This week marks the 50th anniversary of the infamous, shocking murder of Hollywood actress Sharon Tate and four others at the hands of the Manson Family. This hideous crime occurred on the hot summer night of 9th August 1969, when Manson’s followers invaded Sharon’s home, 10050 Cielo Drive, and cold-bloodedly butchered everybody inside.
The horror of the murders was also tinged with immense sadness, as Sharon was heavily pregnant at the time and repeatedly begged for the killers to spare her until she had her baby. But of course we all know what happened next.
The sheer horror of Sharon’s murder still resonates bitterly with many people to this day, especially those who admired the actress. The case, as we all know, inspired a string of various books, movies and TV documentaries. And with the coming of this 50th Anniversary, yet more new films – including Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood – have been released, each giving different takes on Sharon’s life leading up to the Manson Family murders.
In writing this blog post, I do not wish to dwell too much on the murder, as every time I think of it, it just fills me with such immense sadness and horror. Instead, I have decided to just concentrate on the lighter side of Sharon’s life: to express just how much I adore this beautiful lady and how much her films have meant to me over the years.
The very first movie I can recall ever seeing Sharon Tate in was Dance of the Vampires (alternative title: The Fearless Vampire Killers), in which she starred with her husband, Roman Polanski. The instant I set eyes on this beautiful lady with the lovely almond eyes, I was completely hooked. And the fact that I also happened to be a HUGE fan of the Hammer vampire movies only enhanced the sheer joy and entertainment I derived from this film, which, although just a vampire spoof, was very reminiscent of the Hammer vampires flicks. I also loved the snowy setting surrounding the foreboding vampire castle, which really gave it the atmosphere. In fact, I would even go as far as to say that Dance of the Vampires is my all time favourite Sharon Tate movie. And it was so well produced by Roman Polanski.
After Dance of the Vampires, the next Sharon Tate movie I saw was Eye of the Devil (1966), which also starred David Niven, Donald Pleasance and Deborah Carr. Unlike Dance of the Vampires, this movie was filmed in black-and-white and took a more serious approach to the horror theme. Starring in her first major film role, Sharon plays the sinister but mesmerising Odile de Caray who, together with her bow-and-arrow-happy brother Christian (David Hemmings), conspires to commit a ritual sacrifice (at the expense of poor David Niven’s character) with a view to saving the vineyard of the estate. This movie has a real creepy atmosphere, with all its supernatural overtones, and I would say that it is probably my second favourite Sharon Tate film after Dance of the Vampires. Sharon just looks so stunningly beautiful in it, but then she always looks stunningly beautiful in ALL her movies.
Valley of the Dolls (1967), which was based on Jacqueline Susan’s novel of the same name, is another favourite Sharon Tate movie of mine. Sharon plays the character of Jennifer North who, together with two other women, attempts to make a glittering career for herself in the sleazy world of Hollywood. I hope to be getting the Criterion Blu Ray of this movie to add to my collection very soon.
Sharon, of course, did make a few other, lesser known movies like Don’t Make Waves (the 1967 flick in which she co-starred with Tony Curtis), The Wrecking Crew (in 1968 with Dean Martin), and 12+1 (which was her last movie and was released posthumously in 1969). But it is the first three films I mentioned above that she is probably best known for, and three fantastic movies they are too.
By all accounts, Sharon’s personality shone every bit as brightly as her screen presence did, for everybody who ever met her spoke very highly of her as person. She has been described as such a sweet, gentle, caring girl. She was never moody or bad tempered. Even her husband, Roman Polanski, has been quoted as saying that she never had a bad word to say about anybody. Thus when a person is held in such a high regard as Sharon was, it just makes the fact that her life was so cut so short seem all the more tragic and unfair. If she had lived, I am sure she would have gone on to even greater things, especially in regard to her movie career.
So, in this week that marks the 50th Anniversary of Sharon’s sad death all those years ago, I should like to end this post by saying just how much I still miss this fine actress. In expressing this sentiment, I am sure I echo the thoughts of all the thousands of other people around the world who loved Sharon Tate as much as I did. In the hearts of all her fans, she will never ever be forgotten.
Sharon, you did not deserve to be taken from us so soon, and so cruelly. But you have still left us a wonderful legacy with your movies and TV appearances.
May your star continue to shine as brightly in Heaven as it did during your all-too-short time on Earth.
By Alan Toner
Lifelong Sharon Tate Fan