By Terry Trucco
June 3rd would have been Marilyn Monroe’s 85th birthday. Since film legends never really die, Hollywood photographer Murray Garrett celebrated with a show of seldom seen – and in several cases never before seen – black-and-white images of the 1950’s most celebrated blonde at the Washington Square Hotel.
A salon in the rear of the low-key, Art Deco Greenwich Village hotel is transformed into a time-warp salute to Old Hollywood through September 1. Garrett’s images show Monroe at her most iconic – wrapped in white mink at a movie premiere, throwing the first pitch in a charity baseball game in a curve-clinging halter dress, posing with Lauren Bacall at the premiere of How to Marry a Millionaire.
“Some people you can’t take a bad picture of, and she was in that category,” Garrett said during a chat at the opening night party for the show.
Skillfully composed and gracefully nuanced – the images wouldn’t be nearly as evocative in color — the pictures look like cover shots for Life, Look or a vintage issue of Time magazine, not surprising since Garrett was a prominent show business photographer for more than 30 years.
His formal and informal images appeared in numerous publications. Directors, film executives and movie stars called him for bespoke work, when a party needed a photographer or personal pictures were required. Bob Hope, who tapped Garrett to photograph his radio and television shows for 25 years, attributed to Garret “the visual sense of a paparazzo and the tack of an insider.”
Though Garrett photographed myriad movie stars, from Frank Sinatra, Betty Grable
and Natalie Wood to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who he photographed at Disneyland, Monroe was a favorite. “We were the same age,” he says. And he admired how she did her job. “These pictures are the end of an era when they knew how to be stars,” he says.
Besides his eye, Garrett attributed his success to his unobtrusive manner, his efficiency and his timing. “When you’re taking a shot of someone doing a jump, there’s a split second when they’re still,” he says.
Garrett grew up in New York and wanted to be a lawyer. Unsure of getting a scholarship, he went to trade school instead on the Lower East Side and learned to be a photographer. A part-time job in high school with a photographic agency led to work with Eileen Darby, a prominent theatrical photographer. When the agency had an opening on the West Coast, Garrett jumped.
In 2000 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences honored Garrett with a reception and an exhibition of his work in their Beverly Hills headquarters. His images are captured in two books, Hollywood Candid, A Photographer Remembers and Hollywood Moments.
So why was the exhibition held at the Washington Square Hotel? Family connections. Garrett’s son is married to the woman whose family has owned the hotel for over 40 years.
Selected images are for sale, priced from $2,000 to $3,500. For additional information, contact Marc Garrett at firstname.lastname@example.org or the Washington Square Hotel, 130 Waverly Place; 212 777-9515.