Sharon Tate

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Sharon Tate
Sharon tate still-2.jpg
Promotional picture of Sharon Tate
BornSharon Marie Tate
(1943-01-24)January 24, 1943
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
DiedAugust 9, 1969(1969-08-09) (aged 26)
Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of deathStabs to the heart, liver and lungs, causing massive hemorrhage
Resting placeHoly Cross Cemetery
33°59′26″N 118°23′16″W / 33.99056°N 118.38778°W / 33.99056; -118.38778 (Sharon Tate Burial Site)
OccupationActress, model
Years active1961–1969
Spouse(s)Roman Polanski
(1968-1969, her death)
ParentsColonel Paul James Tate
Doris Gwendolyn Willett
 
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Sharon Tate
Sharon tate still-2.jpg
Promotional picture of Sharon Tate
BornSharon Marie Tate
(1943-01-24)January 24, 1943
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
DiedAugust 9, 1969(1969-08-09) (aged 26)
Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of deathStabs to the heart, liver and lungs, causing massive hemorrhage
Resting placeHoly Cross Cemetery
33°59′26″N 118°23′16″W / 33.99056°N 118.38778°W / 33.99056; -118.38778 (Sharon Tate Burial Site)
OccupationActress, model
Years active1961–1969
Spouse(s)Roman Polanski
(1968-1969, her death)
ParentsColonel Paul James Tate
Doris Gwendolyn Willett

Sharon Marie Tate (January 24, 1943 – August 9, 1969) was an American actress and sex symbol. During the 1960s she played small television roles before appearing in several motion pictures. She also appeared regularly in fashion magazines as a model and cover girl. After receiving positive reviews for her comedic and dramatic performances, Tate was hailed as one of Hollywood's most promising newcomers. She made her film debut in the occult-themed Eye of the Devil (1966), which was produced by Martin Ransohoff. Tate also starred as Jennifer North in the cult classic, Valley of the Dolls (1967), which earned her a Golden Globe Award nomination.

Tate married her director and The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) co-star, Roman Polanski, in 1968 in London. Tate was eight-and-a-half months pregnant with the couple's son when she was murdered in her home, along with four others, by a group known as the Manson Family on August 9, 1969. Tate's last completed film, 12+1 (co-starring Orson Welles), was released posthumously in 1969 with the actress receiving top-billing.

A decade after the murders, Tate's mother, Doris, in response to the growing cult status of the killers and the possibility that any of them might be granted parole, organized a public campaign against what she considered shortcomings in the state's corrections system. It resulted in amendments to the California criminal law in 1982 allowing crime victims and their families to make victim impact statements during sentencing and at parole hearings. Doris Tate was the first person to make such an impact statement under the new law when she spoke at the parole hearing of Charles "Tex" Watson, one of her daughter's killers. She believed changes in the law had afforded her daughter dignity that had been denied her before and that she had been able to "help transform Sharon's legacy from murder victim to a symbol of victims' rights".[1]

Life and career[edit]

Childhood and early acting career[edit]

Sharon Tate was born in Dallas, Texas, the eldest of three daughters, to Colonel Paul James Tate (1922–2005),[2] a United States Army officer, and his wife, Doris Gwendolyn (née Willett; January 16, 1924–July 10, 1992). At six months of age, Sharon won the "Miss Tiny Tot of Dallas Pageant", but her parents had no show business ambitions for their daughter. Paul Tate was promoted and transferred several times. By age 16, as an army brat, Sharon had lived in six different cities, and she reportedly found it difficult to maintain friendships. Her family described her as shy and lacking in self-confidence. As an adult Sharon Tate commented that people often misinterpreted her shyness for aloofness until they knew her better. [1]

As she matured, people commented on her beauty; she began entering beauty pageants, winning the title of "Miss Richland" in Washington state in 1959. She spoke of her ambition to study psychiatry, and also stated her intention to compete in the "Miss Washington" pageant in 1960, but before she could follow either course of action, Paul Tate was transferred to Italy, taking his family with him. On arriving in Verona, Sharon Tate learned that she had become a local celebrity owing to the publication of a photograph of her in a bathing suit on the cover of the military newspaper Stars and Stripes. She discovered a kinship with other students at the American school she attended in nearby Vicenza, recognizing that their backgrounds and feelings of separation were similar to her own, and for the first time in her life began to form lasting friendships.

