Cover of the magazine this article came out of.
Sharon Tate: Nouvelle Starlet by Eve Golden from Films of the Golden Age, Fall 1997
Next came her most famous project. 'Valley of the Dolls' (1967) was based on an enjoyably trashy Jacqueline Susann novel, and more than lived up to its source. The story of three Hollywood starlets, it has become a classic of unintentional camp comedy. The most vigorous scenery-chewing was handled by Patty Duke (as a drugged out Judy Garland manque) and Susan Hayward (in a role vacated by a drugged out Judy Garland). Sharon turned in a surprisingly touching performance as Jennifer North, a sexpot turned "nudie" actress who kills herself on discovering she has breast cancer.
No one was more surprised than Sharon when she got the role. "Since the book was a runaway bestseller, I was sure the leading roles would go to big name stars," she said in late 1967. "You know, like Natalie Wood or somebody like that. But, I was just thrilled to get the role. I liked Jennifer as I read the book. I think she is the most sympathetic girl in the group. She's sweet, unspoiled and unselfish. She doesn't mean anyone any harm, and yet terrible things keep happening to her."
Sharon could have been describing herself. Everyone in Hollywood remarked about how "sweet, unspoiled and unselfish" Sharon was, how un-Hollywood. Roman Polanski himself said, "When I first met Sharon, I expected her to be nothing more than just another beautiful and not to bright American girl. But she surprised me--she turned out to be rather remarkable. In a way she was naive. But she also had this tremendous unaffectedness and sense of decency and loyalty that really impressed people. She never bad mouthed anyone and was completely free of any of the neurotic ambition which one usually associates with actresses."
Sharon worked hard on 'Valley of the Dolls'. "I learned a great deal about acting in this film," she told the Sunday News, "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." The film was widely panned when it opened, but Sharon got away with less critical fire than most of her co-stars. Discussing the nudity in this film and her project with Polanski, she told a reporter in 1967 that "if it's important to the story that I appear nude, then by all means, I'll do it." Speaking of how an inherently shy girl could perform nude for film-goers, she said that "I've made movies and appeared on television but I have never appeared on the stage and I don't know if I ever will. Live audiences frighten me to death. I'm afraid of the Broadway stage."
She and Polanski were back in London for Christmas '67. They finally married on January 20, 1968, honeymooning in the Swiss Alps. Sharon had been out for marriage since the two met, though Polanski admitted that "She never asked me, never said a word about it. So finally I said, 'I'm sure you would like to get married,' and she said she would. So I said, 'We'll get married then,' and we did. By that time I wasn't nervous about it at all."
Polanski almost immediately began having affairs, according to his biographers. They returned to the U. S., where Sharon cooled her heels in California, looking over various offers, while Polanski was in New York filming 'Rosemary's Baby' (1968). With an eye for future projects together, Sharon and Polanski bought back her contract with Martin Ransohoff and Filmways.
'The Wrecking Crew' (1969) was the fourth (and last) film starring Dean Martin as the James Bond-like Matt Helm. A pretty dreadful film even by the standards of most groovy spy capers of the time, it benefited from Martin's amiabley laid-back personality and Sharon's superb turn as his klutzy, near-sighted assistant. While Elke Sommer and Tina Louise filled the sexpot roles, Sharon provided comic relief. Inexpertly "helping" Martin track down international gold smugglers, Sharon showed real promise as a comedienne, proving to be the most memorable woman in an otherwise unmemorable film. Only one scene sticks in the mind, and for the wrong reason: Martin passes a bloody corpse and tells Sharon, "that could have been you," to which she replies, "never-never, never, never."
She seemed determined to downplay her eyebatting, clothes-shedding past. For most of 'The Wrecking Crew', her hair was hidden in a hat, her eyes behind glasses and her figure in a high-buttoned dress. Only in one scene does she let down her hair, put on a micro-mini and impolitely shake her backside in Martin's (and our) face. "I don't think I'm a sexpot at all," Sharon said. "Honestly, I think I'm just normal." Sharon even pointed out her own flaws to one reporter, including three facial scars. "I suffered the big scar," she said, "when I fell on a piece of corrugated tin when I was five. I wouldn't dream of having the scar removed. I am very proud of it. It's me." Her ambition she added, was to become "a light comedienne in the Carole Lombard style" (Lombard, whether or not Sharon knew it, also had a facial scar and, of course, both met premature ends).
Sharon discovered she was pregnant in December 1968. In the spring of 1969, while she still had her girlish figure, she flew to Rome and filmed her last project, the frantic comedy '12 + 1'. Co-starring with Orson Welles, Vittorio Gassman and Vittorio De Sica, Sharon played Pat, a gold-digging American girl who, with the rest of the cast, winds up chasing an antique chair (supposedly stuffed with a fortune) through Europe. Filmed in Italian and dubbed in English, '12 + 1' bombed when it opened in May, 1970.
Early in 1969, she and Polanski rented 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon from agent Rudi Altobelli for $5,000 a month. It became an open house to Sharon's and Roman's friends. The couple went to London in the early summer of 1969, where she dubbed '12 + 1' and he worked on various projects. She sailed back in mid-July to await the baby's birth, while Roman, to her dismay, stayed in London. Friends of Polanski's, Voytech Frokowski and Abigail Folger, were staying over at the Cielo house, and Sharon invited her own ex-boyfriend, Jay Sebring, to keep her company the night of August 8-9. Nearly everyone in Hollywood later claimed that Sharon had also invited them over as well, but that they'd all happily had other plans. Sometime that night, Sharon and her houseguests and a passerby were murdered by four followers of cult leader Charles Manson. Sharon--wearing a Pucci print mini-dress--was buried with her baby son, posthumously named Paul. Los Angeles was thrown into a panic until the killers were finally arrested and sentenced to death (a fate overturned by the brief abolishment of capital punishment). Roman Polanski himself suffered further personal setbacks, fleeing from the U. S. in 1977 to avoid charges of statutory rape.
So, that is how Sharon Tate is remembered: the most famous victim of a band of murderous hippies. The night of the killings is replayed over and over again, while Sharon's promising career (except for the lurid 'Valley of the Dolls') is pretty much forgotten.
To me, here are the top ten redheads (of course, including Sharon ;) of filmdom for St. Patrick's Day:
"Once in his life, every man is entitled to fall madly in love with a gorgeous redhead." -- Lucille Ball
10. Lindsay Lohan
9. Nicole Kidman
8. Isla Fisher
7. Amy Adams
6. Christina Hendricks (Psst: TV's hottest redhead, 34, is actually *gasp!* a natural blonde. Considering she's been dying her hair since age 10, we thought we'd give her a pass.)
5. Emma Stone
4. Rita Hayworth
3. Ann Margret
2. Julianne Moore
1. Sharon Tate (So it's actually a wig, no one has ever worn a red wig better than our Sharon :)
I found a magazine that had a way to get that "Valley of the Dolls" updo hairstyle:
Better Homes and Gardens August 2008:
This ad for Pantene reminded me of that updo that Sharon had in "Valley of the Dolls." I suppose other of the same type of products could work just as well.
Maria Menounos says: "use Volume shampoo and conditioner, then spray Root Lifter on damp sections."
"use Velcro rollers to get that wave." They look like good, big size rollers too.
"Flip hair, spray, flip back and smooth." Hope this helps for those of you who want to look like Sharon. ;)
A new interview with Ewan McGregor on Polanski and his own films: