Sharon Marie Tate Polanski was a famous American actress and model who met her fate in tragic circumstances. She suffered the most gruesome attack at the hands of a malicious cult. Young and with so much ahead of her, Tates’ death threw all of Hollywood into a spin.
Tate was an up-and-coming star and the wife of film director Roman Polanski. She died alongside four other people at the couple’s home in Beverly Hills. She was eight and a half months pregnant when she perished on August 9, 1969.
On January 24, 1943, Sharon Tate was born in Dallas, Texas, to a family of three daughters. Her father, Paul James Tate, was a US Army Officer. Her father’s work caused them to constantly move from city to city.
Tate found it challenging to maintain friendships because of this and was very shy-natured as a result. Despite this, she won a large number of beauty pageants early in her life. She won both Homecoming and Senior Prom Queen during her school days.
Her beauty warmed the onlookers’ hearts right from the time she was born. When she was just six months old, she was titled Miss Tiny Tot of Dallas. When she was 16, she was called Miss Richland while studying in Richland.
But she could not hold on to the titles for too long. Soon after, her father was transferred to Italy, and the family moved to the new country. But she always looked beautiful, like a doll, attracting attention wherever she went.
Sharon Tate made her first film debut in 1961, where she played the role of an extra in Barabbas. Tate later hired an agent called Harold Gefsky, who helped her get minor roles for television shows such as ‘The Beverly Hillbillies.’
Tate continued working and gaining experience through minor roles in many television shows for a little while. Finally, in 1965, after facing several unsuccessful attempts in landing a movie role, she got her first significant role in a motion picture titled ‘Eye of the Devil.’
In the Eye of the Devil, Tate played a witch named Odile, who exercises her powers over a landowner and his wife. Despite not having many lines, Tate played a crucial role in the film.
Most of the film scenes were shot in France, and Tate’s performances received many positive reviews. Her co-actor, Niven, described Tate as a ‘great discovery,’ while another co-actor, Kerr, believed that Tate would find great success in her career with a reasonable amount of luck.
Sharon Tate is still remembered for her part in the drama named ‘Valley of the Dolls’ released in 1967, a story about three women working their way into the entertainment industry.
The American drama film was based on a novel of the same name. While it received several negative reviews from critics, it still managed to hit the box office. One review even went on to mention the cast as, “generally mediocre.”
Roman Polanski was a famous director, and Tate fell in love with him while working on his film, ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers.’ Their relationship escalated and they eventually got married in London in 1968.
The ceremony took place at the Chelsea Register Office on January 20, 1968 when Tate was 25 years old. She wore a high-necked ivory silk minidress that had people capitvated. The famous dress was recently sold at an auction.
Roman Polanski was a famous film director of his time, with many films like ‘Knife in the water’ and ‘Repulsion,’ films that grew to be very popular. This was followed by ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ which was an all-time hit.
The director was French by birth. He spent his childhood in Poland, where his parents were sent to a concentration camp when he was only six years old. His mother was killed in a gas chamber, and he returned to his home in Paris with his father.
The famous couple did turn a few heads while they were in a relationship. Sharon’s sister, Debra Tate, said that Tate was head over heels in love with Polanski. She added that Roman and Sharon were a true love story.
Peter Evans, a photographer, had a lot to say about them as well. He called them, “the imperfect couple… cool, nomadic, talented, and nicely shocking.” This clearly shows how great they were together as a couple, despite the rumors that surrounded their relationship.
Debra Tate fondly recalls that Sharon absolutely adored Roman, and they were pleased as a couple. If there were people who thought otherwise, they were purely mistaken. In 1969, Tate became pregnant with their first child.
Many eminent people in the entertainment industry were friends of Sharon and Roman, who were famous as a star couple. Many, including directors, actors, musicians, and people like Playboy Executive Victor Lownes, were friends with the couple who enjoyed their company and they often got together.
During one summer, Sharon and Roman went to Europe to fulfill their professional commitments. While Tate finished filming her movie ‘The Thirteen Chairs,’ Polanski was busy finalizing locations for his film. After her work was completed, Tate went back home alone.
Polanski stayed back in London to complete his work. While they were away, two of their friends, Wojciech Frykowski and Abigail Folger, were looking after the house. They welcomed a heavily pregnant Tate when she returned from Europe all alone.
On the morning of August 8, the couple argued over the phone when Polanski called her from London. Tate was not happy that Polanski is staying back in London and not showing any signs of return.
Tate was furious because she was planning to hold a birthday party for Polanski ten days later. She told him that if he wouldn’t make it home in time for the party, their relationship would be over.
Being a celebrated actress and a celebrity wife to a famous director, it is safe to assume that Tate lived a great life. But at this point, she was ready to settle down happily with her husband and her unborn child.
She had always wished for a normal home where she could have her mail delivered and she mostly wanted a family that would always be there for each other. Unfortunately, the fact remains that none of her wishes came true, and she was dragged to death by the cruel hands of destiny.
