The term "heartbreakingly beautiful" could have been coined for Sharon Tate. Sharon Tate was the portrait of a Hollywood goddess—flawlessly beautiful and successful. Her reality soon became a nightmare, and everything she had ever enjoyed in life—security, a husbands love, impending motherhood and an important film career---would lead to events so horrible they would be termed "the worst brutal and bizarre murder in history." The world was stunned by the slayings. "She had hopes and she had dreams and was a thoughtful member of society until a crazy little man decided for no reason that she shouldn't be around anymore," said Sharon's mother.
The story of Sharon Tate all began on January 24, 1943 when she was born in Dallas, Texas. Both her parents, Doris and Paul Tate, were natives of Houston. Her father was a lieutenant colonel in Army Intelligence, and Sharon, with her two younger sisters, Patricia and Deborah, saw a good deal of the United States as the family was shifted from Army post to Army post. When she was six months old, Sharon won her first beauty contest, "Miss Tiny Tot of Dallas." As a teenager, Sharon won a number of beauty contests, claiming the titles of "Miss Richland, Washington," at sixteen and at seventeen "Miss Autorama." At Vicenza American High School near Verona, Italy (Romeo & Juliet), she was a cheerleader, prized basketball player, baton twirler, and was chosen "Homecoming Queen" and "Queen of the Senior Prom."
While in Italy Sharon began to get a lot of bit parts. She did a lot of crowd scenes. Through a choreographer friend, Sharon landed a part on "The Pat Boone Show," a TV series being filmed in Italy. She can also be glimpsed in Barrabas, a film about ancient Rome. It's possible that during this period she did extra work in other Italian-based productions, although they never appeared in any of her biographies.
The Tate family moved back to the United States in February 1963, settling in San Pedro, just south of Los Angeles. Sharon had already moved into the Hollywood Studio Club. When an aggressive roommate made some lesbian advances, Sharon requested a new room. Sharon had gone to school to enhance her acting, singing, and modeling ability. She was very bright, smart and spoke several languages. Her first job was dressing up in an Irish costume for Lipper Productions and handing out Kelly-Kalani Wine in Los Angeles restaurants at $25 a day. She also appeared in television commercials for Chevrolet Automobiles and Santa Fe Cigars. There is one thing during this time period that all her close friends agree on,. Sharon was the most beautiful girl in the world!
Sharon was finally casted in a role in the CBS series "Whistle Stop." The show was renamed "Petticoat Junction," the pilot aired and became a huge success, but after that the series did not continue with Sharon. The producer noticed Sharon's physical potential and decided not to use her for the series but, instead, groom her for motion pictures
Sharon began spending a considerable amount of time with French actor, Philippe Forquet, who pursued her avidly. The alliance with Forquet often resulted in frequent battles. Sharon found her hospitalized due to beatings while they were seeing each other. They're relationship ended when Sharon became involved with men's hairstylist, Jay Sebring. That relationship also ended after Sharon discovered Jay's unique styles in...well, to keep this clean, courting a women. After the breake up the two still remained good friends.
Occasionally, Sharon did small parts on television series such as "The Man From U.N.C.L.E," The Beverly Hillbillies," and "Petticoat Junction," usually disguised under a black wig. On "The Beverly Hillbillies," Sharon portrayed Janet Trego, the secretary to the president of the bank. She was assigned to minor roles in MGM features, The Wheeler Dealers, The Americanization of Emily and The Sandpiper. At the same time Sharon had escaped a near fatal car crash where her car flipped four and a half times and left Sharon with hide-able scars. Her new Triumph automobile totaled.
In September, 1965 Sharon went to London to begin her first major role in Thirteen, the story of a devil-worshipping cult which engages in human sacrifice. She was Odile, a fragile French country girl possessed of witch-like powers. The film was finally released as Eye of the Devil. "Sharon Tate portrayed a chillingly beautiful girl engaged in witchcraft," said The New York Times.
After filming was done a friend introduced Sharon to a well known, talented film director named Roman Polanski. Roman had been in involved in the planning for his next film Called The Fearless Vampire Killers. He had his cast set, but after meeting Sharon he quickly replaced the feminine lead with Sharon. The film became a great success and now considered a classic. Then finally sparks were made between Roman and Sharon and the two became an item. "We had a lot of fun becoming part of the Hollywood scene. It was always party time in Beverly Hills and Bel Air and we had some place to go every night of the week. We were showered with hospitality by Hollywood stars young and old," said Roman.