Tate and her friends became interested in the filming of Adventures of a Young Man, which was being made nearby with Paul Newman, Susan Strasberg and Richard Beymer, and obtained parts as film extras. Beymer noticed Tate in the crowd and introduced himself, and the two dated during the production of the film, with Beymer encouraging Tate to pursue a film career. In 1961, Tate was employed by the singer Pat Boone, and appeared with him in a television special he made in Venice.[citation needed]

A black and white screenshot from the television series, The Beverly Hillbillies shows Max Baer Jr. as Jethro, Nancy Kulp as Jane Hathaway and Sharon Tate as Janet Trego, a secretary. Tate is wearing a business suit and a dark wig and is watching Miss Hathaway
Sharon Tate (at right wearing a dark wig) as Janet Trego in the 1964 "Giant Jackrabbit" episode of The Beverly Hillbillies with Max Baer, Jr. and Nancy Kulp

Later that year, when Barabbas was being filmed near Verona, Tate was once again hired as an extra. Actor Jack Palance was impressed by her appearance and her attitude, although her role was too small to judge her talent. He arranged a screen test for her in Rome, but this did not lead to further work. Tate returned to the United States alone, saying she wanted to further her studies, but tried to find film work. After a few months, Doris Tate, who feared for her daughter's safety, suffered a nervous breakdown and her daughter was persuaded to return to Italy. [1]

The family returned to the United States in 1962, and Tate moved to Los Angeles, where she contacted Richard Beymer's agent, Harold Gefsky. After their first meeting Gefsky agreed to represent her, and secured work for her in television and magazine advertisements. In 1963 he introduced her to Martin Ransohoff, director of Filmways, Inc., who signed her to a seven-year contract. She was considered for the role of Billie Jo Bradley, on CBS's sitcom, Petticoat Junction but Ransohoff believed that she lacked confidence and the role was given to Jeannine Riley. Ransohoff gave Tate small parts in Mister Ed and The Beverly Hillbillies to help her gain experience but was unwilling to allow her to play a more substantial role. "Mr. Ransohoff didn't want the audience to see me till I was ready", Tate was quoted in a 1967 article in Playboy magazine.[3]

During this time Tate met the French actor Philippe Forquet, and began a relationship with him. They became engaged, but the relationship was volatile and they frequently quarreled. Career pressures drove them apart and they ended the relationship.

In 1964, she met Jay Sebring, a former sailor who had established himself as a leading hair stylist in Hollywood. Tate later said that Sebring's nature was especially gentle, but when he proposed marriage she would not accept. She said that she would retire from acting as soon as she married, and at that time she intended to focus on her career.[1]

Film career[edit]

In 1964, Tate made a screen test for Sam Peckinpah opposite Steve McQueen for the film The Cincinnati Kid. Ransohoff and Peckinpah agreed that Tate's timidity and lack of experience would cause her to flounder in such a large part, and she was rejected in favor of Tuesday Weld.[1] She continued to gain experience with minor television appearances, and after she auditioned unsuccessfully for the role of Liesl in the film version of The Sound of Music, Ransohoff gave Tate walk-on roles in two motion pictures in which he was producer: The Americanization of Emily and The Sandpiper.[4] In late 1965, Ransohoff finally gave Tate her first major role in a motion picture in the film Eye of the Devil, co-starring David Niven, Deborah Kerr, Donald Pleasence, and David Hemmings.[5]

Tate and Sebring traveled to London to prepare for filming, where she met the Alexandrian Wiccan High Priest and High Priestess Alex and Maxine Sanders.[6] Meanwhile, as part of Ransohoff's promotion of Tate, he arranged the production of a short documentary called All Eyes on Sharon Tate, to be released at the same time as Eye of the Devil. It included an interview with Eye of the Devil director J. Lee Thompson, who expressed his initial doubts about Tate's potential with the comment "We even agreed that if after the first two weeks Sharon was not quite making it, we would put her back in cold storage", but added he soon realized Tate was "tremendously exciting".[1]

Tate played Odile, a witch who exerts a mysterious power over a landowner, played by Niven, and his wife, played by Kerr. Although she did not have as many lines as the other actors, Tate's performance was considered crucial to the film, and she was required, more than the other cast members, to set an ethereal tone. Niven described her as a "great discovery," and Kerr said that with "a reasonable amount of luck" Tate would be a great success.[1] In interviews Tate commented on her good fortune in working with such professionals in her first film and said that she had learned a lot about acting simply by watching Kerr at work. Much of the filming took place in France, and Sebring returned to Los Angeles to fulfill his business obligations. After filming, Tate remained in London where she immersed herself in the fashion world and nightclubs. Around this time she met Roman Polanski.

Tate and Polanski later agreed that neither of them had been impressed by the other when they first met. Polanski was planning The Fearless Vampire Killers, which was being co-produced by Ransohoff, and had decided that he wanted the red-headed actress Jill St. John for the female lead. Ransohoff insisted that Polanski cast Tate, and after meeting with her, he agreed that she would be suitable on the condition that she wore a red wig during filming.

The company traveled to Italy for filming where Tate's fluent Italian proved useful in communicating with the local crew members. A perfectionist, Polanski had little patience with the inexperienced Tate, and said in an interview that one scene had required seventy takes before he was satisfied. In addition to directing, Polanski also played one of the main characters, a guileless young man who is intrigued by Tate's character and begins a romance with her.