Sharon was just 26 years old when she was murdered along with four others in her and Polanski’s Los Angeles home. She was eight-and-a-half months pregnant at that time. Her husband, Polanski was away from home that night.
Her three friends; Jay Sebring- a celebrity hair stylist, Wojciech Frykowski- a Polish writer and friend of Polanski, and Abigail Folger- a coffee heiress, along with Steven Parent, a friend of the caretaker of the estate who was paying a visit, were the unfortunate people who lost their lives with Sharon during that tragic night.
Sharon had lunch by the pool with her friends, Barbara Lewis and Joanna Pettet. She complained about her husband, especially about how he was always away. But she was pleased that she was soon going to be a mom.
At around 3 pm, Folger and Frykowski joined them in Tate’s house. A little later, she went inside to take a nap. Jay Sebring and Steven Parent arrived at around 6 pm. The group went out for dinner and came back around 10 pm, before the night of bloodshed would occur.
Though the brain behind the murders was cult leader Charles Manson, he did not do it himself. Instead, he sent his “family” members to accomplish the task. As it was nighttime, they found it easy to get inside the place unnoticed.
The killers were identified as Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, Charles Tex Watson, and Patricia Krenwinkel. The motive behind the killing was thought to be a race war, but people’s opinions varied. The group also murdered Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in Los Angeles the next night.
Shortly after midnight, the four killers climbed over the gate to Tate’s home and started attacking violently. Steven Parent was the first to get shot as he was the first one to be seen.
The group then went inside the house and killed the four others without any mercy. Sharon Tate was hit 16 times, and her blood was used to write the word ‘PIG’ on the front door of her house. This created panic throughout the country, especially among celebrities.
Tate was pleading for her and her unborn child’s life while others were being stabbed or shot. She begged them to have her killed after giving birth to her child, but she was given no heed.
She was wearing a white dress that night, and it was covered in blood. According to reports, she screamed in pain and called for her mother. Her life came to an end when she was stabbed to death.
It was not like a typical murder that happened every other day in some part of the country. This mass killing involved a noted Hollywood actress and many friends who had nothing to do with any wrongdoings.
Celebrities were panic-stricken and feared the prospect of serial killers running around killing people. When more murders happened the very next day, the whole country was terrified. Nobody could justify the murders or find a way to stop them.
The Manson Family members were arrested sometime later, not for the murders but for auto theft. While in prison, Atkins, one of the killers, was the first to speak about their connection with the horrific murder of six people in August.
Taking into account their part in the murders, Kasabian, Watson, Krenwinkel, Atkins, and Van Houten were indicted in December. Leslie Van Houten was the person who helped the group carry out the murders the night after Tate’s death in her home.
Much to the relief of Sharon Tate’s fans and well-wishers, the murderers were found guilty in 1971 and they received the death penalty. However, Kasabian was exempt from death as she had given testimony.
Even though they had received the death penalty, it was commuted to life sentences the next year, as capital punishment was abolished in California. The Manson Family members continued to commit crimes and violent attacks throughout the state.
Tate’s mother, Doris Tate, fought hard to get the Victim’s Rights Bill passed in California in 1982. According to the bill, the victims of a crime can give statements about how the crimes affected them, as a part of the legal process.
These statements become part of the proceedings at particular points of a legal battle that ensues a crime. Thus, Tate’s mother changed her daughter’s legacy from being a murder victim to somebody who came to symbolize the victims’ rights.
People were respectful of Tate’s family as they turned one of the most challenging phases of their lives into a positive one. Her mother worked tirelessly to help pass the bill and later founded the Coalition on Victim’s Equal Rights.
Sharon Tate’s mother has said that no one can never forget an incident like her daughter’s, and not even time can heal it. She is happy that she has accomplished something like this when all someone in her plight wants is peace of mind.
Born in Ohio to a 16-year-old mother, Charles Manson spent his early years in juvenile reformatories and later in prison. On his release, he formed what came to be known as the ‘Manson Family,’ which consisted of a group of ‘hippies.’
The group was not a usual one, and orgies and drugs were commonplace here. The members of the cult would get together in the outskirts of Los Angeles, where Manson taught strange religious rituals to his followers. Interestingly, before he started the commune, he was an aspiring singer-songwriter.
Strangely enough, it was neither Polanski nor Tate who was the real target of the murder. The house was targeted because Manson had a problem with the person who lived there before the couple bought the house.
Manson was not directly involved in the murder of the five people in Polanski’s house and the two murders that happened the following night. He had sent his ‘family’ there to do the killings on his behalf so that he could avenge what was done to him.
Being an aspiring singer, Manson got a chance to associate with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. Wilson then introduced Manson to record producer Terry Melcher, who was also the son of actress and singer Doris Day. This would have turned into a significant association if things had gone smoothly.
The Beach Boys recorded Manson’s song ‘Cease to Exist’ and renamed it as ‘Never Learn Not to Love,’ for which Manson was not given any credit. This left a deep scar in Manson’s mind, which could have triggered what followed in the years to come.