Sharon's next film for MGM was Don't Make Waves, a spoof on life in Malibu Beach, in which she was the surfboard riding, sky-diving foil for Tony Curtis. In the meantime Roman was receiving worldwide acclaim for his film Rosemary's Baby. Also photos taken by Roman of Sharon during the filming of Fearless Vampire Killers were released in an issue of Playboy accompanying the article was "This is the year Sharon Tate Happens."
Author Jacqueline Susann's pleasantly trashy Valley of the Dolls was on the bestsellers list for 23 weeks and soon a movie version was in the making. The film was released starring Sharon, Patty Duke and Barbara Perkins. The movie was also to have costarred Judy Garland but Twentieth Century Fox dropped the unreliable star and replaced her with Susan Howard. Though the film itself wasn't given great reviews, Sharon and Susan walked away with great ones. Sharon's portrayal of the doomed sex symbol, Jennifer North, was both impressive and moving. "Sharon Tate emerges as the film's most sympathetic character. William Daniels' photographic caress of her faultless face and enormous absorbent eyes is stunning." gasped The Hollywood Reporter
On January 20, 1968, just before her 25th birthday, Sharon married Roman in a civil ceremony in London. "Sharon and I are very happy," Polanski proclaimed. To which Sharon added "I'm so happy I can't believe it!" Attending the reception was a many close friends including Sharon's costar, from Valley, Barbara Perkins, who was maid of honor. The newly married couple went skiing in the Swiss Alps for their honeymoon.
In a poll of movie exhibitors taken by the trade journal Motion Picture Herald, Sharon was named the "star of tomorrow," and she began filming her next film. In this movie, The Wrecking Crew, Sharon joined Dean Martin as his bungling agent and sole ally working to stop a team of gold hijackers. Bruce Lee was hired to teach Sharon the art of kung fu for particular scenes. "Sharon Tate reveals a pleasantly affinity to scatterbrain comedy and comes to walking away with the picture as she did in a radically different role in Valley of the Dolls," said The Hollywood Reporter.
Sharon was to film The Thirteen Chairs, from an old Russian novel. In this film Sharon is enchanting in what proved to be her final role. Costarring Sharon was Orson Wells. Due to some nude footage in the film, it caused a little uneasiness at the time of its release, but still proved to be successful.
To Sharon's bitter disappointment, Polanski remained in London for story conferences on a film of his and was unable to accompany her on her way back home to California in July 1969. Sharon eight months pregnant sailed home alone to prepare for her baby. Roman notes in his autobiography that he "felt something was different about this parting, something morbid." They had a tearful good-bye, and that was the last time they saw each other alive.
In, Hollywood, Sharon spent most of her days at the house on Cielo Drive quietly, making preparations for the expected baby by redecorating the nursery. Now everything centered around the baby. Sheilah Wells, friend and former roommate, recalls their many afternoons together: "Sharon was taking every precaution to have a healthy and wouldn't do anything to jeopardize the child. She wanted to be a mother more than anything in the world." After her baby, Sharon had a few roles lined up for her including Tess. In Tess she would have played the title role in the sentimental love story. Ironically Roman would direct this film in the late seventies. On August 7 Sharon did a screening for the series "Marcus Welby, MD." Actor Rob Lipton recalls "She was so pregnant that it tired her just sitting through an hour episode."
Some friends of Sharon's came over on August 8th for a leisurely lunch. They talked mostly about the baby and Roman's return home for the baby's birth and his birthday which Sharon was planning a party for. Sharon was to supposed to have gone to a party at Sheilah Wells's house but instead decided to stay home and rest. Even to this day people who say they were friends of Sharon make false claims that they were "supposed to be there ". The fact is Sharon had no plans for anyone to come over that day. Sharon was not alone though. Good friends of hers were staying with her so she wouldn't be alone during those last two weeks of her pregnancy, including Jay, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, and her boyfriend, film producer, Voytek Frykowski, (who was also a childhood friend of Roman).
All Sharon asked for at that time of her life and at the end was to have her baby, but she didn't.
The decade of love and peace ended with a violent, vicious close. The bodies of Sharon, her house guests and a passerby were found by the Polanski's maid one morning in August 1969. Sharon, an innocent mother-to-be, was viciously killed for no reason at the hands of drug abusing cult members. Sharon Tate was only 26.
The cult members and their leader were imprisoned for life. Sharon's final movies were released posthumously; The Thirteen Chairs was renamed 12 + 1 for superstitious reasons in light of what happened. The mansion where the murders took place was featured in a recent rock video then razed to the ground and a new house has been built on the site.