Sharon Tate was just 26 years old when she became a victim of the Manson family murders. But she was so much more than that. She was an actress, wife, soon-to-be mother, daughter, and friend. A natural beauty, she was kind and warm-hearted according to those who knew her well.
She was living her best life when it was abruptly cut short, but we’re here to also talk about what she brought to those years she lived. Here are 60 facts about Sharon Tate’s brief, beautiful life.
Sharon Tate Facts
1. Army Brat
Sharon Tate was born to Colonel Paul James Tate and Doris Tate in Dallas, Texas in 1943. Her father was an officer in the US army, and the family moved around a lot when she was a child. In fact, by the time she was 16 years old, Tate had lived in six different cities throughout her life and had enrolled in several different high schools.
2. Pageant Girl
Though her family described the young Tate as shy and noted her difficulty creating or maintaining friendships, she was a whole different person when she went on stage. When she was just six months old, Tate not only participated in but won the “Miss Tiny Tot of Dallas” Pageant, showing a glimmer of the stardom that was to come.
3. Humble Beginnings
Despite these pageant roots, Tate’s parents confessed they had no big Hollywood dreams for their young daughter.
4. Queen of the Pageants
Even though she was a somewhat reserved girl lacking in self confidence, Sharon Tate’s beauty became undeniable as she grew into a young woman. This confidence boost urged her on, and she began entering into adult beauty pageants. She actually won five different beauty pageants in 1959 alone, which is a rate of one win almost every two months.
5. And How Does That Make You Feel?
As a young girl, Tate claimed she wanted to study psychiatry.
6. Cover Girl
By 1960, Tate’s army brat lifestyle led the family to Verona, Italy. It was there that Tate discovered something almost unbelievable: she had become a kind of local celebrity. Residents and fellow army children had seen a photograph of her on the front cover of the military magazine Stars and Stripes, and her beauty blew them away.
7. Where in the World Is Sharon Tate?
At her American high school in Italy, Tate finally began to make lasting friendships. Everyone there felt just as displaced and as lonely as her, and the classmates bonded with each other. In 1961, Tate graduated from the high school after just a year of attending it, but the experience helped her become more self-confident for the rest of her life.
8. Extra, Extra!
In fact, it was her time at this high school that helped her break into acting. While in Italy, she and her newfound friends discovered that a movie named Hemingway’s Adventures of a Young Man was filming on location nearby. It starred the likes of Richard Beymer, Paul Newman, and Susan Strasberg, and the girls desperately sought and won parts as extras on the movie.
9. Big Break
The bit part also led to a steamy development in her love life. While on set, Tate caught the attention of Richard Beymer. The dashing actor spotted her in the sea of extras, went over, and introduced himself. They quickly became a couple, and dated throughout the shoot. Perhaps more importantly, Beymer suggested that Tate seriously look into a career in acting.
10. She Just Didn’t See It
Despite all of the recognition of her beauty and the men falling all over themselves to be with her, Tate didn’t see herself as beautiful. “Sexiness is all in the eye of the beholder,” she once said. “I think it should be. Absolutely. My…appeal, whatever it might be, isn’t obvious…at least to me.”
11. A Renaissance Woman
Tate was a model student throughout high school: she played on the basketball team, was a cheerleader and baton twirler, served on student council, starred as Juliet in the school’s rendition of Romeo and Juliet, and—no surprise here—her peers elected her Homecoming Queen and Senior Prom Queen. She absolutely did it all.
12. A Gentle Soul
When she was younger and even into adulthood, Tate’s reserve and lack of self-confidence could come across as snobbiness or aloofness, but once people got to know her, she opened up and became warm and gentle.
13. Welcome to the Grind
After her positive experience filming with Hemingway’s Adventures of a Young Man, Tate began to pursue acting. Despite her unearthly beauty, her dream turned into a long grind over the next year. She worked as an extra in a string of films, tried to break in through failed screen-tests, and even went back to America to try to get roles, all to no avail.