Manson was hoping to get a record deal from Terry Melcher. But this attempt failed as Melcher was not ready to sign a deal with Manson. This disturbed Manson.
Around that time, Melcher, along with his girlfriend Candice Bergen and musician Mark Lindsay, had rented a house. With rejection from every side, Manson was in a dark phase of his life. This motivated him to take revenge on the whole of Hollywood.
Later, Tate and Polanski rented out the same house where Melcher and the others used to live. It was at this time that Manson instructed four of his family members to go to the house.
His words to them were “totally destroy everyone in [it], as gruesome as you can.” It is clear that his main target was the house, and not its inhabitants.
Sharon Tate was the talk of the town in the 1960s. It did not come as a surprise given her stunning looks, her portrayal of vivid characters, and a famous husband. However, her career was like a story left untold.
Her roles in hit movies were not prominent enough to promise a successful career for a girl like her, who was just 26. But there was something in her, maybe her innocence, that made her a pop culture star in America at that time.
Ed Sanders, who authored the biography of Tate, ‘Sharon Tate: A Life,’ has written that she was a woman who oscillated between wanting to be a Hollywood star and a stay-at-home-mom. She balanced her home and career very gracefully.
In the words of Toni Basil, “Sharon was dear, sweet, and aware of her sexuality but not competitive with other women. She seemed to take pleasure in her celebrity life and her director husband and was not consumed in serious acting.”
Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ is a movie that honors Sharon Tate. The director has said that his research about the actress has made him admire and respect her for the kind of person that she was.
Sadly, Tate is remembered for being the victim of a gruesome murder and not for the life she lived, be it her acting career or her personal life. This image is what the director has tried to erase through his movie, giving the world the opportunity to know the real Tate.
Tarantino has not just shown Tate as a wife to Polanski or a woman with a wide circle of friends. He has tried to hang out with her or, more correctly, let the audience hang out with her.
She was seen driving around Los Angeles, doing her chores, and being herself in the movie. This way, the audience got to see who Sharon was before she fell victim to the murder. This was a new angle to the whole life story of Sharon Tate.
Margot Robbie gave a stunning performance as Sharon Tate in the much-talked-about movie ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.’ She is seen dancing and riding in a convertible with her director husband.
Tate is also seen going to a movie theatre to watch her movie ‘The Wrecking Crew,’ where she played the role of a secret agent. It is excellent to watch Margot Robbie in a mini-skirt and white boots recreating scenes from Sharon’s real life as an actress.
The character played by Robbie has very few lines, but she has left a lasting impact on the movie audience. She said that she was more concerned about what the character is supposed to serve in the story.
She felt that her coming on the screen as Sharon Tate was an opportunity to honor the late actress. She added that portraying the beautiful sides of Sharon could be adequately done without speaking. It was not about the movie but more about the story of the great actress.
Sharon Tate’s sister, Debra Tate, had apprehensions about the movie initially. But when she read the script sent to her by Tarantino, she felt that the movie is respectful to Sharon in every way and felt thankful for that.
Debra says that she realized that the movie is more about the male characters than Sharon when she read the script. Though she wanted to have the real story of her sister be told, she understood what the director really intended to portray through the film.
Debra had visited the set of the movie ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ and was moved to see and hear Robbie as Sharon. However, she couldn’t control her tears when she saw that Robbie sounded just like her sister.
Margot Robbie’s tone matched Sharon’s, and it touched Debra so much that her big tears wet her shirt. It was natural as Debra felt like she was seeing her sister Sharon some 50 years later. There are a few things that time can’t heal.
When the Tarantino film was released, Sharon Tate filled news columns once again. There are two male characters in the film played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as Rick Dalton and his stuntman Cliff Booth respectively.
The plot moves along similarly to Tate’s life, but it changes course unexpectedly. Tarantino used his imagination to rewrite what originally happened in the actress’s life to give the movie a different ending, probably something people wanted to see.
It was not just ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ that told the story of Sharon Tate. Another movie named ‘The Haunting of Sharon Tate’ was released in 2019. However, it didn’t do as well as it received negative reactions and reviews from critics.
The fact that the late actress is still being discussed is proof that her death created an irreversible scar throughout Hollywood and on the general public. It has been 50 years since her demise, but she lives through the legacy she left behind.
Watson, one of the killers, was convicted of murder and remains in prison. Atkins admitted that she had stabbed Tate to death, suffered from terrible brain cancer, and passed away in prison.
Atkins had, at one point, denied that she killed Sharon Tate. Van Houten and Krenwinkel are in prison to date. Van Houten was only 19 years of age when she helped in the murders of LaBiancas that happened on the night after Tate was killed.
According to Manson, The Beatle’s song ‘Helter Skelter’ called for a race war. And this is the reason why he asked his family to attack the people who lived at Tate’s house in Cielo Drive and kill them.
Charles Manson was sentenced to life in prison following the trial. He was never granted parole and eventually died at the age of 83. He was not amongst the killers of Tate and her friends but he was convicted for the murders of LaBiancas.