20 August 2018 | paul-allaer
Documentary feels like a missed opportunity
"Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood" (2017 release; 98 min,) is a documentary about Scotty Bowers. As the movie opens, there is a celebration of Scotty's 90th birthday at the Chateau Marmont. We learn that Scotty just recently has written a memoir called "Full Service" (which is the basis for this film), in which he retells of the days right after WWII when he by happenstance became the "pimp" of gay and lesbian Hollywood, the "center of an alternative world", in which famous movie stars like Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn lived lives that were very different from their public personae, and calling on the services provided by Scotty. "Everything cost $20", Scotty laughs. Along the way we alo learn how today's Scotty has become a compulsive obsessive hoarder... At this point we're not even 15 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the latest from up-and-coming documentarian Matt Tymauer, whose previous film was the excellent "Citizen Jane: Battle For the City". Here he picks up on a long unknown fact, namely how one guy became the Hollywood king-pimp starting in the late 40s. Tymauer tries to take that fait divers to build a documentary about "gays and lesbians in Hollywood" over the years. Yes, there are glimpses here and there (in particular as we get to the AIDS era), but overall it feels like this film is a missed opportunity to do an in-depth look at that topic. Instead, we get a close look on someone who seems like a nice enough guy, but it is as if he stands in the way of a far more important documentary. The fact that we get sidetracked by the compulsive hoarding behavior only reinforces that feeling...
"Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood" premiered at last year;s Toronto International Film Festival (yes, almost a year ago) to positive acclaim. The movie finally made it to my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati this weekend. The Sunday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended so-so (about 10 people). If you are in the mood for a documentary that is brought mostly with a light touch about how gays and lesbians got by in the Hollywood era of the 40 and 50s, I'd suggest you check this out, be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray and draw your own conclusion.