As filming progressed, Polanski praised her performances and her confidence grew. They began a relationship, and Tate moved into Polanski's London apartment after filming ended. Jay Sebring traveled to London where he insisted on meeting Polanski. Although friends later said he was devastated, he befriended Polanski and remained Tate's closest confidante. Polanski later commented that Sebring was a lonely and isolated person, who viewed Tate and himself as his family.[7]

Tate returned to the United States to film Don't Make Waves with Tony Curtis, leaving Polanski in London. Tate played the part of Malibu, and was allegedly the inspiration for the popular "Malibu Barbie" doll.[citation needed] The film was intended to capitalize on the popularity of beach movies and the music of such artists as the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean. Tate's character, billed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer publicity as "Malibu, Queen of the Surf", wore little more than a bikini for most of the film. Disappointed with the film, she began referring to herself sarcastically as "sexy little me". Before the film's release, a major publishing campaign by Coppertone featured Tate. The film opened to poor reviews and mediocre ticket sales and Tate was quoted as confiding to a reporter, "It's a terrible movie", before adding, "Sometimes I say things I shouldn't. I guess I'm too outspoken."[1]

Polanski returned to the United States, and was contracted by the head of Paramount Pictures, Robert Evans, to direct and write the screenplay for Rosemary's Baby, which was based on Ira Levin's novel of the same name.[5] Polanski later admitted that he had wanted Tate to star in the film and had hoped that someone would suggest her, as he felt it inappropriate to make the suggestion himself. The producers did not suggest Tate, and Mia Farrow was cast. Tate reportedly provided ideas for some of the key scenes, including the scene in which the protagonist, Rosemary, is impregnated.[citation needed] She also appeared uncredited as a guest in a party scene. A frequent visitor to the set, she was photographed there by Esquire magazine and the resulting photographs generated considerable publicity for both Tate and the film.

A March 1967 article about Tate in Playboy magazine began, "This is the year that Sharon Tate happens..." and included six nude or partially nude photographs taken by Roman Polanski during filming of The Fearless Vampire Killers.[1] Tate was optimistic: Eye of the Devil and The Fearless Vampire Killers were each due for release, and she had been signed to play a major role in the film version of Valley of the Dolls. One of the all-time bestsellers, the film version was highly publicized and anticipated, and while Tate acknowledged that such a prominent role should further her career, she confided to Polanski that she did not like either the book or the script.[1]

Patty Duke, Barbara Parkins and Judy Garland were cast as the other leads. Susan Hayward replaced Garland a few weeks later when Garland was dismissed.[8] Director Mark Robson was highly critical of the three principal actresses but, according to Duke, directed most of his criticism at Tate. Duke later said Robson "continually treated [Tate] like an imbecile, which she definitely was not, and she was very attuned and sensitive to this treatment."[1] Polanski later quoted Robson as saying to him, "That's a great girl you're living with. Few actresses have her kind of vulnerability. She's got a great future."[7]

In interviews during production, Tate expressed an affinity for her character, Jennifer North, an aspiring actress admired only for her body. Some magazines commented that Tate was viewed similarly and Look magazine published an unfavorable article about the three lead actresses, describing Tate as "a hopelessly stupid and vain starlet".[1] Tate, Duke and Parkins developed a close friendship which continued after the completion of the film. During the shooting of Valley of the Dolls, Tate confided to Parkins that she was "madly in love" with Polanski.[3] "Yes, there's no doubt that Roman is the man in my life," Tate was quoted as saying in the New York Sunday News.[3] Tate promoted the film enthusiastically. She frequently commented on her admiration for Lee Grant, with whom she had played several dramatic scenes. Tate was quoted as saying, "I learned a great deal about acting in [Valley of the Dolls], particularly in my scenes with Lee Grant...She knows what acting is all about and everything she does, from little mannerisms to delivering her lines, is pure professionalism."[1]

A journalist asked Tate to comment on her nude scene, and she replied,

I have no qualms about it at all. I don't see any difference between being stark naked or fully dressed—if it's part of the job and it's done with meaning and intention. I honestly don't understand the big fuss made over nudity and sex in films. It's silly. On TV, the children can watch people murdering each other, which is a very unnatural thing, but they can't watch two people in the very natural process of making love. Now, really, that doesn't make any sense, does it?[1]

An edited version of The Fearless Vampire Killers was released, and Polanski expressed disgust at Ransohoff for "butchering" his film. Newsweek called it "a witless travesty", and it was not profitable. Tate's performance was largely ignored in reviews, and when she was mentioned, it was usually in relation to her nude scenes. Eye of the Devil was released shortly after, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer attempted to build interest in Tate with its press release describing her as "one of the screen's most exciting new personalities". The film failed to find an audience, and most reviews were indifferent, neither praising nor condemning it. The New York Times wrote that one of the few highlights was Tate's "chillingly beautiful but expressionless performance".[1]

The All Eyes on Sharon Tate documentary was used to publicize the film. Its fourteen minutes consisted of a number of scenes depicting Tate filming Eye of the Devil, dancing in nightclubs and sightseeing around London, and also contained a brief interview with her. Asked about her acting ambitions she replied, "I don't fool myself. I can't see myself doing Shakespeare." She spoke of her hopes of finding a niche in comedy, and in other interviews she expressed her desire to become "a light comedienne in the Carole Lombard style".[1] She discussed the type of contemporary actress she wanted to emulate and explained that there were two in particular that she was influenced by: Faye Dunaway and Catherine Deneuve. Of the latter, she said, "I'd like to be an American Catherine Deneuve. She plays beautiful, sensitive, deep parts with a little bit of intelligence behind them."[9]

