Was Scotty Bowers, who had a long career as a discreet hustler and pimp to the stars, a pioneer for sexual freedom, a damaged tall-tale-teller in denial, or maybe both? “Scotty” the documentary, entertaining as it is, leaves its hero’s surface mostly unscratched. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.

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Movie review

Scotty Bowers, now in his 90s, has many stories to tell. An ex-Marine with a mop of curls and a seen-it-all grin, he made his way to Los Angeles after World War II and took a job as a gas-station attendant on Hollywood Boulevard. One day, a gentlemanly actor picked him up, propositioned him, and afterward gave him $20. It was the beginning, Bowers says, of a long career as discreet hustler and pimp to the stars, of which he wrote in a raunchy 2012 autobiography titled “Full Service.”

Directed by Matt Tyrnauer (“Valentino: The Last Emperor”), “Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood” is equal parts gossipy tell-all and poignant portrait of a man whose life is revealed to be rather more complicated than the sunny sex romp Bowers describes. Yes, names are named, and with relish: that first actor at the gas station was Walter Pigeon, and Bowers has much dirt to dish on Cary Grant, George Cukor, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Cole Porter, Ava Gardner, Lana Turner, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and many others. (None of them, obviously, are around to confirm or deny these stories, though Tyrnauer interviews other elderly men who were part of Bowers’ prostitution ring and provide some corroboration.)

Bowers himself is a curious figure; married for 30 years to a woman (who says she won’t read his book), he lives in two hoarded-out houses crammed full of memorabilia, so much so that a person can barely walk through the rooms. He shares dark incidents from his childhood but laughs them off, saying that he remembers only positive things and that “I made so many people happy.” Is he a pioneer for sexual freedom, a damaged tall-tale-teller in denial, or maybe both? “Scotty” the documentary, entertaining as it is, leaves its hero’s surface mostly unscratched; his life seems a story still not fully written.

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★★½ “Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood,” a documentary directed by Matt Tyrnauer. 97 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains graphic nudity, sexuality and strong language). Opens Aug. 24 at SIFF Film Center, Seattle 10 (21+).