Sharon Marie Tate (January 24, 1943 - August 9, 1969) was an American actress and a victim of the Charles Manson murders.
Sharon Tate was born in Dallas, Texas and was the first of three daughters born to Colonel Paul and Doris Tate. Even as a child Sharon was very beautiful. At six months of age Sharon won her first beauty contest; she was crowned Miss Tiny Tot of Dallas, Texas. Her very first jobs included modeling.
While living in Verona, Italy, Tate met Richard Beymer, who encouraged her to pursue acting and modeling as a full-time career. Beymer gave his agent's card to Sharon. She began to take part in the film, Barrabas, as an extra. Having made a good impression, whenever there was a film being made there Tate would always get a call.
Moving back to the United States, Tate hitchhiked most of the way to Hollywood, and paid a visit to Beymer's agent. She was soon performing in commercials and modeling for famous photographers. In between jobs she performed as a Kelly Kalanki Wine Girl and shared an apartment with fellow actress Sheilah Wells.
Early TV appearances
After being introduced to Martin Ransohoff, chairmen of Filmways, Tate was on her way to becoming a star. Her parents, wanting to make Tate's dreams come true, allowed her to become a ward of the court as she was under 21 years old. After becoming a Filmways client, Tate was signed on to appear as a secretary on The Beverly Hillbillies, she also began making appearances on other shows such as Mr. Ed, Man from U.N.C.L.E, and was also cast for a short time on Petticoat Junction.
Determined to make her a star, Ronsohoff paid out over 1 million dollars in training and preparation. She would become known as "Million Dollar Baby," one of the last studio stars. Around this time Sharon began dating Phillippe Forquet, a French actor. Both her parents and Ronsohoff felt he would stand in her way of becoming a star. Their love affair was rocky but intense, and Forquet proposed to Tate, who accepted. However, their relationship soon ended, with Forquet walking away.
After much pushing for new parts from Tate, Ronsohoff felt it was time for him to give her bigger parts. She soon was auditioning for the part of Liesel in The Sound of Music along with Patty Duke, Mia Farrow, and Lesley Ann Warren. Producers felt Tate looked too mature for the part, and it was given to another actress. But soon The Eye of the Devil, also known as 13, was brought to her.
Tate around this time had met and fell in love with Jay Sebring, a Hollywood hair stylist, whom Tate's parents became impressed with. Tate would spend time at Sebring's salon while he worked. After filming Eye of the Devil in Europe, Sharon was given a part in acclaimed director Roman Polanski's movie The Fearless Vampire Killers.
Reportedly Tate did not initially like Polanski, as he was an absolute perfectionist, but later the two were eventually romantically linked. After a meeting with Polanski, Sebring ended his relationship with Tate, parting amicably. The trio became friends in the end.
After filming wrapped, Tate began shooting a movie alongside Tony Curtis, called Don't Make Waves. In the film Tate performs her own stunts, but began to hate filming the movie because she was not only separated from Polanski, but reportedly felt she was being type-cast as a "blonde sex goddess."
Valley of the Dolls
Despite her misgivings about type-casting she still took the role of Jennifer in the movie Valley of the Dolls. She was cast alongside such names as Judy Garland (soon replaced by Susan Hayward), Patty Duke, and Barbara Parkins, but reportedly hated the book and movie, but participated hoping to be eventually offered better roles.
Due to tensions on the set, filming was difficult. The director apparently enjoyed humiliating Tate, and Duke and Parkins bickered. Despite the serious tone of the book, the film became an unintentional comedy. But it didn't stop Tate from willingly talking to the press afterwards, which her costars avoided.
Although Tate was dating Polanski, he did not cast her in his new film Rosemary's Baby, a film which would become a huge hit. Tate would, however, visit the New York set and become friends with the movie's star Mia Farrow, who was married to Frank Sinatra at the time. When Sinatra served divorce papers to Farrow on the set of the movie (in view of the whole cast and crew) Tate and Polanski brought Farrow into their circle of friends.
While visiting Polanski one day, Tate posed for publicity pictures for Esquire magazine. The session was cutting edge and much of publicity for the film Valley of the Dolls was created because of it.
Marrying Polanski, Leaving Ronsohoff
In 1967 Tate and Polanski returned to London, and were by this time known as the "Groovy Couple of the Year" in movie magazines. Their home became the "place to be" and they were very candid about everything. In January 1968 Polanski proposed to Tate in London and they were married on January 20, 1968, with her Valley of the Dolls costar Barbara Parkins as her maid of honor.