Later in the year, Valley of the Dolls opened to almost uniformly negative reviews. Bosley Crowther wrote in The New York Times, "all a fairly respectful admirer of movies can do is laugh at it and turn away".[10] Newsweek said that the film "has no more sense of its own ludicrousness than a village idiot stumbling in manure", but a later article read: "Astoundingly photogenic, infinitely curvaceous, Sharon Tate is one of the most smashing young things to hit Hollywood in a long time."[11] The three lead actresses were castigated in numerous publications, including The Saturday Review, which wrote, "Ten years ago... Parkins, Duke and Tate would more likely have been playing the hat check girls than movie-queens; they are totally lacking in style, authority or charm."[1] The Hollywood Reporter provided some positive comments, such as, "Sharon Tate emerges as the film's most sympathetic character... William H. Daniels' photographic caress of her faultless face and enormous absorbent eyes is stunning."[1] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times praised Tate as "a wonder to behold", but after describing the dialogue in one scene as "the most offensive and appalling vulgarity ever thrown up by any civilization", concluded that, "I will be unable to take her any more seriously as a sex symbol than Raquel Welch."[12] Ebert would later write the screenplay for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, however.

Marriage to Roman Polanski[edit]

In late 1967, Tate and Polanski returned to London, and were frequent subjects of newspaper and magazine articles. Tate was depicted as being untraditional and modern, and was quoted as saying that couples should live together before marrying. They were married in Chelsea, London on January 20, 1968 with considerable publicity. Polanski was dressed in what the press described as "Edwardian finery," while Tate was attired in a white minidress.[5] The couple moved into Polanski's mews house off Eaton Square in Belgravia.[3] Photographer Peter Evans later described them as "the imperfect couple. They were the Douglas Fairbanks/Mary Pickford of our time... Cool, nomadic, talented and nicely shocking."[1]

While Tate reportedly wanted a traditional marriage, Polanski remained somewhat promiscuous and described Tate's attitude to his infidelity as "Sharon's big hang-up". He reminded Tate that she had promised that she would not try to change him.[1] Tate accepted Polanski's conditions, though she confided to friends that she hoped he would change. Peter Evans quoted Tate as saying, "We have a good arrangement. Roman lies to me and I pretend to believe him."[13]

Polanski urged Tate to end her association with Martin Ransohoff, and Tate began to place less importance on her career, until Polanski told her that he wanted to be married to "a hippie, not a housewife". The couple returned to Los Angeles and quickly became part of a social group that included some of the most successful young people in the film industry, including Steve McQueen, Warren Beatty, Mia Farrow, Peter Sellers, Jacqueline Bisset, Leslie Caron, Joan Collins, Joanna Pettet, Laurence Harvey, Peter Fonda and Jane Fonda, older film stars like Henry Fonda, Kirk Douglas, Yul Brynner and Danny Kaye, musicians such as Jim Morrison and the Mamas & the Papas, and record producer Terry Melcher and his girlfriend Candice Bergen. Jay Sebring remained one of the couple's most frequent companions. Polanski's circle of friends included people he had known since his youth in Poland such as Wojciech Frykowski and Frykowski's girlfriend, coffee heiress Abigail Folger. The couple moved into the Chateau Marmont Hotel in West Hollywood for a few months [7] until they arranged to lease Patty Duke's home on Summit Ridge Drive in Beverly Hills during the latter part of 1968.[7] The Polanski house was often full of strangers, and Tate regarded the casual atmosphere as part of the "free spirit" of the times, saying that she did not mind who came into her home as her motto was "live and let live".[7] Her close friend Leslie Caron later commented that the Polanskis were too trusting — "to the point of recklessness" — and that she had been alarmed by it.[14]

In the summer of 1968, Tate began her next film, The Wrecking Crew (1969), a comedy in which she played Freya Carlson, an accident-prone spy, who was also a romantic interest for star Dean Martin, playing Matt Helm. She performed her own stunts and was taught martial arts by Bruce Lee. The film was successful and brought Tate strong reviews, with many reviewers praising her comedic performance. The New York Times critic Vincent Canby criticized the film but wrote, "The only nice thing is Sharon Tate, a tall, really great-looking girl".[15] Martin commented that he intended to make another "Matt Helm" film, and that he wanted Tate to reprise her role.

Around this time Tate was feted as a promising newcomer. She was nominated for a Golden Globe Award as "New Star of the Year – Actress" for her Valley of the Dolls performance.[16]

She placed fourth behind Mia Farrow, Judy Geeson and Katharine Houghton for a "Golden Laurel" award as the year's "Most Promising Newcomer" with the results published in the Motion Picture Exhibitor magazine.[17] She was also runner-up to Lynn Redgrave in the Motion Picture Herald's poll for "The Star of Tomorrow", in which box-office drawing power was the main criterion for inclusion on the list.[18] These results indicated that her career was beginning to accelerate and for her next film, Tate negotiated a fee of $150,000.[1]

She became pregnant near the end of 1968, and on February 15, 1969 she and Polanski moved to 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon.[3] The house had previously been occupied by their friends, Terry Melcher and Candice Bergen. Tate and Polanski had visited it several times, and Tate was thrilled to learn it was available, referring to it as her "love house". At their new home, the Polanskis continued to be popular hosts for their large group of friends, although some of their friends still worried about the strange types who continued to show up at their parties.[3] Encouraged by positive reviews of her comedic performances, Tate chose the comedy The Thirteen Chairs as her next project, as she later explained, largely for the opportunity to co-star with Orson Welles. In March 1969, she traveled to Italy to begin filming, while Polanski went to London to work on The Day of the Dolphin. Frykowski and Folger moved into the Cielo Drive house.

