Photo Screen - June 1968
Sharon Tate - Venus on a Treadmill
She is the
new Venus and she is trapped in a Dream Factory. She is the Princess of the
World – yet it is a world she never made.
shimmering blonde over high-cheeked pale. She is a cascade of hair She is
lakewater hazel eyes that sing of innocence.
Sharon Tate, “a name to remember,” a talent to be reckoned with,” “a
goddess who’s got everything.” She’s a cotton candy angel; a teddy
bear’s sweetheart. She’s an aristocrat in mangy fox-skin, a muse in ermine.
She was 16 years old and the movie star came up to her and said something like “you oughta be in pitchers” and since she had always dreamed about Hollywood, she agreed.
that's how a star is born...
She was 16 and a mess of blondeness and innocence and the hustler-producer took one look at her and said, “Put her under contract.”
that's how a star is born...
Somebody told her to “stick out your boobs, Sharon” and she did. And somebody told her to take her clothes off for Playboy and she did that, too. And somebody told her to play “Jennifer” in Valley Of the Dolls.
suddenly, she didn't have to be born. She was a star!
It was all schemed, all planned to be so. But along the way something happened that wasn’t in the schedule-Sharon, the Success Machine, fell in love.
a sudden, it didn't seem so important to be a star anymore!
So she got married, to the trumpets of the stars, to the cheers of a world of her friends. And she went on a honeymoon to Paris and some wise guy grabbed her in the street. So her tiny, fragile husband defended her and the guy clobbered him but good and ran away.
And Sharon Tate realized the painful reality that she could never stop being a star!
Tate was born in Dallas, Texas, on January 24, 1943, the oldest daughter of U.S.
Army Major Paul J. Tate. She lived the typical gypsy existence of an army brat
for 16 years, moving from Dallas to Houston, El Paso, Tacoma, Washington, D.C.,
and Verona, Italy.
It was in
Italy in 1959 that she met a handsome American actor named Richard Beymer who
was making a film called Adventures of a Young Man.
told me ‘you oughta be in pictures’ and I believed in him,” says Sharon.
“I always had Hollywood on my mind.”
introduced her to his agent and Major Tate paid her fare to Hollywood and gave
her $ 42 to see her through two weeks rent. So Sharon flew home to the U.S.
perfect photogenic face, quite breathtaking body and total lack of experience
made her a prime candidate for TV commercials.
cigarette manufacturer hired her. She told them she didn’t smoke but they
didn’t care. They were more interested in showing her firm and fully packed
inexperienced. They shot and re-shot. She puffed and re-puffed. Finally, she
fainted from smoke inhalation. “I passed out from taking too many puffs,”
for all kinds of dramatic roles. One producer said, quote: “Honey, this is for
a girl who’s been around. You look like a baby!”
for the role of Marlon Brando’s mistress. They said, quote: “Honey, you
don’t look old enough to even think of going to bed with a man.”
for a part in Petticoat Junction. Super-hustler Marty Ransohoff, head of
Filmways, saw her there. “Put that girl under contract,” he exclaimed. No
tests, no interviews. Just like that, Sharon was on her way.
a top-level conference in the producer’s office. Sharon Tate, the little girl
from Dallas via Rome, was going into hiding. Sharon Tate, Movie Star, was going
to be manufactured.
said they had a plan for me. They would train me and prepare me,” she
remembers. “I was immediately put into training-like a racehorse.”
with Lee Strasberg. Singing. Dancing. Body-building. Walking. Talking. Three
years went by. Sharon was completely under wraps. “I had a job to stay the way
I was,” says Sharon. “They told me ‘Cream your face, Sharon…put on more
eyeliner, Sharon…stick out your boobs, Sharon.’”
to New York, then back to the Coast, taking a pad with actress Wende Wagner in
San Pedro, Calif. Eventually, she got a regular role on The Beverly
Hillbillies – as Janet Trego. But you wouldn’t have known by the
scorecard “Whenever I did a role on TV, I used another name and wore a black
wig,” says Sharon.
She got a
role in a David Niven-Deborah Kerr picture. Then another in Tony Curtis’ Don’t
Make Waves. The plan was working perfectly: train her to act, move her up
slowly. She was, as one magazine put it, “the invention of wheeler-dealer
wheels fell out from under Ransohoff’s “Streetcar Named Success.” Sharon
was signed to make a movie called (after numerous retitlings) The Fearless
The director of that movie was little Roman Polanski. The elfin,
knife-nosed pole had gained international fame for his first movie, Knife in
the Water, a careful intellectual study of a Polish James Dean. Later he
moved to France, making an important horror movie, Repulsion, with
Catherine Deneuve. From there he went to England to make Cul de Sac with
Catherine’s sister, the late Françoise Dorleac. (Recently, he directed Rosemary’s
Baby, with Mia Farrow, in New York)
who was born in 1933, was the darling of the highbrow movie set, an
intellectual, a powerful creative spirit. He was definitely not a “looker”
like most of Saron’s co‘stars. But his spiritedly charm and unconventional
looks are judged as beautiful by his friends.
of it all was that Sharon fell in love with Roman Polanski. And they began their
is strong, and so true, so honest,” she said. “I don’t like glamour boys."
learned a lot about me from being with Roman. My definition of love is being
full. Complete. It makes everything lighter. Beauty is something you see. Love
is something you feel.”
