Sharon Tate

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Sharon Tate

Sharon Tate in Valley of the Dolls (1967)
Birth name Sharon Marie Tate
Born January 24, 1943
United StatesDallas, Texas, USA
Died August 9, 1969
Official site
Notable roles "Jennifer North" in
Valley of the Dolls

Sharon Marie Tate ( January 24, 1943 – August 9, 1969) was an American film actress. During the 1960s she played small roles in television, before starting her film career. She appeared in several films that highlighted her physical beauty, and after receiving positive reviews for her comedic performances, was hailed as one of Hollywood's promising newcomers, and earned a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in Valley of the Dolls in 1967. Tate's celebrity status increased following her marriage to the film director, Roman Polański, and fashion magazines began featuring her as a model and cover girl. Tate was murdered, along with four others, by followers of Charles Manson, at her Benedict Canyon home. She was eight and a half months pregnant at the time.

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

Early life and becoming an actress

Sharon Tate was born in Dallas, Texas, the first of three daughters, to Paul Tate, a United States Army officer and his wife, Doris. At six months of age, Sharon Tate won the "Miss Tiny Tot of Dallas Pageant", but the Tates did not hold any showbusiness ambitions for their daughter. Paul Tate's military career progressed, and he was promoted and transferred several times. By the age of 16, Sharon Tate had lived in six different American cities, and because of the frequent moves and unsettled lifestyle, had found it difficult to maintain friendships. Her family described her as shy and lacking in self-confidence as a result, and as an adult Sharon Tate commented that people often misinterpreted her shyness and considered her to be aloof until they came to know her better.

As she matured, people commented on her beauty; she began entering beauty pageants, winning the title of "Miss Richland, Washington" 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.

Upon her arrival in Verona, Sharon Tate learned that she had become a local celebrity due to the publication of a photograph of her in a bathing suit, which appeared on the cover of the military newspaper, Stars and Stripes. She discovered a kinship with other students at the American school she attended, recognising 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 they 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 offering Tate encouragement 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.

Tate (at right wearing a dark wig) as Janet Trego in a 1965 episode of The Beverly Hillbillies with Max Baer, Jr. and Nancy Kulp.
Tate (at right wearing a dark wig) as Janet Trego in a 1965 episode of The Beverly Hillbillies with Max Baer, Jr. and Nancy Kulp.

Later in the year, when Barabbas was being filmed near Verona, once again Tate was cast as an extra. The actor Jack Palance was impressed with her appearance and her attitude, although her role was too small to judge whether she had 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 Sharon Tate returned to Italy.

The Tate family returned to the United States in 1962, and Sharon Tate moved to Los Angeles, California, 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. Tate was considered for one of the lead roles in the Petticoat Junction television series, but Ransohoff realized that she lacked the experience to handle an important role. He gave her small parts in Mr. Ed, and The Beverly Hillbillies to allow her to gain experience.

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 quarrelled. After a violent confrontation with Forquet, Tate required hospital treatment for her injuries, and subsequently 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.

Movie career

Tate continued to ask Ransohoff to cast her in a film; by 1965 she had been under contract for two years, and had only some minor television appearances to her credit. After she auditioned unsuccessfully for role of Liesl in the film version of The Sound of Music, Ransohoff allowed her to appear in the film Eye of the Devil co-starring with David Niven, Deborah Kerr, Donald Pleasence and David Hemmings. Tate and Sebring travelled to London to begin preparation for the filming. As part of Ransohoff's promotion of Tate, he organised for a short documentary to be produced which would be released at the same time as Eye of the Devil. Titled All Eyes on Sharon Tate 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, that we would put her back in cold storage", but added that he soon realized Tate was "tremendously exciting".

She played the part of Odile, a witch who exerts a mysterious power over a landowner, played by Niven, and his wife, 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. 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 fulfil his business obligations. After filming completed Tate remained in London where she immersed herself in the fashion world and nightclubs; it was in one of these nightclubs that 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 travelled to Italy for filming where Tate's fluent Italian proved useful in communicating with the local crewmembers. 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 acted in the film, playing 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 began to offer encouragement for her performance and her confidence grew. They began a relationship, and Tate moved into Polanski's London apartment after filming completed. Jay Sebring travelled to London where he insisted on meeting Polanski. Although his 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 Polanski as his family.