After completing The Thirteen Chairs, Tate joined Polanski in London. She posed in their apartment for photographer Terry O'Neill in casual domestic scenes such as opening baby gifts, and also completed a series of glamour photographs for the British magazine Queen. A journalist asked Tate in a late July interview if she believed in fate, to which she replied, "Certainly. My whole life has been decided by fate. I think something more powerful than we are decides our fates for us. I know one thing — I've never planned anything that ever happened to me."[1]

She returned from London to Los Angeles, on July 20, 1969, traveling alone on the QE2. Polanski was due to return on August 12 in time for the birth, and he asked Frykowski and Folger to stay in the house with Tate until then.

Death and aftermath[edit]

Murder[edit]

On August 8, 1969, Tate was two weeks from giving birth. She entertained two friends, actresses Joanna Pettet and Barbara Lewis, for lunch at her home, confiding in them her disappointment at Polanski's delay in returning from London. In the afternoon, Polanski telephoned her. Her younger sister, Debra, also called to ask if she and their sister, Patti, could spend the night with her, but Tate declined. In the evening, she went to her favorite restaurant, El Coyote, with Sebring, Frykowski and Folger, returning at about 10:30 p.m.[1]

During the night, they were murdered by members of Charles Manson's "family" and their bodies discovered the following morning by Tate's housekeeper, Winifred Chapman. Police arrived at the scene to find the body of a young man, later identified as Steven Parent, shot dead in his car, which was in the driveway. Inside the house, the bodies of Tate and Sebring were found in the living room; a long rope tied around each of their necks connected them. On the front lawn lay the bodies of Frykowski and Folger. All of the victims, except Parent, had been stabbed numerous times. The coroner's report for Tate noted that she had been stabbed sixteen times, and that "five of the wounds were in and of themselves fatal".[4]

Police took the only survivor at the address, the caretaker William Garretson, for questioning. Garretson lived in the guest house which was located on the property, but a short distance from the house, and not immediately visible. As the first suspect, he was questioned and submitted to a polygraph test. He said that Parent had visited him at approximately 11:30 p.m. and left after a few minutes. Garretson said he had no involvement in the murders and did not know anything that could help the investigation. Police accepted his explanation and he was allowed to leave.

The Tate family grave at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California, in which Sharon, her unborn son Paul, mother Doris, and sister Patti are buried

Polanski was informed of the murders and returned to Los Angeles where police, unable to determine a motive, questioned him about his wife and friends. On Wednesday, August 13, Tate was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California, with her son, Paul Richard Polanski (named posthumously for Polanski's and Tate's fathers), in her arms. Sebring's funeral took place later the same day; the funerals were scheduled several hours apart to allow mutual friends to attend both.

Life magazine devoted a lengthy article to the murders and featured photographs of the crime scenes. Polanski was interviewed for the article and allowed himself to be photographed at the entrance of the house, next to the front door with the word "Pig" - written in Tate's blood - still present.[19] Widely criticized for his actions, he argued that he wanted to know who was responsible and was willing to shock the magazine's readers in the hope that someone would come forward with information.[7]

Curiosity about the victims led to the re-release of Tate's films, achieving greater popularity than they had in their initial runs. Some newspapers began to speculate on the motives for the murders. Some of the published photographs of Tate were allegedly taken at a Satanic ritual, but were later proven to have been production photographs from Eye of the Devil. Friends spoke out against the portrayal of Tate by some elements of the media. Mia Farrow said she was as "sweet and pure a human being as I have ever known", while Patty Duke remembered her as "a gentle, gentle creature. I was crazy about her, and I don't know anyone who wasn't". Polanski berated a crowd of journalists at a press conference, saying that many times they had written that Tate "was beautiful. Maybe the most beautiful woman in the world. But did you ever write how good she was?"[1] Peter Evans later quoted the actor Laurence Harvey, who commented on Polanski immediately after the murders, "This could destroy Roman. Marriage vows mean nothing to him but few men have adored a woman as much as he adored Sharon."[13]

Polanski later admitted that in the months following the murders he suspected various friends and associates, and his paranoia subsided only when the killers were arrested. Newspapers claimed that many Hollywood stars were moving out of the city, while others were reported to have installed security systems in their homes. Writer Dominick Dunne later recalled the tension:

The shock waves that went through the town were beyond anything I had ever seen before. People were convinced that the rich and famous of the community were in peril. Children were sent out of town. Guards were hired. Steve McQueen packed a gun when he went to Jay Sebring's funeral.[20]

Arrest and trial of the Manson Family[edit]

Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring photographed in 1966. They are standing side by side with an ocean background. Tate is wearing a sleeveless dress and Sebring a white shirt. They are standing close together. Sebring has his arm around Tate and they are looking directly into the camera, smiling.
Jay Sebring, pictured here with Sharon Tate in 1966, was killed when he attempted to defend her against the attackers.