14. Come Back, Baby
Then, Tate’s dreams came to a shocking halt. Her mother Doris worried constantly over her daughter’s safety all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, and she eventually suffered a nervous breakdown a few months after Tate went to the USA. Guilt-stricken, Tate returned to Italy to take care of her mother and ease her worries.
15. Your Own Worst Enemy
In 1962, however, Tate finally began to break into Hollywood. The family returned stateside and Tate made the move to Los Angeles, where she immediately locked down small parts in big 60s hits like The Beverly Hillbillies and Mister Ed. She was even up for the part of Billie Jo Bradley in Petticoat Junction—but heartbreakingly, her youthful lack of self-confidence came back to haunt her, as it would for the rest of her career.
Her agent Martin Ransohoff thought Tate lacked the self-esteem for the part, and the role slipped through her fingers.
16. Marty Knows Best
In fact, Ransohoff was quite controlling: He often refused to give her larger parts in productions—including big-name projects like The Cincinnati Kid with Steve McQueen— because he felt she was too timid and not up to the task. As Tate once said, “Mr. Ransohoff didn’t want the audience to see me till I was ready.”
17. Put Me in, Coach
In the end, though, not even Ransohoff could hide her star power, and 1965 he finally gave her the lead role in the occult thriller Eye of the Devil. Tate had waited a long time for this break, and she wasn’t about to mess it up; she even travelled to London to do research and meet with a Wiccan High Priest and Priestess.
18. Give a Girl a Chance
For all her gumption and initiative, there were still some Sharon Tate doubters, including the director of Eye of the Devil himself. Filmmaker J. Lee Thompson said that he even set up an exit strategy for firing the actress. As he said, “We even agreed that if after the first two weeks Sharon was not quite making it, we would put her back in cold storage.”
Lucky for him, he was dead wrong. Thompson admitted that as soon as he saw Tate act, he found her “tremendously exciting.”
19. A Short Engagement
As Tate’s star rose, so did her romance profile. She began a passionate relationship with dashing French actor Philippe Forquet in 1963, and became his fiancee in a matter of months. Their deep love, however, was also incredibly volatile. They fought almost constantly and struggled under the pressures of their careers. By 1964, they had split.
Just after her breakup with Forquet, Tate met Jay Sebring, a sailor-turned-hairstylist to the stars. The two briefly dated, but Sebring was more enthralled with Tate than she was with him. When he proposed to her, she took the lesson she’d learned with Forquet and said no, stating that she wanted to focus on her career.
21. Not Impressed
In the late 60s, Tate met her future husband, director Roman Polanski. Soon after, Tate began lobbying for a role in Polanski’s film The Fearless Vampire Killers, but both Tate and Polanski admitted that it was far from love at first sight. For his part, Polanski was a hardened perfectionist who felt that Tate was too naive and innocent—criticisms she had surely heard before.
22. Seeing Red
Polanski initially wanted the red-headed actress Jill St. John for the lead role in The Fearless Vampire Killers. After meeting with Tate, however, he changed his mind—provided she wear a red wig throughout filming.
23. Love on Film
When filming started, Tate did what she always did: she proved her worth. Soon enough, Polanski was praising her performances, and before they knew what was happening, the young star and her director were in love. It was fast and all-consuming: by the end of filming, Tate had even moved into Polanski’s London apartment.
24. One More Time
Tate and Polanski’s budding relationship, however, didn’t mean the notoriously prickly director went easy on the starlet. In fact, he was so dissatisfied with the way one particular scene was turning out that he had Tate perform and re-do the dialogue and acting a whopping 70 times. Now that’s what I call dedication.
25. I Have Standards
Tate often had a dark sense of humor about some of her racier film roles. In Don’t Make Waves, a movie she was particularly disappointed in, her character parades around in a bikini throughout almost the entire film. This costume choice led Tate to refer to herself and her persona rather bitterly as “sexy little me.”
