Today, Sharon Tate is mostly known for her manner of death. The young woman was brutally murdered, while eight months pregnant, by acolytes of the Manson Family. But Tate was much, much more than her murder. Only 26 when she died, Tate had already starred in a number of beloved movies.
Tate’s fame as an actress grew after her death (Valley of the Dolls, for example, is now a cult classic), but she had already made a name for herself in Hollywood. She was also much, much more than an actress. We’ve compiled some of the most interesting facts about Sharon Tate to commemorate her life. Many of these facts come from Sharon Tate: Recollection, a gorgeous coffee table book and loving tribute to Sharon by her younger sister, Debra.
1. Sharon’s beauty was apparent even at a young age. At only four months, Sharon won the “Miss Tiny Tot of Dallas” pageant. Sharon’s parents had entered her on a whim.
2. Sharon’s father was a colonel in the United States army. The Tates frequently moved because of this. Sharon even finished high school in Italy–likely giving her a certain cosmopolitan attitude that added to her appeal.
3. Although remembered most for her movie work, Sharon’s television work, including that on The Beverly Hillbillies, is considered her best.
4. Sharon was incredibly beautiful, but she did not focus on her own looks, frequently eschewing makeup. In fact, she typically used only Vaseline on her lips in her daily life.
5. Sharon also didn’t wear much jewelry. She especially hated rings, as they drew attention to the fact that she often bit her nails.
6. Sharon’s sister, Debra, always remembered that Sharon had a fresh, clean, light scent–due to her favorite bath product, Milk & Pearls. Milk & Pearls, unfortunately, is no longer sold in stores.
7. Elizabeth Taylor supposedly had Sharon removed from the film The Sandpiper. Sharon was just breaking into film, and Elizabeth was not thrilled to share the spotlight with a young beauty, even if she was just supposed to play a walk-on role.
8. Sharon’s first major role in a movie was in The Fearless Vampire Killers, directed by her future husband, Roman Polanski. He was only convinced to cast her after seeing her reaction when he pulled a prank on her. He was also very hard on her on set, supposedly requiring 70 takes of just one scene.
9. While she was transitioning into movies, Sharon met Jay Sebring, whom she dated for about two years, ending the relationship when he proposed. She learned how to cut hair from her former beau, who remained a close friend.
10. Sharon Tate’s character in her second movie, Don’t Make Waves, inspired the Malibu Barbie doll.
11. Sharon nearly died performing a stunt for Don’t Make Waves. She jumped from a plane into a pool, wearing a parachute for safety. When the parachute deployed at the wrong time, it covered the pool, trapping Sharon beneath.
12. Sharon often downplayed her own beauty, once saying “I think I’m the most unsexy thing that ever was. I’m open for everything, of course, but I’m certainly not aware of being sexy.”
13. Sharon and Roman Polanski were married in 1968, three years after they met. She wore a white mini-dress to her wedding.
14. Sharon was outspoken, once calling Don’t Make Waves a terrible movie. The film received terrible reviews when it was released, although it has enjoyed a slight resurgence in recent years.
15. Sharon was a smoker, but Polanski thought it was a nasty habit. She often hid her smoking from him.
16. Sharon Tate was often photographed by Shahrokh Hatami, a friend as well as photographer. He was instrumental in tying Charles Manson to the murders at trial.
17. Sharon’s most enduring role is that of Jennifer North in Valley of the Dolls. She said she felt a kinship with her character, who was primarily loved for her body and beauty.
18. Friends of Sharon spoke most highly of her warmth and kind personality, not her beauty.
19. After spending so many years in Europe as a child, Sharon felt more comfortable there, due, in part, to their less strict gender binaries. She liked being in a place where men could cry and be open about their feelings without being judged.
20. Sharon last saw the other Tates, including her sisters and parents on July 20, 1969, when they all watched the moon landing together.
Featured photo: Wikimedia Commons