Sharon Tate: Remembering the ‘Kind Soul’ Beyond the Manson Tragedy

Sharon Tate’s legacy continues to be explored through literature, documentaries, and films. Rising to fame in the 1960s, Tate and her husband, the controversial director Roman Polanski, became prominent figures in Hollywood.

In 1969, Tate, along with Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, and Wojciech Frykowski, was tragically murdered by the Manson Family. These senseless acts of violence shocked Hollywood and the nation, creating a lasting impact on American history.

Reflecting on that tumultuous time, actor George Hamilton noted the widespread fear and uncertainty that enveloped Hollywood, turning the once vibrant scene into a subdued environment. Now, more than five decades later, some members of the Manson Family have been released from prison after completing their sentences.

Recently, Leslie Van Houten, a former Manson follower who participated in the LaBianca murders, was released after 53 years in prison. Her release has reignited discussions about the Manson Family’s crimes and their lasting effects on society.

Sharon Tate was tragically killed by members of the Manson family, including Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian, on the eve of the LaBianca murders. While Leslie Van Houten was not involved in Tate’s murder, two of her assailants, Tex Watson and Patricia Krenwinkel, are still serving time.

The recent release of Leslie Van Houten has rekindled interest in Sharon Tate’s story, which was also highlighted by Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 film, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” While the film does not focus exclusively on Tate’s tragic end, it features her character during the tumultuous period of her murder. The plot centers on TV star Rick Dalton and his stunt double Cliff Booth as they navigate the evolving Hollywood landscape during its golden era, with Margot Robbie playing Sharon Tate, who lives next door to Dalton.

In an interview with Deadline, Tarantino expressed regret that Tate is often remembered primarily for her tragic death rather than her life and character. He voiced a commitment to exploring her personality and life, stressing the significance of portraying “who she was, the person.”

Who was Sharon Tate, beyond the tragedy that befell her?

Sharon Tate emerged as a bright talent in the 1960s, starring in films such as “Valley of the Dolls” and “The Fearless Vampire Killers,” the latter directed by her husband, Roman Polanski. Born in 1943 in Dallas, Texas, she was the daughter of U.S. Army Colonel Paul James Tate and Doris Gwendolyn Tate, who became an influential activist after her daughter’s untimely death.

Tate’s striking beauty and charm captured attention early on, leading her to participate in beauty pageants and pursue modeling. As a military child, she lived in various places, extensively traveling with her family. She attended an American high school in Verona, Italy, in 1961, where she also learned to speak Italian fluently.

At the age of seventeen, Sharon Tate experienced a traumatic event when she was raped by a soldier, a secret she initially kept to herself but later shared with her future husband, Roman Polanski. According to the 2016 biography “Sharon Tate: A Life,” Polanski believed that the incident “hadn’t left her emotionally scarred.”

Described by those who knew her as having a gentle heart, her sister Debra Tate later told the Irish Examiner, “Not only was she physically exquisite, her inside, her heart, her soul, her kindness, her humanity – all of that was as beautiful as the exterior. She was kind, loving, and giving.”

“She had a unique quality to make anybody, and I mean anybody, feel as if they were the only person that mattered in the whole world. And that could be a beggar in the street. She just had a very warm personal and genuine concern for people,” she continued.

Towards the end of her life, Sharon Tate made a significant impact in Europe, where she and her husband Roman Polanski were considered a power couple due to his film projects. They eventually returned to the United States, with Tate hoping to give birth to their first child on American soil.

In 1969, while eight and a half months pregnant, Tate was tragically murdered along with four other guests at her home on Cielo Drive near Beverly Hills. The murders were committed by the Manson Family, a group led by Charles Manson.

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Following her tragic death, Sharon Tate’s life has been the subject of numerous books, documentaries, and films. One notable book, “Sharon Tate: Recollections,” was curated by her sister, Debra. In Quentin Tarantino’s film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Margot Robbie portrays Sharon Tate, starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt.




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