NEW YOUR DAILY NEWS: DECEMBER 3, 2002
By Henry Cabot Beck
Murray Garrett had the visual sense of a paparazzo and the tact of an insider. As a photographer in the show business circuit in the ‘40s and 50's, he captured celebrities in candid, but never embarrassing situations.
Those pictures, collected in two books, are the subject of simultaneous exhibits: in New York at the Film Centers Walter Reade Theater through New Years Day, And in Los Angeles in the Hollywood Entertainment Museum Dec 5 - Feb 6.
"Murray Garrett was a professional vouyer and intruder in a sense who had the permission of the people he photographed," says Phyllis Caskey, Pres and CEO of the Hollywood Entertainment Museum. "He and the celebrities he shot both wanted the same thing; to look good, and look unguarded. The results were wonderful."
On display in the exhibits and the newer book, "Hollywood Moments," are pictures of Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart, the cream of the celebrity crop during Hollywood's Golden Age. As Garrett's simple unstaged pictures make clear, these stars seemed to have a glow all their own.
Tony Impavido Curator of the Lincoln center show, says "We'll never see this in Hollywood again, ever. The glitz, the gowns and jewels, and the hair - you don't see that any more. Real glamor seems to have gone down the tubes with (the rise of) disposable cameras."
The 76 year old Garrett's first collection of celebrity photographs, "Hollywood Candid : A Photographer Remembers", was published in 2000. He got his major break in 1948, at the tender age of 22: snapping Bob Hope for the New York Daily News.
"I was scared to death of Hope," Garrett recalls, "and I was told by NBC (Hope's employer), ‘hey look, he's a nice guy, but if you get him angry because you're intrusive, he'll ask you not to work anymore.' "
Garrett got along fine with Hope and became his personal photographer for 25 years.
"It would be difficult to do today what Murray accomplished at the time, partly beacuse of the paparazzi thing. It seems like all photographers want to do these days is embarrass celebraties, to strip them of what little mystique they possess," says Caskey. "Even the president is fair game. We diffently live in a different era."
Unlike other photographers and fan magazine writers who tried to befriend the celebrities, Garrett always kept a formal distance that allowed him to move freely inside their habitat. "I never tried to break that glass wall, never called celebrities by their first names or tried to get friendly or personal with them, and they respected that," says Garrett. "In spite of all of the years I was with Hope, and even though my relationship granted me access to events and privileges that no one else had, I never made the mistake of thinking that I was his friend, or that he was mine."