After Don’t Make Waves flopped, she confessed to a reporter quite boldly, ” “It’s a terrible movie.”
26. Au Naturel
Tate often went without makeup, and when it came to lipstick, she preferred to use small jars of Vaseline to keep her lips shiny.
27. Not So Timid Anymore
Perhaps trying to put her supposed issues with self-confidence and timidity to rest, Tate posed undressed for a 1967 issue of Playboy as promotion for The Fearless Vampire Killers. In fact, Tate was staunchly pro-nudity, and admitted around this time that when it came to film work, she didn’t “see any difference between being stark naked or fully dressed—if it’s part of the job.”
28. No Glitz or Glam
Tate often went without jewelry, and particularly kept her hands bare. She was a nail biter, and didn’t want people looking at her hands and catching sight of her chewed nails.
29. Take it Outside
Tate was also a cigarette smoker throughout her life, though she often tried to hide the habit from the disapproving Polanski.
30. I’m a Barbie Girl
Tate’s film work went on to inspire some iconic characters. For one, Felicity Shagwell from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me was based off of Freya Carlson, Tate’s character in The Wrecking Crew with Dean Martin. Likewise, her character from the film Don’t Make Waves actually inspired Malibu Barbie. Yes, that Barbie!
31. Think You’re Funny?
Tate was remarkably clear-eyed about her position in the Hollywood ecosystem. When asked about her acting dreams, she replied, “I don’t fool myself. I can’t see myself doing Shakespeare.” Instead, she aspired to be more of a comedic actress in the mold of the great Carole Lombard, and she sought out comedy films for that purpose.
32. Silver Screen Idols
Despite these comic ambitions, Tate also admired classic Hollywood actresses, particularly Faye Dunaway and Catherine Deneuve. Speaking of Deneuve, 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.” What’s most tragic is she never got the chance.
33. Passed Over Again
Roman Polanski wanted Tate to be the star of his now-classic film Rosemary’s Baby, which he directed and wrote. However, he felt their relationship made it impossible for him to suggest her for the part, and he kept waiting for someone else to bring her name up. That never happened, and the iconic role famously went to Mia Farrow instead.
34. Consult the Actress
Even with yet another star-making role ripped from her grasp, Tate didn’t recede into the shadows. In fact, she consulted for and even created some of the most memorable scenes in Rosemary’s Baby, including the way Farrow’s character gets impregnated in the movie. There are multiple photographs showing Tate’s almost constant presence on set.
35. Close Call
Tate had a near-death experience while filming Don’t Make Waves. She was wearing a parachute during a stunt that saw her jump from a plane into a pool, but terrifyingly, the parachute deployed at the wrong time. She ended up in the pool trapped inside the ballooning parachute, but luckily got out before she drowned.
36. Taylor’s Green Is Showing
One person who reportedly wouldn’t work with Tate? Elizabeth Taylor. Tate was set to have a small, walk-on role in the film The Sandpiper, but the legendarily jealous Taylor put the kibosh on that quickly. Rumor has it that Taylor wasn’t a fan of having a pretty, young actress on set, even if Tate was only in a small role.
37. Can’t Please Everybody
Considering the high profile actors Tate starred alongside, a few of the films she made were not largely well-received. Her specific role in Eye of the Devil had mixed reviews, while the film itself was a failure. Critics also considered The Wrecking Crew a commercial let-down, and even Valley of the Dolls drew a lot of negative reviews.
38. It’s an Honor Just to Be Here
Despite some failures, which can happen to the best of actors, Tate also found some successes. She garnered herself a Golden Globe nomination for Valley of the Dolls, though she ultimately didn’t win for “New Star of the Year” in the actress category. Still, it was a big boost, and her career was set to sky-rocket.