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 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 publicity campaign resulted in photographs and life sized cardboard figures of Sharon Tate being displayed in cinema foyers throughout the United States, and a concurrent advertising 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".

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. Tate provided ideas for some of the key scenes, including the scene in which the protagonist, Rosemary, is impregnated. She also appeared, uncredited, as a guest during 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 commenced with, "This is the year that Sharon Tate happens..." and in addition to an article about Tate, included six nude and partially nude photographs taken by Roman Polanski during filming of The Fearless Vampire Killers. 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 literary bestsellers, the film version was highly publicised and anticipated, and while Tate acknowledged that such a high profile role should further her career, she confided to Polanski that she did not like either the book or the script.

Patty Duke, Barbara Parkins and Judy Garland were cast in the other major roles. Susan Hayward replaced Garland a few weeks later when Garland was dismissed. The 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." 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".

In interviews during production, Tate expressed an affinity for her character, Jennifer North, an aspiring actress who was admired only for her body. Some magazines commented that Tate was viewed similarly and Look Magazine published an unfavourable article about the three lead actresses, describing Tate as "a hopelessly stupid and vain starlet". Tate, Duke and Parkins developed a close friendship which continued after the completion of the film, and despite the difficulties she had endured, Tate promoted the film enthusiastically. She frequently commented on her admiration for Lee Grant, with whom she had played several dramatic scenes.

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?" 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".

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". 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."

Later in the year, Valley of the Dolls opened to almost uniformly negative reviews. Bosley Crowther for The New York Times said that "all a fairly respectful admirer of movies can do is laugh at it and turn away". Newsweek wrote that the film "has no more sense of its own ludicrousness than a village idiot stumbling in manure", but in a later article about rising actresses wrote "Astoundingly photogenic, infinitely curvaceous, Sharon Tate is one of the most smashing young things to hit Hollywood in a long time". 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". The Hollywood Reporter provided Tate with some positive comments, and wrote "Sharon Tate emerges as the film's most sympathetic character... William Daniels' photographic caress of her faultless face and enormous absorbent eyes is stunning". Roger Ebert for the Chicago Sun-Times described Tate as "a wonder to behold", but after describing the script of one of her scenes as "the most offensive and appalling vulgarity ever thrown up by any civilization", concluded that as a result, "I will be unable to take her any more seriously as a sex symbol than Raquel Welch".

Marriage to Roman Polanski

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, with her assertion that couples should live together before they marry being quoted. They were married in London on January 20, 1968 with considerable publicity. The 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."

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. Tate accepted Polanski's actions, though 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."

Polanski encouraged Tate to end her association with Martin Ransohoff, and Tate began to place less importance on her career, until being told by Polanski 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, Peter Fonda and Jane Fonda, older members of the Hollywood community such as Henry Fonda, Kirk Douglas, Yul Brynner and Danny Kaye, musicians such as Jim Morrison and the four members of the Mamas and the Papas, and the record producer Terry Melcher and his girlfriend Candice Bergen. Jay Sebring remained one of Tate's and Polanski's most frequent companions. Polanski's circle of friends included people he had known since his youth in Poland and included Wojciech Frykowski, and his girlfriend, the coffee heiress, Abigail Folger. The Polanski residence was often filled with strangers, and Tate regarded the casual atmosphere as part of the "free spirit" of the times, saying that she didn't mind who came into her home as her motto was "live and let live". 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.

Tate's next film was The Wrecking Crew (1969), a comedy in which she played Freya Carlson, an accident prone spy, who was also a romantic interest for the star Dean Martin, as 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. Vincent Canby writing for the New York Times criticised the film but wrote "The only nice thing is Sharon Tate, a tall, really great-looking girl". Martin commented that he intended to make another "Matt Helm" film, and that he wanted Tate to reprise her role.

