HE USED TRUST AND A KEEN EYE
BY SUSAN KING, TIMES STAFF WRITER
The key to Murray Garrett's success as a Hollywood photographer was trust. Stars, producers, directors and agents knew that Garrett would always keep his promises, and that opened many doors for the photographer during the '40s, '50s, '60s and early '70s.
In addition to working as a Photo journalist, Garrett, now 76, was
also a commercial photographer shooting stars' weddings, galas and birthday parties for actors' children. Garrett recalls being asked by Elizabeth Taylor's agent, for example, to accompany the actress and her then-husband, Richard Burton, and their children to Disneyland. "The only deal was that they wanted pictures for their family. They said, 'You have a choice: We can pay you or you can keep the pictures for publication.' I had been around long enough to know this is a home run with the bases loaded."
Two years ago, the Hollywood Entertainment Museum exhibited
Photographs from Garrett's first book, "Hollywood Candid." On Thursday, the museum began exhibiting 40 more of Garrett's "fly-on-the-wall" pictures of the likes of Lucille Ball, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra in conjunction with the publication of Garrett's latest book, "Hollywood Moments."
"The interesting thing about Murray's photos is that he really represents change in terms of Hollywood star publicity," says Jan-Christopher Horak, curator of the museum. "In the '30s and '40s, you had people like George Hurrell and other photographers creating star portraits that were very mannered and used light to really construct the image. By the 1950s, that really falls out of fashion. In its stead is a more 'natural' look. It is more casual; in a sense they are photographed seemingly off the cuff in natural environments and events."
Garrett, he says, was one of the first paparazzi. "He had the Hollywood beat, and for a decade or more he was photographing all sorts of things. Even when he did portraits, they were portraits in the home or office. They were more action-type portraits than facing the camera and using a lot of light in a studio setting."
When Garrett started shooting photographs of celebrities in the early '40s as a teenager, "my grand plan was to have a cover of Life." He was just 17 when he first photographed Frank Sinatra in his dressing room at the Paramount Theater in New York City.
"He had just started his own new career leaving behind the band business," Garrett recalls. "I was really curious to see what this guy looked like, because he was becoming so famous. He was very nice. He said to me, 'Will you send me an 8-by-10 of this photograph?' I said, 'Yes, sir.' The next day I fought through the police lines to get backstage to leave a package [with the photographs] with 'Mr. Sinatra' on the envelope.