At six months of age, Tate won the "Miss Tiny Tot of Dallas Pageant", but her parents had no show business ambitions for their daughter. Paul Tate was promoted and transferred several times. By the age of 16, as a military brat , Tate had lived in six cities and reportedly found it difficult to maintain friendships. Her family described her as shy and lacking in self-confidence. As an adult, Tate commented that people would misinterpret her shyness as aloofness until they knew her better.
Tate graduated from Vicenza American High School in As she matured, people commented on Tate's beauty; she began entering beauty pageants , winning the title of "Miss Richland" in Washington in She spoke of her ambition to study psychiatry , and also stated her intention to compete in the " Miss Washington " pageant in ; however, before she could do either, her father received orders to be stationed in Italy.
With her family relocating in Verona , Tate learned that she had become a local celebrity owing to the publication of a photograph of her in a swimsuit on the cover of the military newspaper Stars and Stripes. She discovered a kinship with other students at the American school she attended in nearby Vicenza, recognizing that their backgrounds and feelings of separation were similar to her own, and for the first time in her life began to form lasting friendships.
Tate and her friends became interested in the filming of Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man , which was being made nearby with Paul Newman , Susan Strasberg , and Richard Beymer , and obtained parts as film extras. Beymer noticed Tate in the crowd and introduced himself, and the two dated during the production of the film, with Beymer encouraging Tate to pursue a film career. Actor Jack Palance was impressed by her appearance and her attitude, although her role was too small to judge her talent.
He arranged a screen test for her in Rome , but this did not lead to further work. Tate returned to the United States alone, saying she wanted to further her studies, but tried to find film work.
After a few months, Doris Tate, who feared for her daughter's safety, suffered a nervous breakdown and her daughter was persuaded to return to Italy. After their first meeting, Gefsky agreed to represent her, and secured work for her in television and magazine advertisements. In , he introduced her to Martin Ransohoff , director of Filmways, Inc.
Ransohoff gave Tate small parts in Mister Ed and The Beverly Hillbillies to help her gain experience, but was unwilling to allow her to play a more substantial role. Ransohoff didn't want the audience to see me till I was ready," Tate was quoted in a article in Playboy. They became engaged, but their relationship was volatile and they frequently quarreled. Career pressures drove them apart and they broke up.
Tate later said that Sebring's nature was especially gentle, but when he proposed marriage, she declined. She said she would retire from acting as soon as she married, and at that time she intended to focus on her career. Ransohoff and Peckinpah agreed that Tate's timidity and lack of experience would cause her to flounder in such a large part, and she was rejected in favor of Tuesday Weld.
The Americanization of Emily and The Sandpiper. It included an interview with Eye of the Devil director J. Lee Thompson , who expressed his initial doubts about Tate's potential with the comment, "We even agreed that if after the first two weeks Sharon was not quite making it, we would put her back in cold storage," but added he soon realized Tate was "tremendously exciting". Although she did not have as many lines as the other actors, Tate's performance was considered crucial to the film, and she was required, more than the other cast members, to set an ethereal tone.
Niven described her as a "great discovery", and Kerr said that with "a reasonable amount of luck" Tate would be a great success. Much of the filming took place in France, and Sebring returned to Los Angeles to fulfill his business obligations. After filming, Tate remained in London, where she immersed herself in the fashion world and nightclubs.
Around this time, she met Roman Polanski. Tate and Polanski later agreed that neither of them had been impressed by the other when they first met. Polanski was planning The Fearless Vampire Killers , which was being coproduced by Ransohoff, and had decided that he wanted the red-headed actress Jill St. John for the female lead. Ransohoff insisted that Polanski cast Tate, and after meeting with her, he agreed that she would be suitable on the condition that she wore a red wig during filming.
Sharon Tate with Roman Polanski in The Fearless Vampire Killers in The company traveled to Italy for filming where Tate's fluent Italian proved useful in communicating with the local crew members. A perfectionist, Polanski had little patience with the inexperienced Tate, and said in an interview that one scene had required 70 takes before he was satisfied.
In addition to directing, Polanski also played one of the main characters, a guileless young man who is intrigued by Tate's character and begins a romance with her. As filming progressed, Polanski praised her performances and her confidence grew. They began a relationship, and Tate moved into Polanski's London apartment after filming ended.
Jay Sebring traveled to London, where he insisted on meeting Polanski. Although friends later said he was devastated, he befriended Polanski and remained Tate's closest confidante.
Polanski later commented that Sebring was a lonely and isolated person, who viewed Tate and himself as his family. Tate played the role of Malibu and the film was intended to capitalize on the popularity of beach movies and the music of such artists as the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean. Tate's character, billed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer publicity as "Malibu, Queen of the Surf", wore little more than a bikini for most of the film.