39. Her Life in Film
Early in 2018, filming began on The Haunting of Sharon Tate starring Hilary Duff. On playing the role, Duff said that Tate “was an amazing woman and it was a true honor.” Not everyone was happy about the portrayal, however. Tate’s younger sister Debra made it known how upset she was at the mere thought of the film.
Debra was only 16 years old at the time of the murder, and she called the movie “tasteless” in an interview with People magazine.
40. Wedding Bells
On January 20, 1968, Sharon Tate married Roman Polanski just days before her 25th birthday.
41. A Hippie, Not a Housewife
Polanski was very encouraging of Tate’s film career—and even sometimes too encouraging. He perhaps rightly felt she should sever her ties with her agent Martin Ransohoff, but when Tate started turning more to domestic pursuits rather than Hollywood, he snapped that he wanted to be married to “a hippie, not a housewife.”
Many have since noted the controlling behavior Polanski exerted on all aspects of Tate’s life.
42. Free Love
Nonetheless, Tate followed this lead and soon immersed herself in the Hollywood’s set of bright young things, her husband Polanski in tow. Their social circle contained the likes of Mia Farrow, Peter Fonda, and Doors frontman Jim Morrison, and their home was often full of people, sometimes strangers, going in and out at all hours of the day.
Tate was content, and admitted she liked participating in the “free spirit” of the era.
43. Nothing Like a Good Burger
According to her sister Debra Tate, one of Sharon’s favorite foods was a hamburger from Dolores’ Restaurant in Los Angeles.
44. Love House
In 1969, Polanski and a very pregnant Tate moved into 10050 Cielo Drive. It was a mansion fit for Hollywood’s best and brightest: nestled deep in Benedict Canyon, the house used to belong to the couple’s friends Terry Melcher and actress Candice Bergen. Tate was reportedly over the moon about the move, and referred to the home as her “love house.”
Infamously, it was the house she would die in.
45. Friends to Lovers
Tate’s old flame Jay Sebring was apparently heartbroken to hear that Tate and Polanski had gotten together on the set of The Fearless Vampire Killers. However, he soon got over the loss, and ended up becoming lifelong friends with Tate. He even ended up quite close with Polanski as well. Sadly, Sebring was with Tate on that fateful day…
46. Five Lives, Cut Too Short
Tate’s life took a sad, cruel twist when the Manson Family burst into her home and killed her along with Abigail Folger, Voytek Frykowski, Steve Parent, and her dear friend Jay Sebring. The infamous crime took place on the night of August 9, 1969 in Tate’s Cielo Drive home while she was entertaining friends. It was a tragedy that shook the nation—not to mention Polanski, who was abroad at the time.
47. Wrong Place, Wrong Time
Cruelly, Manson chose the Cielo Drive house because of grudge he held against its previous tenant, Terry Melcher, not Sharon Tate. Manson had been trying to convince Melcher to give him a record deal, but Melcher refused. Though Manson was likely aware that Melcher no longer lived in the house, it still gave him an appropriate target.
Doris Day And Terry Melcher
48. The Manson Family Convictions
Charles Manson and his deranged followers within the Manson Family were charged and convicted of Tate’s murder, along with those of her guests that terrible night. At the time of the now infamous trial, the death penalty was still practiced in California. Accordingly, the judge sentenced all the criminals to death in 1971.
Just the following year, though, the state abolished the death penalty, which meant the court commuted the death sentences to life in prison for the seven people convicted of the crimes. One of the seven died in prison in 2009, and Manson himself died in prison in November 2017. The rest remain in jail despite multiple attempts at parole requests.
49. A Father’s Heartbreak
During the parole hearings for the murderers, Tate’s father always campaigned against those convicted, even once saying of Manson: “that man should never, never, never be turned out into society.” He even made sure to write letters to the officials involved in the parole cases, going so far as to detail how he had to clean up his daughter’s crime scene himself.