In November 1969, while in prison in connection with a car theft, Susan Atkins boasted to an inmate that she was responsible for the murder of Sharon Tate. This led to her indictment, along with the accomplices she named, Charles Manson, Charles "Tex" Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel and Linda Kasabian. Atkins also revealed that the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in Los Feliz, Los Angeles, the night after the Tate murders, were also committed by Family members, and incriminated Leslie Van Houten as a participant in the second murder.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney offered Susan Atkins a deal that guaranteed they would not seek the death penalty against her for any of the current charges in exchange for her grand jury and trial testimony.[4] Atkins testified before the grand jury that she had been unable to stab Sharon Tate and that she was killed by Watson, a contradiction of statements she had made prior to her arrest.[4] Atkins refused to cooperate further, forcing the District Attorney's office to withdraw its offer. An offer of immunity against prosecution was made to Kasabian in exchange for her agreement to provide complete testimony at any trial, against any of the defendants.[4] Assistant District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi wrote later that he believed Kasabian would be more acceptable to the jurors because she had not killed anyone.[4] In his book Will You Die For Me, Charles Watson later confessed to the murder saying Atkins didn't even touch her.[21]

On June 15, 1970, Manson, Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Van Houten were tried while Watson remained in Texas fighting extradition. The details of the trial were reported throughout the world. Kasabian was a reliable and consistent witness. She testified about a hippie group and its leader Charles Manson, a thwarted musician who believed that a race war was imminent. He believed that the music of The Beatles warned of the coming holocaust, which he referred to as "Helter Skelter", after the Beatles song, and also believed that only the "chosen", his "family", would survive. Briefly associated with Terry Melcher, Manson had believed that Melcher would foster his musical aspirations; when this did not occur, Manson felt infuriated and betrayed. Manson believed that he would bring about the race war by having his followers slaughter wealthy people in their homes and cast suspicion on militant groups such as the Black Panthers. Manson expected these groups to win the race war, and predicted that they would make him their leader when they realized they were too inept to govern the new society. He had been to 10050 Cielo Drive, and although he knew that Melcher had moved, the house represented his rejection by the show business establishment. He instructed Watson, Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Kasabian to go to the house "and kill everyone there", while he remained in their camp at Spahn's Movie Ranch.[4]

Kasabian's and Atkins' testimony provided details that had not previously been reported to the public. When the group scaled a fence surrounding the property, they were seen by Steven Parent, who was leaving in his car. Watson approached the vehicle and ordered it to stop. Parent asked Watson not to hurt him, and promised that he would not say anything, but Watson's response was to slash Parent with a knife and shoot him four times. Watson then instructed Kasabian to remain outside and keep watch while the others entered the house. The four occupants were rounded up into the living room and tied together at gunpoint. When Watson ordered the occupants to lie on their stomachs, Jay Sebring urged the intruders to consider Tate's pregnancy and not harm her. Watson immediately shot Sebring. Wojciech Frykowski and Abigail Folger escaped, running in different directions onto the front lawn, where they were each overtaken and killed. Tate remained in the house and begged for her child's life, pleading that the group abduct Tate and allow her to give birth before murdering her. Atkins testified that she had told Tate she would receive no mercy. Tate was stabbed sixteen times, and Atkins dipped a towel in Tate's blood to write "PIG" on the front door. They left Tate's house after midnight and returned to Spahn Ranch.[4]

During the penalty phase of the trial, Atkins was again questioned about her attitude to Tate and her role in Tate's death. She said, "They didn't even look like people... I didn't relate to Sharon Tate as being anything but a store mannequin... [Tate] sounded just like an IBM machine... She kept begging and pleading and pleading and begging, and I got sick of listening to her, so I stabbed her."[4] The defendants were found guilty and sentenced to death on March 29, 1971. Watson was tried separately after extradition from Texas. Psychiatrists testified that he appeared to be feigning insanity, and while he admitted his role in all of the killings, he refused to acknowledge his responsibility, and was widely quoted by the press when he stated that he had not noticed that Sharon Tate was pregnant. He was found guilty and sentenced to death on October 21, 1971. The death sentences were later automatically commuted to life in prison after the California Supreme Court's People v. Anderson decision resulted in the invalidation of all death sentences imposed in California before 1972. As of 2010, Manson, Watson, Krenwinkel, and Van Houten remain incarcerated.[1] Atkins died in prison on September 24, 2009.[22]

Legacy[edit]

This picture shows, from left to right, President George Bush, Doris, Debra and Patti Tate. All but Doris Tate are standing in a row facing the camera. Doris Tate, who was ill with brain cancer, is in a wheelchair; Debra stands beside her, holding her hand.
In 1992, the work of Doris Tate (seated) in support of victims' rights was acknowledged by President George Bush. Also pictured are Sharon Tate's sisters, Debra and Patti.