Although she was married to the acclaimed Polanski, Tate never asked to be in any of his films. She ended her contract with Ronsohoff. She was only allowed out of her contract after she agreed to pay out 25% of her earnings in the next 4 years. Tate agreed, feeling it was the only way she could take charge of her career and the roles she would take.
In the summer of 1968, Polanski introduced Tate to his friend Wojciech Frykowski who had just moved from New York to Los Angeles with his girlfriend coffee heiress Abigail Folger. Although Tate reportedly could barely tolerate Frykowski, she had a good relationship with Folger. The foursome were joined by Jay Sebring and others in their Hollywood circle of friends.
Her first movie was The Wrecking Crew, in which she played alongside legend Dean Martin. In this film she performed her own stunts and was taught martial arts by Bruce Lee. Lee and Tate became friends and she invited Lee to their home so he could teach martial arts to Polanski. By the fall of 1968, Tate was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Newcomer, but did not win. She was also runner-up in the Motion Pictures Herald's poll for "The Star of Tomorrow."
Tate became pregnant near the end of 1968, but initially kept the news to herself. In February 1969 Polanski and Tate, who before moving into Patty Duke's house were living from hotel to hotel, moved into their first official home at 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon. Their home had been previously occupied by record producer, Terry Melcher and his girlfriend actress Candice Bergen.
By March of 1969 Tate was due to leave for Italy to begin working on the film Twelve Plus One Chairs. Although Polanski had reservations about her filming a movie during her pregnancy, Tate reassured him that she would be finished the film by the time she was too pregnant to continue. Filming was hard as Tate had a lot of action scenes and running around was hard on her swollen feet. Tate rested between takes and never asked for special treatment.
After filming, Tate returned to London to be with Polanski, who was making preparations for his film "Day of the Dolphin." While there she posed for photographer Terry O'Neil. In the pictures she is holding her stomach on the stairwell of her London home with Roman, she is lying on the floor surrounded by baby clothes, holding a baby sweater in her car, and opening baby shower gifts.
Tate made her last publicity shoot in London for the movie Twelve Plus One Chairs. She returned from London to Los Angeles, on July 20, 1969, after traveling alone on the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 due to her pregnancy. Polanski was due to return on August 12 to 10050 Cielo Drive for his child's birth after completing his work in London.
According to friends, Tate spent August 8, 1969, in a funk. She was two weeks away from her son's birth and was living in a house with Abigail Folger and Folger's boyfriend, Holocaust survivor Wojciech Frykowski, with whom Folger was reportedly growing tired. Tate was lonely, but eagerly awaiting the birth her child. The sex of the child was unknown at that time. After napping in the late afternoon, Tate, Folger, Frykowski, along with Sebring all visited the El Coyote restaurant for a meal. After dining they returned home. Frykowski fell asleep on the couch, Folger retired to her room to read a book, and Sebring and Tate were in her room having a deep conversation.
At around 12:30, Tate, Jay Sebring, Folger, Frykowski, and a teenaged boy named Steven Parent, were killed by members of Charles Manson's "cult", who took the five by surprise.
The murder of Sharon Tate and her friends, caused a panic throughout Beverly Hills and many celebrities began to implement the extreme measures of home and personal security that have become common practice in modern Hollywood. The scale of panic escalated when a sensationalist media released details of Manson family plans to murder other celebrities including Welsh singer Tom Jones, Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen (who had been a close friend of Jay Sebring), Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
Doris Tate became a vocal advocate for victim's rights and for the remainder of her life would strongly campaign against the parole of any of the Manson killers, and she worked closely with other victims of violent crime. After Doris Tate's death from brain cancer, Sharon's youngest sister, Patti, continued to promote her mother's cause and endlessly attended the parole hearings of her sister's murderers. After Patti's own death from breast cancer, her older sister Debra assumed a similar role and began attending parole hearings. Debra has also unsuccessfully lobbied for Sharon to be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Sharon's father, Colonel Paul Tate, has since retired from service and has kept a very private life since his daughter's death.
Sharon Tate is interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California, with her son, Paul Richard Polanski, in her arms.
Una su 13 (The 13 Chairs) (1969)
The Wrecking Crew (1969)
Valley of the Dolls (1967)
The Fearless Vampire Killers (aka Dance of the Vampires) (1967)
Don't Make Waves (1967)
Eye of the Devil (aka 13)(1967)