Who Was Sharon Tate?
Actress Sharon Tate was born on January 24, 1943, in Dallas. She had several key roles that led to her success on the small screen, particularly in the television series The Beverly Hillbillies. Her work in the film Eye of the Devil in 1965 was significant in Tate’s life for two reasons: It was her first major role in a feature film, and it was shortly after making it that she met movie director Roman Polanski, who would eventually become her husband. On August 9, 1969, while eight and a half months pregnant with Polanski’s child, Tate was murdered by a group run by Charles Manson.
Actress Sharon Tate was born on January 24, 1943, in Dallas, Texas. Starting out in Hollywood in the early 1960s, she appeared in a recurring role on the television show The Beverly Hillbillies, and in bit parts in movies, including The Americanization of Emily (1964) and The Sandpiper (1965).
In 1965, she landed her first major movie role, in Eye of the Devil, starring David Niven and Deborah Kerr. After filming the movie in France, she met the movie director Roman Polanski in London, auditioning successfully for his horror spoof, The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967). The couple began a romantic relationship, and were married in January 1968.
Sharon Tate’s breakthrough performance came in the hit 1967 film Valley of the Dolls, based on the best-selling novel by Jacqueline Susann and co-starring Patty Duke and Susan Hayward. Also in 1967, she appeared in Don’t Make Waves with Tony Curtis, and in 1968 had a starring role in the comedy The Wrecking Crew, with Dean Martin. With the success of Valley of the Dolls and Polanski’s creepy thriller, Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Tate and Polanski became one of the most visible couples in Hollywood.
After completing filming on 12 + 1 (released in 1970) in Italy in 1969, Tate returned to Los Angeles, where she and her husband were renting a house on Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon. Polanski remained at the couple’s home in England, working on his latest film. On August 9, 1969, the 26-year-old Tate (then eight and a half months pregnant) was brutally murdered in her home, along with three houseguests, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring and a friend of the house’s caretaker, Steven Parent, by a group of people who were later revealed to be part of the “Manson family,” a murderous cult driven by the apocalyptic fantasies of its deranged leader, Charles Manson.
Manson and four of his followers were convicted of those murders (along with two others) and sentenced to death in 1971; after California’s temporary abolition of the death penalty in 1972, their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment. One, Susan Atkins, died in prison in 2009, and Manson himself also passed away in late 2017; the rest are still serving life sentences and have repeatedly been denied parole.
By 2018, with the 50th anniversary of the Manson murders drawing close, three feature films about Tate were in the works. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, directed by Quentin Tarantino and starring Margot Robbie (as the actress), Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, aimed to incorporate Tate’s death into a larger examination of Tinseltown dynamics of the time.