It was August 9, 1969, when Charles Manson sent a few of his drooling Family members off to kill the residents of a Benedict Canyon estate in Los Angeles. The house was being rented by director Roman Polanski and his actress wife Sharon Tate. Polanski was out of the country. Sharon Tate was horrifically murdered with her dinner guests. America lost more than a sex symbol that night, too. Sharon Tate was on her way to becoming a very different kind of movie star.
The former beauty queen had already started her career by refusing to be a regular kind of sex bomb. She was working regularly in television when she left L.A. for London to make her proper big-screen debut in the creepy 1965 classic Eye of the Devil. That’s where she first met Polanski, who was already an acclaimed arthouse director. Anyone wondering what the two had in common found out when Sharon returned to the States to star as a bikini babe in a flop called Don’t Make Waves. Sharon refused to help with the hype, and casually informed a reporter that the movie wasn’t very good.
Polanski became a big deal in America with 1968’s Rosemary’s Baby, and the director had already given Tate a flashy role in his comedy The Fearless Vampire Killers. Tate also gave a compelling performance as a doomed starlet in 1967’s Valley of the Dolls, where she managed to carry off a tragic vibe amongst the movie’s schlock values.
Sharon then briefly put her career on hold after marrying Polanski, but returned to show off some comic skills with Dean Martin in the Matt Helm spy spoof The Wrecking Crew. Her last film would be the classic 1969 Italian comedy The 13 Chairs. Sharon wouldn’t be alive to enjoy her good reviews. Take a look at these pics, though, and you’ll see that Sharon even stood out as a Hollywood beauty. She had the classic look of a California girl and the haunting eyes of an ingenue, and could pretty much wrap herself up in any fashion. These 100 photographs are just a glimpse of her lasting impact… [image credit: boxing scene]