Disappointed with the film, she began referring to herself sarcastically as "sexy little me". Before the film's release, a major publishing campaign Coppertone sunsscreen featured Tate. The film opened to poor reviews and mediocre ticket sales, and Tate was quoted as confiding to a reporter, "It's a terrible movie", before adding, "Sometimes I say things I shouldn't. I guess I'm too outspoken. The producers did not suggest Tate, and Mia Farrow was cast.
Tate reportedly provided ideas for some of the key scenes, including the scene in which the protagonist, Rosemary, is impregnated. Eye of the Devil and The Fearless Vampire Killers were each due for release, and she had been signed to play a major role in the film version of Valley of the Dolls.
One of the all-time bestsellers, the film version was highly publicized and anticipated, and while Tate acknowledged that such a prominent role should further her career, she confided to Polanski that she did not like either the book or the script.
Susan Hayward replaced Garland a few weeks later when she was dismissed. Duke later said Robson "continually treated [Tate] like an imbecile, which she definitely was not, and she was very attuned and sensitive to this treatment". Few actresses have her kind of vulnerability. She's got a great future.
Some magazines commented that Tate was viewed similarly and Look published an unfavorable article about the three lead actresses, describing Tate as "a hopelessly stupid and vain starlet".
During the shooting of Valley of the Dolls, Tate confided to Parkins that she was "madly in love" with Polanski. She frequently commented on her admiration for Lee Grant , with whom she had played several dramatic scenes.
Tate was quoted as saying, "I learned a great deal about acting in [Valley of the Dolls], particularly in my scenes with Lee Grant She knows what acting is all about and everything she does, from little mannerisms to delivering her lines, is pure professionalism. I honestly don't understand the big fuss made over nudity and sex in films. On TV, the children can watch people murdering each other, which is a very unnatural thing, but they can't watch two people in the very natural process of making love.
Now, really, that doesn't make any sense, does it? Newsweek called it "a witless travesty", and it was not profitable. Tate's performance was largely ignored in reviews, and when she was mentioned, it was usually in relation to her nude scenes.
Eye of the Devil was released shortly after, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer attempted to build interest in Tate with its press release describing her as "one of the screen's most exciting new personalities". The film failed to find an audience, and most reviews were indifferent, neither praising nor condemning it.
The New York Times wrote that one of the few highlights was Tate's "chillingly beautiful but expressionless performance". Its 14 minutes consisted of a number of scenes depicting Tate filming Eye of the Devil, dancing in nightclubs, and sightseeing around London, and also contained a brief interview with her. Asked about her acting ambitions, she replied, "I don't fool myself. I can't see myself doing Shakespeare. Faye Dunaway and Catherine Deneuve.
Of the latter, she said, "I'd like to be an American Catherine Deneuve. She plays beautiful, sensitive, deep parts with a little bit of intelligence behind them. Bosley Crowther wrote in The New York Times, "all a fairly respectful admirer of movies can do is laugh at it and turn away". Parkins, Duke, and Tate would more likely have been playing the hat check girls than movie-queens; they are totally lacking in style, authority, or charm.
Daniels ' photographic caress of her faultless face and enormous absorbent eyes is stunning. Tate was depicted as being untraditional and modern, and was quoted as saying couples should live together before marrying. They were married in Chelsea, London , on January 20, , with considerable publicity. Polanski was dressed in what the press described as " Edwardian finery ", while Tate was attired in a white minidress.
Cool, nomadic, talented, and nicely shocking. He reminded Tate that she had promised that she would not try to change him. Peter Evans quoted Tate as saying, "We have a good arrangement. Roman lies to me and I pretend to believe him. Jay Sebring remained one of the couple's more frequent companions. Polanski's circle of friends included people he had known since his youth in Poland such as Wojciech Frykowski and Frykowski's girlfriend, coffee heiress Abigail Folger.
She performed her own stunts and was taught martial arts by Bruce Lee. The film was successful and brought Tate strong reviews, with many reviewers praising her comedic performance. Around this time Tate was feted as a promising newcomer. Tate and Polanski had visited it several times, and Tate was thrilled to learn it was available, referring to it as her "love house.
Frykowski and Folger moved into the Cielo Drive house. She posed in their apartment for photographer Terry O'Neill in casual domestic scenes such as opening baby gifts, and completed a series of glamour photographs for the British magazine Queen. A journalist asked Tate in a late July interview if she believed in fate, to which she replied, "Certainly. My whole life has been decided by fate. I think something more powerful than we are decides our fates for us.