The exciting thing about photojournalism was that you never knew what the next phone call would bring. On October 11, 1954, I received a call from Time magazine: an assignment to photograph Marlon Brando. Marlon Brando! Every professional photographer knew that pictures of Brando at home were like gold. It was notoriously difficult to get him agree to be photographed. The researcher assigned to write the piece said that I should get up to Brando’s home in Benedict Canyon ‘right now,’ and that I should be sure to be in and out of there in ten minutes. ‘The man is an S.O.B. and will probably throw you out.’
My assistant, Peggy Irwin, and I hurriedly got my film and photo gear together and headed off to where Brando was then living, a house nestled into a hillside in the exclusive Benedict Canyon area above Beverly Hills. We were there in fifteen minutes. My pulse was racing. Was he going to be pleasant, or would he live up to the description the researcher had given me? Gear in hand, Peggy and I crossed a bridge over a dry creek to the front door and rang the bell. A few seconds later Brando himself appeared at the door, wearing a shirt and carrying a towel. Peggy’s eyes bulged and her cheeks flushed. He obviously had not expected me to have a female assistant, but he quickly covered himself with the towel. When I explained who I was and why I was there, he asked us to ‘wait outside for a minute.’ It seemed like an eternity passed before he returned with his pants on and invited us in. As I entered, I caught sight of a very beautiful, half-dressed brunette making her way up a staircase. Clearly we had interrupted a ‘matinée.’
I began furiously putting my gear together and calling out instructions to Peggy at the same time. Brando, eyeing this action from ten feet away, finally spoke. ‘Why are you so frantic?’ he asked. Surprised by this question, I went blank for a second and then I thought I might as well level with him. ‘When I was given this assignment I was told that you’d only give me ten minutes and that you were an S.O.B. and that you’d probably throw me out.’ There was dead silence. Horrified, Peggy stood, frozen in place. Brando looked at me, blinked a few times and then said softly, ‘That’s ridiculous, take as much time as you need.’ He poured us some soft drinks and said, ‘I’m yours. Tell me what you want.’
In about twenty-five minutes, my assistant and I started to pack our gear, getting ready to leave. We had shot about thirty-six black-and-white photos and twelve in color, which eventually appeared in almost every major publication in the world. So this day in 1954 turned out to be one of my luckiest days as a photojournalist; it was the second most profitable day of my entire career.
And on a personal level, I was glad to find out that Marlon Brando was not the S.O.B. I was told to expect.
— Murray Garrett
(Source: becketts, via isitscary)