Woman (In Horror) Crush Wednesday: Sharon Tate

November 8, 2017

Written by Capt McNeely

Georgia Division ZADF Twitter: @ZADF_ORG

Yes, my Little Monsters, it is Wednesday yet again, and with it comes our weekly tribute to a woman who has made a contribution to our beloved horror genre. The focus this week is Sharon Tate, a young woman whose life and career tragically came to an end far too soon.
Sharon was a product of the “Lone Star State”, having been born in Dallas, Texas on January 24th, 1943, as the eldest of three children to Colonel Paul James Tate and his wife Doris. Her father’s promotions and transfers kept the family moving around, so there were no grand show-biz plans for little Sharon, despite the fact that at six months old, Sharon had won the Miss Tiny Tot of Dallas Pageant. Being on the move so often made it problematic for her to form any strong friendships or relations ships, and may have contributed to a lack of self confidence and shyness. As can be the case, some would mistake her reticence as being standoffish or aloof…at least until they would get to know her better. At the age of 16, Sharon would win another pageant, this time in Washington state, being crowned “Miss Richland”. She then set her sights on competing the next year for the title of Miss Washington, but her family would relocate to Verona, Italy.
During her time in Italy, Sharon would attend, and ultimately graduate from, Vicenza American High School. She discovered that she and some of the other student were somewhat kindred spirits, and could finally form the kind of enduring friendships that she was previously unable to. It was Sharon’s and her friends’ common interest in a film that was shooting in the area that would get Sharon her first role, albeit an uncredited one. She and her friends all worked as extras on the film Hemingway’s Adventures of a Young Man, which starred Richard Beymer. Sharon would appear again as an extra, later on that year, in Barabbas, which starred Anthony Quinn in the title role.
Yet again Sharon’s family would relocate, this time returning to the US. Sharon would take this opportunity to make her own move to Los Angeles, in order to begin her full fledged pursuit of an acting career. She would soon get roles on the small screen on such TV series as Mister Ed, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and a recurring role as Janet Trago in 15 episodes The Beverly Hillbillies. However, her timid nature did cost her a few roles along the way, including films like The Cincinnati Kid and The Sound of Music as well as the TV series Petticoat Junction.
It was in 1966 that Sharon would get her first major role, as she appeared along side screen legend like David Niven, Donald Pleasance, Deborah Kerr,  David Hemmings (yeah, I know, that’s a lot of first names with the letter D) and Flora Robson in the British horror film, Eye of the Devil. Initially the film’s director, J. Lee Thompson, had his reservations about Sharon in her role of Odile de Caray. Later on Thompson had made a realization about Sharon, saying that he found her to be “tremendously exciting” and even David Niven expressed the sentiment that she was a “great discovery”.
Her next film would be the one most genre fans likely recognize her for, Roman Polanski’s 1967 film, The Fearless Vampire Killers. What few know is that starting off, Roman and Sharon weren’t particularly keen on one another. In fact, Roman was intent on offering  ginger haired actress  Jill St. John the lead role of Sarah Shagal, but the film’s co-producer Martin Ransohoff vehemently insisted that Sharon be cast instead. Roman met with Sharon to discuss the p and under the proviso that she wear a ginger wig throughout the production, he agreed to give it her. At first Roman would be noted as having little patience with Sharon’s lack of experience, but as filming progressed began to view the performances she gave as being praiseworthy. Perhaps their growing affection for each other was a source of mutual inspiration as they soon entered into a relationship with one another.
Following Vampire Killers, Sharon would work on four more films (one of which would be released posthumously), the most notable of which would be the adaptation of Jacqueline Susann’s novel, Valley of the Dolls. Sharon’s portrayal of Jennifer North, earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Female Newcomer. Her stock was on the rise and she was quickly becoming lauded by many in the industry for her talent, but it was talent that would ever be fully realized.
As everyone is likely aware, Sharon was married Roman Polanski. The pair were married on January 20th, 1968, and while it may not have been the stuff of fairy tales, they made it work as best they could for them. It was later in the year that Sharon would become pregnant with their son, and in February of 1969 the couple moved into their new digs in Benedict Canyon at 10050 Cielo Drive. In March the Sharon and Roman traveled back out of the country to take respective jobs: Sharon to Italy to shoot Twelve Plus One and Roman to London to begin work on Day of the Dolphin. After she wrapped on her film she joined Roman briefly in London before returning home on July 20th, 1969. It was three weeks later that Sharon, her unborn son and her house guests, Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski and Abigail Folger would all fall victim to the murderous minions of a psychotic, evil and shriveled little coward. The crime was so horrific that I have little interest in rehashing the details of the acts or even mentioning the names of the worthless humans who perpetrated them.
If not for her tragic death I have no doubt that Sharon would have continued to make more worthy contributions not only to the horror genre, but to any genre to which she would lend her talent. It has been said that Sharon was keenly interested in and wanted to study psychiatry. Perhaps if she had done so, she would still be around somewhere studying or even trying to treat psychopaths rather than having fallen victim to a group of them.
In closing, my Little Monsters, I would like to share a quote from Sharon herself when she was questioned about her belief in fate. “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.”  

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