In the early 1980s, Stephen Kay, who had worked for the prosecution in the trial, became alarmed that Manson Family member Leslie Van Houten had gathered 900 signatures on a petition for her parole. He contacted Sharon Tate's mother, who said she was sure she could do better, and the two mounted a publicity campaign, collecting over 350,000 signatures supporting the denial of parole.[1] Van Houten had been seen as the most likely of the killers to be paroled; following Kay's and Tate's efforts, her petition was denied. Doris Tate became a vocal advocate for victims' rights and, in discussing her daughter's murder and meeting other crime victims, assumed the role of counselor, using her profile to encourage public discussion and criticism of the corrections system.[1]

For the rest of her life, she strongly campaigned against the parole of each of the Manson killers, and worked closely with other victims of violent crime. Several times, she confronted Charles Watson at parole hearings, explaining, "I feel that Sharon has to be represented in that hearing room. If they're (the killers) pleading for their lives, then I have to be there representing her." She addressed Watson directly during her victim impact statement in 1984: "What mercy, sir, did you show my daughter when she was begging for her life? What mercy did you show my daughter when she said, 'Give me two weeks to have my baby and then you can kill me'?.... When will Sharon come up for parole? Will these seven victims and possibly more walk out of their graves if you get paroled? You cannot be trusted."[1]

In 1992, President George Bush recognized Doris Tate as one of his "thousand points of light" for her volunteer work on behalf of victims' rights. By this time Tate had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and her health and strength were failing; her meeting with Bush marked her final public appearance. When she died later that year, her youngest daughter, Patricia Gay Tate, known as Patti, continued her work. She contributed to the 1993 foundation of the Doris Tate Crime Victims Bureau, a non-profit organization which aims to influence crime legislation throughout the United States and to give greater rights and protection to victims of violent crime.[23] In 1995, the "Doris Tate Crime Victims Foundation" was founded as a non-profit organization to promote public awareness of the judicial system and to provide support to the victims of violent crime.[24]

Patti Tate confronted David Geffen and board members of Geffen Records in 1993 over plans to include a song written by Charles Manson on the Guns N' Roses album "The Spaghetti Incident?". She commented to a journalist that the record company was "putting Manson up on a pedestal for young people who don't know who he is to worship like an idol."[25]

After Patti's death from breast cancer in 2000, her older sister Debra continued to represent the Tate family at parole hearings. Debra Tate said of the killers: "They don't show any personal responsibility. They haven't made atonement to any one of my family members."[1] She has also unsuccessfully lobbied for Sharon Tate to be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Colonel Paul Tate preferred not to make public comments; however, he was a constant presence during the murder trial, and in the following years attended parole hearings with his wife, and wrote letters to authorities in which he strongly opposed any suggestion of parole. He died in May 2005.[26][27]

Roman Polanski gave away all of his possessions after the murders, unable to bear any reminders of the period that he called "the happiest I ever was in my life". He remained in Los Angeles until the killers were arrested and then traveled to Europe. His 1979 film Tess was dedicated "to Sharon", as Tate had read Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles during her final stay with Polanski in London and had left it for him to read with the comment that it would be a good story for them to film together. He tried to explain his anguish after the murder of his wife and unborn son in his 1984 autobiography Roman by Polanski, saying "Since Sharon's death, and despite appearances to the contrary, my enjoyment of life has been incomplete. In moments of unbearable personal tragedy some people find solace in religion. In my case the opposite happened. Any religious faith I had was shattered by Sharon's murder. It reinforced my faith in the absurd."[7]

In July 2005, Polanski successfully sued Vanity Fair magazine for libel after it stated that he had tried to seduce a woman on his way to Tate's funeral. Among the witnesses who testified on his behalf were Debra Tate and Mia Farrow. Describing Polanski immediately after Tate's death, Farrow testified, "Of this I can be sure — of his frame of mind when we were there, of what we talked about, of his utter sense of loss, of despair and bewilderment and shock and love — a love that he had lost." At the conclusion of the case, Polanski read a statement, saying in part, "The memory of my late wife Sharon Tate was at the forefront of my mind in bringing this action."[13]

The murders committed by the Manson "Family" have been described by social commentators as one of the defining moments of the 1960s. Joan Didion wrote, "Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true. The tension broke that day. The paranoia was fulfilled."[1]

Sharon Tate's work as an actress has been reassessed after her death, with contemporary film writers and critics, such as Leonard Maltin, describing her potential as a comedienne. A restored version of The Fearless Vampire Killers more closely resembles Polanski's intention. Maltin lauded the film as "near-brilliant" and Tate's work in Don't Make Waves and The Wrecking Crew as her two best performances, as well as the best indicators of the career she might have established.[28] Eye of the Devil with its supernatural themes, and Valley of the Dolls, with its overstated melodrama, have each achieved a degree of cult status.