50. Doorway to a Destroyed Home
Rumor has it that Nine Inch Nails lead singer Trent Reznor actually took the door from the 10050 Cielo Drive house, and that the door now stands in his own Louisiana music studio. The musician has a fascination with the enduring tragedy, and Reznor even recorded his 1994 album The Downward Spiral inside the house.
51. Once Upon a Time
Director Quentin Tarantino’s ninth and newest film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, provides a snapshot of Sharon Tate’s life in Hollywood in the late 1960s, albeit through an alternate timeline that reimagines Tate’s last days. In the film, Tate is played by Margot Robbie.
52. Any Takers?
10050 Cielo Drive no longer exists; it was demolished in 1994. In fact, you can’t even find it anywhere on a map. The street address was completely changed after developers built a new house on the land. Yet the property’s bloody reputation still stands, and the new mansion has been incredibly difficult to sell in recent years.
53. One Small Step for Man, One Last Get Together With Family
Just weeks before her death, Tate was with her family watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, making it one of the last times they would all spend time together. Tate’s mother Doris brought her daughter a gift that day—a wooden rocking chair for the upcoming baby that she herself had used when bringing up Sharon and her sisters.
54. Mother and Son, Forever Together
Tate’s tombstone reflects both herself and her unborn son. She wanted to name him after her father—Paul Richard Polanski, and her name sits above his on the grave. At the time of her death, she was already eight and a half months pregnant.
55. Father Knows Best
Not only did Tate’s father clean up the crime scene after his daughter’s death, he also tried to find the culprits behind the murders. Because of his more than two decades of work with US Army intelligence, he was well-equipped to go after leads into the case while going undercover as a hippie, though a prosecutor said his leads never really panned out.
56. Valley of Doom
Sharon Tate’s work in Valley of the Dolls has since become a cult classic, but her time on set was an absolute nightmare. It was a disaster from the start, as Tate admitted to Polanski that she wasn’t a fan either of the original Valley of the Dolls book or the film script. But that was just the beginning of the troubles.
Tate initially starred alongside Patty Duke, Barbara Parkins, and film legend Judy Garland, but the production soon dismissed Garland from the project and replaced her with Susan Hayward. Furthermore, director Mark Robson was highly critical of all his leading ladies, but he was particularly cruel to Tate. Duke later admitted that Robson, “continually treated [Tate] like an imbecile, which she definitely was not.”
57. Wedded Bliss
Although Tate hoped marrying Polanski would help settle them down as a couple, they hid some bedroom secrets: it was far from a faithful marriage. Polanski had an unapologetically wandering eye, and called Tate’s discomfort with his infidelity “Sharon’s big hang-up.” For her part, Tate was said to have confided in friends bitterly, “We have a good arrangement. Roman lies to me and I pretend to believe him.”
58. Losing Love
Whatever their issues, when Polanski heard about the death of his beloved wife, he was utterly inconsolable. He rushed home to mourn her, and soon gave away all his worldly possessions in the aftermath of the tragedy. He simply couldn’t bear to be reminded of Tate or her unjust fate, and he later called his marriage to the actress “the happiest I ever was in my life.”
59. The Dedication
Roman Polanski decided to direct the 1979 film Tess, based on Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles, for an incredibly heartbreaking reason. This was the last novel Tate was reading before her death, and she suggested to Polanski that it would be great as a film. The dedication for the film states simply: “For Sharon.”
60. Lasting Legacy
After her daughter’s death, Tate’s mother fought tirelessly for the rights and protection of victims. Even US President George H.W. Bush recognized Doris Tate in 1992 for her work, though she died later that year. Patti Tate, Sharon’s youngest sister, took up the fight after that, helping to found the Doris Tate Crime Victims Bureau.
Sadly, Patti would pass away from cancer in 2000, leaving the middle sister, Debra, to continue the work. The Tate sisters’ father, Paul, never made public comments regarding his eldest daughter’s death, but he was always there during the trial and subsequent parole hearings. No one in the family has ever forgotten Sharon’s life and legacy.