met Roman. “He’s wise and wonderful and brilliant and he knows
didn’t necessarily mean marriage: “When I love, I love…I won’t marry for
a long time…I’ll give up acting the second I’m married…I believe a wife
must immerse herself completely in her husband and family and that’s what I
intend to do. Few women can handle marriage and a career successfully at the
frankness shocked Hollywood: “I would never marry just to be
respectable…It’s just a legal piece of paper and a lovely financial set-up
I’ve learned great happiness from being with Roman that I didn’t have
before. Why would I want to ruin a perfect affair by turning it into a mediocre
marriage for society’s sake.”
of the Dolls happened-and with it, the climax of Sharon’s misery. In the
movie, Sharon played a Marilyn Monroe-type superstar whose tragedy-riddled life
ends in suicide. “Jennifer North,” the character she played, was another of
those magnificent “cuts of meat” who comes into Hollywood an innocent,
fragile beauty – only to become a tortured, abused derelict.
many things in common with Jennifer. Both were acutely conscious of the value
their bodies held in the flesh commerce of Hollywood both were innocents both
were involved with European “art” filmmakers.
like Jennifer,” says Sharon, “because she is relatively simple, a victim of
circumstances beyond her control. But I have more confidence in myself…”
so afraid of hurting other people’s feelings I don’t speak out when I
should. I get into big messes that way,” she once said.
Jennifer, Sharon was also developing amazing similarities to Marilyn Monroe, the
actress on whom the character of “Jennifer” is rumored to be based.
Marilyn and Jennifer were the “Beautiful Blondes” of their day. Both had
astonishing figures. Both were treated very badly by those producers who
exploited their sex appeal for the moviegoers. Both posed nude before they
gained stardom. Both rejected their “dumb blonde” images to marry
never be another Marilyn Monroe,” Sharon says now. “But I had to do what
they wanted, at first.”
meaning the money men, wanted her to be a well-trained sex symbol with a vacuum
for a head. Sharon was tortured by their demeaning attitude towards her.
are undeniable. She is 5’51/2”.
She weighs 120 pounds. She measures 35-23-34. she has a face that is the most
popular magazine cover decoration in Europe-where beauty abounds.
that’s not enough for Sharon. “they see me as a dolly in a bikini, jumping
up and down on a trampolin,” she said of her producers
not that I think I’m a sexpot …I don’t have voluptuous sips and I’m not
heavy-chested,” she said.
privacy and anonymity by the sea: “I love it on the beach-it gives me a kind
of freedom. I don’t have to be a sex symbol or a movie star.
is only a look. It has nothing to do with what I’m like inside…I won’t
play any more dumb blondes,” she insisted
to pont up her physical flaws. She told friends about the scars on her face,
especially the noticeable mark near her left eye. It was done by corrugated tin
when she was very young. “I’m very proud of it, it’s me,” she said.
to speak out strongly, to display her mind: “All American men are neurotic.
All they care about is having sex.” In Valley of the Dolls, she had
been filmed while pretending to make love to a man in bed in a “dirty”
foreign movie. “Why should I be ashamed?” she said. “You see people
murdering each other every day on TV, but you never see them making love-and
love is certainly more beautiful.”
this time, she was becoming a bigger and bigger star. Her pictures were being
released one on top of the other. People were noticing her-and liking what they
Roman and Sharon continued on their silent, non-public ways. They hung out on
beaches (away from the “Hollywood phoniness,” as Sharon puts it), in bars
with “guys in jeans,” in Paris, and “London where “guys walk down
King’s Road with cowboys hats and rhinestones.”
Sharon was becoming deeply and inextricably a star, she was falling as deeply
and inextricably in love.
can’t play games,” she said. “I have friends, older women, who tell me
I’m foolish to let Roman know how deeply I care for him…Well, foolish I
Barbara Parkins: “I like Sharon and Roman… They do everything they want and
don’t care what anybody says.”
An, all of
a sudden, really not knowing why, Roman and Sharon decided to get married in
London. They had a huge party and flew to Paris for their honeymoon.
has to make the decision-and it really isn’t hers alone to make. She’s as
much a part of the machinery of Hollywood now as she is Mrs. Roman Polanski. And
all her pre-marital vows to quit the business when she married have to be
needed a reminder that things were going to be different from now on in, she got
a very unpleasant one in Paris during the honeymoon. A passerby made a grab for
her mini-skirted little body and Roman threw his own into the breach. Result:
the assailant got away and Roman’s face was bandaged for several days
that’s where Sharon Tate is today. A blonde Venus who has found both success
and love…who really wants only the love but is committed to the success.
she says ruefully, “I think it would be better to be a sex symbol, because at
least I would know where I was…But I’d lose my mind!”
to Hollywood wanting to be a “light comedienne like Carole Lombard.” That
was all gaudy and fluffy. Today, she patterns herself around more unconventional
women, like Greta Garbo and Faye Dunaway (”Dunaway! She’s a woman!”).
like to be an American Catherine Deneuve. She plays beautiful, sensitive, deep
parts with a little bit of intelligence behind them,” she says.
that’s the happy medium. If Sharon can get off the Hollywood treadmill, if she
and Roman can work together professionally to produce quality films, if she can
prove to others what she has proved to herself-that there is a head above her
body-then she will have achieved true happiness and satisfaction-without
escaping from her responsibilities.
puts it very beautifully: “I still have this teddy bear I’ve had since I was
three…and all my old boxes-valentine boxes, cigar boxes, all kinds of boxes. I
just won’t give them up it’s like if I give them up, I’ve given in to
being a movie star.”
By Johnny Columbus