Sharon Tate's biographer, Greg King, holds a view often expressed by members of the Tate family, writing in Sharon Tate and the Manson Murders (2000): "Sharon's real legacy lies not in her movies or in her television work. The very fact that, today, victims or their families in California are able to sit before those convicted of a crime and have a voice in the sentencing at trials or at parole hearings, is largely due to the work of Doris [and Patti] Tate. Their years of devotion to Sharon's memory and dedication to victims' rights... have helped transform Sharon from mere victim, [and] restore a human face to one of the twentieth century's most infamous crimes."[1]

In 2012, the book Restless Souls was published; written by Sharon's niece Brie Tate and by Alisa Statman (a family friend), it contains parts of unfinished autobiographies by Paul, Doris, and Patti Tate. Debra Tate has questioned the book's veracity.[29]

Filmography[edit]

List of acting performances in film and television
TitleYearRoleNotes
Barabbas1961Patrician in Arenauncredited
Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man1962Burlesque Queenuncredited
Beverly Hillbillies, TheThe Beverly Hillbillies1963–1965Janet TregoTV series, 15 episodes
Mister Ed1963
  • Telephone Operator
  • Sailor's Girl
  • TV series, episodes:
  • "Love Thy New Neighbor"
  • "Ed Discovers America"
Americanization of Emily, TheThe Americanization of Emily1964Beautiful Girluncredited
Man from U.N.C.L.E., TheThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.1965TherapistTV series, episode: "The Girls of Nazarone Affair"
Eye of the Devil1966Odile de Caray
Fearless Vampire Killers, TheThe Fearless Vampire Killers1967Sarah Shagal
Don't Make Waves1967Malibu
Valley of the Dolls1967Jennifer North
Rosemary's Baby1968Girl at Partyuncredited
Wrecking Crew, TheThe Wrecking Crew1968Freya Carlson
Thirteen Chairs, TheThe Thirteen Chairs
(also known as 12+1)
1969Patreleased posthumously

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae King 2000.
  2. ^ Los Angeles Times
  3. ^ a b c d e f Leaming, Barbara (1981). Polanski: The Filmmaker as Voyeur. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-671-24985-1. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bugliosi, Vincent; Gentry, Curt (1974). Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-393-08700-0. 
  5. ^ a b c Sanders, Ed (2002). The Family. Thunder's Mouth Press. ISBN 1-56025-396-7. 
  6. ^ Sanders, Maxine (2008). Fire Child: The Life and Magic of Maxine Sanders, Witch Queen. Oxford: Mandrake Press. Page 107-108.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Polanski 1984.
  8. ^ "BBC News Report". December 20, 2006. Retrieved 2007-04-07. 
  9. ^ Columbus, Johnny (June 1968). "Sharon Tate – Venus on a Treadmill". Photo Screen. Archived from the original on 2009-10-23. Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  10. ^ Crowther, Bosley (1967-12-16). "Valley of the Dolls". New York Times. Retrieved 2005-07-13. 
  11. ^ "The New American Beauties". Newsweek. 1968-03-04. Archived from the original on 2009-10-24. Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  12. ^ Ebert, Roger (1967-12-27). "Valley of the Dolls". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2005-07-13. 
  13. ^ a b c Evans, Peter (2005-07-24). "Sufferings of the great seducer". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 2005-08-11. 
  14. ^ Amburn, Ellis (2003). The Sexiest Man Alive: A Biography of Warren Beatty. Virgin Books. ISBN 1-85227-919-2. 
  15. ^ Canby, Vincent (1969-02-06). "The Screen: Matt Helm Back in Town". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  16. ^ "Sharon Tate". Golden Globes.org. Retrieved 2005-07-16. 
  17. ^ "Golden Laurel Awards 1968". Retrieved 2010-01-04. 
  18. ^ "Sharon's Biography — The Tide Turns". SharonTate.net. Retrieved 2005-07-16. 
  19. ^ Life Magazine, 8/29/1969, pp. 42-48.
  20. ^ Dunne, Dominick (1999). The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well Known Name Dropper. Crown Publishers. ISBN 0-609-60388-4. 
  21. ^ "Chapter 14 Helter Skelter I (August 8-9) :: Will You Die For Me?". Aboundinglove.org. Retrieved 2012-03-13. 
  22. ^ Blankstein, Andrew (2009-09-25). "Manson follower Susan Atkins dies at 61". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-09-25. 
  23. ^ Doris Tate Crime Victims Bureau Retrieved July 13, 2005.
  24. ^ Doris Tate Crime Victims Foundation. Retrieved July 13, 2005.
  25. ^ Quintanilla, Michael (January 10, 1994). "Promises to Keep: Patti Tate Leads a Justice Crusade in the Name of Her Sister Sharon". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 13, 2005. 
  26. ^ New Criminologist obituary, Paul Tate. May 25, 2005. Retrieved July 13, 2005.
  27. ^ "The Story of the Tate Family." Tate Family Legacy website. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  28. ^ Maltin, Leonard (1998). Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide. Signet Publishing. ISBN 0-451-19288-5. 
  29. ^ "Debra Tate Official Statement Re: Alisa Statman Book Restless Souls". Retrieved 07-05-2013. 

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]