Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Sharon Marie Tate (January 14, 1943 - August 9, 1969) was an American actress. She was born in Dallas, TX, the first of three daughters, to Paul Tate, a United States Army officer and his wife, Doris. With a father in the military, at just 16, Sharon Tate had lived in six different American cities. This, along with her shyness made it difficult to maintain friendships.
In 1960, Paul Tate was transferred to Italy, taking his family with him. It was here that Sharon would get her first taste of the movie industry working as an extra on various Italian films.
The Tate family returned to the United States in 1962 and Sharon Tate moved to Los Angles, California where she found representation with agent, Harold Gefsky. He immediately secured work for her in television and magazine advertisements. In 1963 sharon Tate signed a seven year contract with Filmways. She started with small roles on such television shows as Mr. Ed and The Beverly Hillbillies to gain experience and perfect her craft.
In 1964, Tate received her first major role in the film "Eye of Devil" co-starring David Niven, Deborah Kerr, Donald Pleasence and David Hemmings. Along with her current boyfriend celebrity hair stylist, Jay Sebring, Sharon Tate moved to London to prepare for filming. Tate felt very fortunate to be working with such professionals on her first film and she learned a lot about acting simply by watching Kerr at work. Much of the filming took place in France and Sebring returned to California to fulfill his business obligations. After filming Tate remained in London where she immersed herself in the fashion world and nightclubs; it was in one of these clubs that she met Roman Polanski.
Despite being unimpressed by one another, Polanski cast Tate in his next movie "The Fearless Vampire Killers". They would film in Italy. In addition to directing, Polanski also played one of the main characters. As filming progressed Tate's confidence grew along with her performance level. She began a relationship with Polanski and moved into his London apartment after filming. Jay Sebring was devastated, but would remain one of Tate's closest confindentes.
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 the inspiration for the popular "Malibu Barbie" doll. The movie opened to poor reviews and mediocre ticket sales.
Polanski returned to the United States, and was contracted to direct the film version of Ira Levin's novel Rosemary's Baby. He 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.
In 1967, Tate had been signed to play a major role in the film version of Valley of the Dolls. One of the all-time literary 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. The New York Times wrote that one of the few highlights was Tate's "chillingly beautiful but expressionless performance" . Tate was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in the film.
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. 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 and the Papas, and record producer Terry Melcher and his girlfriend Candice Bergen. Jay Sebring remained one of Tate's and Polanski's most frequent companions.
Tate became pregnant near the end of 1968, and in February 1969 she and Polanski moved to 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon. 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".
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 phoned her. Her younger sister Debra also called to ask if she and their sister Patti could spend the night with Tate. Tired, Tate refused. In the evening she went to her favorite restaurant El Coyote with Jay Sebring, Wojceich Frykowski and his girlfriend, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, returning about 10:30 p.m.
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 to death 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".
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 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 blandly 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 2007, Manson, Watson, Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Van Houten remain incarcerated, each having failed to obtain parole more than a dozen times since becoming eligible