Sharon Tate: the star whose tragedy turned into a legend

Today actress Sharon Tate would be completing 80 years, but she lived only 26 of them. Her violent and unjustifiable death, along with that of her unborn child and six others, is one of the world’s traumas since 1969, depicted in Quentin Tarantino‘s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The gratuitous and unforgivable violence led by Charles Manson and his gang made the name of Sharon, a rising star, an unwitting legend for the wrong reasons. Unfortunately, it is precisely the final chapter of his life that always opens his entire narrative, an injustice that cannot be reversed.

Beautiful and keen to establish herself as an artist, Sharon was the eldest of three women, with a military father and a stay-at-home mother. She was born in Texas and at just 6 months old had a beauty that stood out, being crowned “Miss Tiny Tot of Dallas”. The life of Beauty Pageants was the dream of many girls in the 1940s and 1950s and Sharon won every competition she entered: at age 16, she was Miss Richland, in Washington, among others. With her father being transferred from base to base, the Tates moved to Italy, where Sharon’s beauty continued to stand out. As a teenager, she already wanted to be an actress and, as many films were shot at Cinecittà, she got authorization to do cameos in several productions, “debuting” in the film Barrabas, starring Anthony Quinn. Before even setting foot in Hollywood, she appeared in a gossip column as a possible girlfriend of Richard Beymer (Tony from West Side Story), who was filming Adventures of a Young Man in Verona. She was only 19 years old.

As fate would have it, when she returned to the United States, her family settled in California and Sharon got jobs as a model and in commercials. At 20, she got a contract and started a supporting career, where they explored the sexy side of the actress, as many did at the time. She evolved and eventually caught the attention of Roman Polanski, a director beloved by critics who wanted her in the film The Fearless Vampire Killers. At the time, she was engaged to hairdresser Jay Sebring (who would be with her on the night of the murder and one of the victims), but the passion for the Polish star was definitive for both of them.

Sharon Tate‘s most famous film, which promised to make her a more recognized actress, was Valley of the Dolls, adapted from Jacqueline Susann‘s 1966 bestseller, a huge success at the time. She married Polanski in 1968 and became pregnant the same year. Because she wanted the birth to be in the United States, towards the end of the pregnancy, the two rented a house in Los Angeles, at 10050 Cielo Drive…

In 2014, I read the book Sharon Tate Recollection, a collection of beautiful photos of the actress, but I agree with what her sister wrote in the preface: “I always thought it very unfair that her life was remembered mainly for its final moments. Sharon has had a magnificent life.” Here is my homage to the icon, a life taken from us long before its time.


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