Tate, Sharon (1943–1969)

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Tate, Sharon (1943–1969)

American actress who was murdered by the Manson Family. Born Sharon Marie Tate on January 24, 1943, in Dallas, Texas; murdered on August 9, 1969, in Beverly Hills, California; daughter of Paul Tate (a soldier) and Doris Tate; married Roman Polanski (a film director), on January 20, 1968.

Selected filmography:

Adventures of a Young Man (1961); Barrabas (1961); The Wheeler Dealers (1963); The Americanization of Emily (1964); The Sandpiper (1965); Eye of the Devil (1966); The Fearless Vampire Killers (1966); Don't Make Waves (1967); Valley of the Dolls (1967); The Wrecking Crew (1969); The Thirteen Chairs (12+1, 1970).

Selected television appearances:

"The Pat Boone Show," "Petticoat Junction," "Mr. Ed," "The Beverly Hillbillies" (1963–64), "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." (1965).

Selected documentaries:

"All Eyes On Sharon Tate" (1966); "Ciao Federico Fellini Directs" (1969).

Called "generous-hearted" by those who knew her, Sharon Tate was born in 1943 in Dallas, Texas, the eldest of Paul and Doris Tate 's three children. A beauty queen before graduating in 1961 from Vincenza American High School in Italy where her soldier-father was stationed, she appeared in her first film that year. In 1963, Tate auditioned for, and won, a part on the television situation comedy "Petticoat Junction," but the role was given to someone else when it was learned that Playboy magazine had published photographs of her. For the next two years, she studied acting, dancing, and singing, and performed small parts in television series such as "The Beverly Hillbillies," "Petticoat Junction," "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.," and "Mr. Ed." She also began to appear in films with recognized stars, such as Julie Andrews in The Americanization of Emily (1964), Elizabeth Taylor in The Sandpiper (1965), and Deborah Kerr in Eye of the Devil (1966). Roman Polanski then cast Tate in his comic horror film The Fearless Vampire Killers (1966), after which she returned to the United States from Italy to work with Tony Curtis in Don't Make Waves (1967). Her most important role, however, came that same year when she co-starred in an adaptation of Jacqueline Susann 's smash bestseller Valley of the Dolls. In 1969, Tate worked with Dean Martin in his final Matt Helm comedy The Wrecking Crew before receiving top billing in what would be her last film, The Thirteen Chairs, released in 1970.

Tate and Polanski were married in London in January 1968. When she became pregnant the following year, they rented a larger home, belonging to record producer Terry Melcher (son of Doris Day ) and his then girlfriend Candice Bergen . Upon completing The Thirteen Chairs, Tate joined Polanski at their London home. Unable to fly due to her advanced pregnancy, Tate sailed home on the Queen Elizabeth II ; Polanski was to follow.

On August 9, 1969, two weeks before the baby was due, Tate was savagely murdered in her Beverly Hills home by members of Charles Manson's "Family." Four others shared her fate: coffee heiress Abigail Folger , her boyfriend Voyteck Frykowski, celebrity hair stylist Jay Sebring, and Steven E. Parent, a young man who was a friend of Polanski's 19-year-old caretaker. Parent, who met the killers in the driveway on his way home, was shot in his car. The other four were then herded into the living room by members of the "Manson Family," Susan Atkins, Leslie Van Houten, Patricia Krenwinkel , and Charles "Tex" Watson. They were forced onto the floor and tied up, Frykowski with a towel and the others with a single rope around their necks. Frykowski was the first to break loose, and in the ensuing chaos all four died gruesomely, shot or stabbed. Folger's and Frykowski's bodies were found with multiple wounds outside, where they had been caught as they tried to escape. The bodies of Tate and Sebring were found in the living room. Tate had been the last to die; she had been stabbed repeatedly in the belly. Using her blood, the killers had written "pig" on a door. Charles Manson was not present during the murders (although he was present two days later at the nearby murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca ), but he was the mastermind behind a twisted plot to incite race wars (helter-skelter) that would ultimately result in his becoming a supreme ruler. Linda Kasabian , another "Family" member who had served as a lookout during the murders, testified against Manson and the others after they were caught. They were found guilty and sentenced to death, but California repealed the death penalty after their trial. They are now serving life sentences and being rejected as they come up for parole.


King, Greg. Sharon Tate and the Manson Murders. Barricade, 2000.

Kohn, George C. Encyclopedia of American Scandal. NY: Facts On File, 1989.

Walker, John, ed. Halliwell's Filmgoer's and Video Viewer's Companion. 10th ed. NY: HarperPerennial, 1993.

Karina L. Kerr , M.A., Ypsilanti, Michigan

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