Around this time Tate began to receive acknowledgement 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, losing to Katharine Ross for The Graduate. 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. 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. These results indicated that her career was beginning to accelerate and for her next film, Tate negotiated a fee of $150,000.

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".

Encouraged by the positive reviews her previous comedic performances had received, Tate deliberately chose another comedy, The Thirteen Chairs, as her next project, but she also explained that her decision was based largely on the fact that she would co-star with Orson Welles. In March, 1969 she travelled to Italy to commence filming, while Polanski travelled to London to begin working 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 for the photographer Terry O'Neill in their apartment in casual domestic scenes in which she was seen opening baby gifts, and she also completed a series of glamour photographs for the British magazine Queen. Interviewed by a journalist in late July, Tate was asked if she believed in fate, and 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."

She returned from London to Los Angeles, on July 20, 1969, traveling alone on the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2. 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.


On August 8, 1969, Tate was two weeks away from giving birth. She entertained two friends for lunch at her home, actress Joanna Pettet and Barbara Lewis, confiding in them her despair 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. Tate explained that she was tired and refused. In the evening she went to her favorite restaurant, El Coyote, with Sebring, Frykowski and Folger, returning at approximately 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".

Police took the only survivor at the address, the caretaker William Garretson, for questioning. Garretson lived in the guesthouse 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.

Polanski had been informed of the murders and returned to Los Angeles, where police, unable to determine a motive, questioned him about his wife and friends. The funerals for each of the five victims were held on Wednesday August 13. Sharon Tate was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California, with her son, Paul Richard Polanski, in her arms. The funerals of Tate and Sebring were separated by several hours to allow mourners 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 in the living room where Tate and Sebring had died, Tate's dried blood clearly visible on the floor in front of him. Widely criticised 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.

Curiosity about the victims led to Tate's films being released again, and they achieved greater popularity than they had in their initial screenings. Some newspapers began to speculate on the motives for the murders. One published photographs of Tate, allegedly taken at a Satanic ritual, but which 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?". 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."

Polanski later admitted that in the months following the murders he suspected various friends and associates, and his paranoia only subsided when the killers were arrested. Newspapers reported that many Hollywood stars were moving out of the city, while others were reported to have installed security systems in their homes. The writer Dominick Dunne later recalled the tension, writing "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. Ours went to my mother-in-law's. Guards were hired. Steve McQueen packed a gun when he went to Jay Sebring's funeral."

Arrest and trial of the Manson Family

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 arrest, 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, on the night after the Tate murders, were also committed by "Family" members, and she incriminated Leslie Van Houten as a participant in the second murder.

Offered immunity from prosecution for testifying before a Grand Jury, Atkins presented her version of events, and candidly stated that she had stabbed Tate because she was "sick of listening to her, pleading and begging, begging and pleading". When she refused to cooperate further, the offer of immunity was withdrawn and made to Kasabian instead. As Kasabian had not taken part in any of the murders, and by several accounts had challenged Manson over the killings, the offer of immunity to her was seen as more acceptable, particularly by the prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, who commented that he was relieved the offer was withdrawn from Atkins.

On June 15, 1970, Manson, Atkins, Krenwinkel and Van Houten were sent to trial while Watson remained in Texas fighting attempts to extradite him. The details of the trial were reported throughout the world. Kasabian proved to be a reliable and consistent witness. She told of a hippie group and its leader Charles Manson, a thwarted musician who believed a race war was imminent. He believed 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 Melcher would foster his musical aspirations but when this failed to happen he was infuriated and felt 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 black militant groups such as the Black Panthers. He had been to the Cielo Drive address, and although he knew 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".

