for introductions — mostly between closeted famous men and many of his former fellow soldiers. Even if this is true, Bowers still benefited while working as a handy man for the stars and tending bar at private parties hosted by his clients, which frequently ended in various states of undress. One particular pool party allegedly culminated, as Bowers states, in ménage-a-trios style with him joining Lana Turner and Ava Gardner.
So good was business that Bowers began catering to lesbian actresses and he goes into great detail of perhaps his highest-profile patron at that time, Katherine Hepburn. Bowers asserts that a hoax was concocted by Hepburn and Spencer Tracy’s handlers to create the appearance of an affair between the two which lasted for decades all for the purpose of hiding the fact each was a homosexual.
Oddly enough the most telling and far easier to believe portions of the movie take place long before Bowers arrived in Hollywood and life since his “retirement” in the ‘80s which he claims was due to the proliferation of AIDS. In a matter-of-fact, borderline boastful tone, Bowers recalls tricks he turned — as a pre-teen in Chicago — with dozens of Catholic priests and how this in no way traumatized him. For the past 40 years he’s stuffed many houses willed to him with knick-knacks mementos which he constantly packs, transports and unpacks, as if doing so will perpetually provide memories of his faded glory days.
“SATSHOH” is a far cry from “Valentino: The Last Emperor,” the 2009 documentary bio-flick about the famed designer Valentino Garavani by director and former “Vogue” writer Matt Tyrnauer. A film brimming with panache and respectful restraint, it managed to paint an honest picture of a gifted artist in the twilight of his years. By comparison, “SATSHOH” is bargain-basement muckraking profiling a man without shame who lucked into a position that placed him near the limelight he could never reach on his own.
At one point, a customer at a book store during a Bowers book signing for “Full Service,” berates him for “ruining” her memories of her childhood idols, which he quickly discounts. What Bowers doesn’t understand is the draw and connection celebrities have not only in life but long after death. Just look at the current yearly incomes of the estates of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and James Dean for proof.
Bowers — now 95 — might also want to consider the many, if not most, of the people he “outed” in this sleazy walk down memory lane which still have living children and grandchildren and other relatives who must now have to deal with the ripples of his thoroughly pathetic, last-chance grab at infamy.
Michael Clark has written for over 30 local and national media outlets and is currently the only newspaper-based film critic providing original content in the Atlanta Top 10 media marketplace and he recently co-founded the Atlanta Film Critics Circle. Over the last two decades, Mr. Clark has written over 3,500 movie reviews and film related articles for the Gwinnett Daily Post and is one of the scant few conservative-minded U.S. critics. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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