The testimony of Kasabian, combined with Atkins' Grand Jury testimony provided a detailed explanation of the events, many of which were made public for the first time. When the group entered the grounds of the property, they were seen by Steven Parent, who was leaving in his car. Watson shot Parent several times, before ordering Kasabian to remain outside and keep watch while the others entered the house. The four occupants of the house were tied together at gun point, and when Jay Sebring urged the intruders to consider Tate's pregnancy and not harm her, Watson shot him. Wojciech Frykowski and Abigail Folger each escaped, running in different directions onto the front lawn, where each of them was overtaken and killed. Tate begged for the life of her child, even suggesting that the group take her away with them and allow her to give birth before murdering her. As they rejected her suggestion, she pleaded with them to cut the baby from her body before they killed her. Atkins had testified before the Grand Jury that she replied to Tate, "Look bitch, I have no mercy for you. You're going to die and you'd better get used to it". Atkins and Watson then stabbed her to death. Atkins took a towel and mopped up some of Tate's blood, and used the towel to write the word "PIG" on the front door.

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 prior to 1972. As of 2006, Manson, Watson, Atkins, Krenwinkel and Van Houten remain incarcerated, each having failed to obtain parole more than a dozen times since becoming eligible.


In the early 1980s, Stephen Kay, who had worked on the murder trial, became alarmed that Leslie Van Houten had gathered 900 signatures on a petition which supported her parole. He contacted Doris Tate who said she was sure she could do better, and the two mounted a publicity campaign that led to the collection of more than 350,000 signatures supporting the view that parole should be denied. Van Houten had been considered as the most likely of the killers to achieve parole; however, following the efforts of Kay and Tate, her petition was denied. Doris Tate became a vocal advocate for victim's rights and in discussing her daughter's murder and meeting with other crime victims, began to assume the role of a counsellor, using her profile to encourage public discussion and criticism of the corrections system.

For the remainder of her life she strongly campaigned against the parole of each of the Manson killers, and she worked closely with other victims of violent crime. On several occasions 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." Addressing Watson directly, during her victim impact statement in 1984, she said, "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."

In 1992, President George H. W. Bush recognized 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 tumour and her health and strength were failing, and her meeting with Bush marked her final public appearance. When she died later in the year her youngest daughter Patti continued her work. She contributed to the foundation in 1993 of the "Doris Tate Crime Victims Bureau", a non-profit organization which aims to influence crime legislation throughout the United States and to give the victims of violent crime greater rights and protection. 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. Patti Tate also 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".

After Patti's death from breast cancer in 2000, her older sister Debra continued to represent the Tate family at parole hearings. Of the killers, Debra Tate has said "They don’t show any personal responsibility. They haven’t made atonement to any one of my family members." 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.

Roman Polanski gave away all of his possessions after the murders, unable to bear any reminders of the time he referred to as "the happiest I ever was in my life". He remained in Los Angeles until the killers were arrested and then travelled to Europe. His 1979 film Tess was dedicated "For Sharon", as Tate had read Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles during her final stay with Polanski in London, and had left the book 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 and wrote, "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".

In July, 2005 Polanski successfully sued the magazine Vanity Fair for libel after they wrote that he had attempted 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."

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 travelled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true. The tension broke that day. The paranoia was fulfilled."

Sharon Tate's work as an actress has been reviewed in the years since her death with modern film writers and critics such as Leonard Maltin writing that she displayed potential as a comedienne. A restored version of The Fearless Vampire Killers more closely resembles Polanski's intention, and the film and Tate's performance have received praise with Maltin describing the film as "near-brilliant". Tate's work in Don't Make Waves and The Wrecking Crew have been described by Maltin as containing her two best performances, and the best indicators of the career she might have established. 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.

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 victim's rights... have helped transform Sharon from mere victim, [and] restore a human face to one of the twentieth century's most infamous crimes."


Year Title Role Other notes*
1962 Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man uncredited
1962 Barabbas uncredited
1963 The Beverly Hillbillies Janet Trego occasional appearances from 1963 until 1965
1964 The Americanization of Emily Beautiful Girl uncredited
1967 The Fearless Vampire Killers Sarah Shagal
1967 Eye of the Devil Odile de Caray
1967 Don't Make Waves Malibu
1967 Valley of the Dolls Jennifer North
1968 Rosemary's Baby Girl at Party uncredited
1969 The Wrecking Crew Freya Carlson
1969 The Thirteen Chairs Pat released posthumously
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