Marie Tate was born January 24th 1943, one day before the first wedding
anniversary of her parents, Colonel Paul and Doris Tate. She was the first
child of this union between Doris Willett and Paul Tate. As she grew, fate
handed her an embarrassment of riches, beauty and grace beyond her years
and a sweet and even disposition. Doris Tate, years later would remember
strangers stopping in their tracks to gaze at the infant. By the time Sharon
was six months old she had won her first beauty contest- Miss Tiny Tot of
Due to Colonel Paul Tate's position in Army Intelligence the family had to
move quite frequently all over the United States and Europe. Sharon learned
to make friends fast, and to hold on to the friends she made, even when separated
by distance. In this way she learned the true
value of friendship early in her life. This would also be where
Sharon would develop her strong sense of family. Many times in the first
ten years of her life her parents would be her sole companions. All that
would change in 1952. Sharon's first baby sister, Debra, was born, followed
five years later by Patti.
As Sharon entered her teens she began-along with winning various beauty pageant
such as Miss Richland and Miss Autorama-to work as a model. In the spring
of 1960 Sharon appeared on the cover of Stars and Stripes, an American military
newspaper. She wore a bathing suit, cowboy hat and boots and sat atop a missile.
It was this small taste of fame that set her eyes on Hollywood at a young
age. One day while out walking, Sharon was approached by a choreographer
for a Pat Boone special. He wanted Sharon to make a small appearance on the
special. She would be serenaded by Boone. Sharon was anxious to do it and
her parents relented with the proviso that a guard be placed outside her
hotel door overnight. This was done and Sharon was able to make the appearance.
Colonel Tate would be reassigned to Italy in 1962 and Sharon
begin attending Vincenza American High School. There, classmate Sheila Plank
Boyle remembered, "Sharon was involved in pretty much everything that we
all were doing". Sheila would remember Sharon as a star on the cheerleading
squad making her routines look "like magic" , and that Sharon was "very reticent
to share anything that featured her or made her stand out."
Italy would end up laying the ground work for Sharon's career in Hollywood.
While living there she met Richard Beymer on the set of Hemingway's Adventures
of a Young Man. Beymer encouraged her to pursue her interest in acting and
modeling and gave her the card of his agent Hal Gefsky. Sharon would say
later "Richard told me I should be in pictures and I believed him." Also
while in Italy Sharon and some of her friends from school were extras in
a movie being filmed there, Barrabas. Again, Sharon made a great impression
on the stars of the film, Anthony Quinn and Jack Palance. Doris Tate would
say later, whenever there was a production in Italy the studios would call
and try to get Sharon.
The Million Dollar Baby
When Colonel Tate was transferred back to the States, Sharon saw her chance
to make her desire for movie stardom a reality. Hitchhiking part of the way
into Hollywood, Sharon headed to the office of Richard Beymer's agent Hal
Gefsky. Gefsky would say "she was so young and beautiful that I didn't know
what to do with her."
Almost immediately Sharon landed roles in Santa Fe Cigarette
Chevrolet automobile commercials. In addition to commercials Sharon also
continued modeling, working with some of the best photographers in the business,
such as John Derek, Halsman, Bert Stern and William Chappell.
In between modeling assignments Sharon worked as a Kelly Kalanhi Wine girl
and shared an apartment with fellow actress Sheilah Wells. Wells remembered
that they had two dogs and two single beds in their tiny apartment but Sharon
was satisfied she was in Hollywood making her dreams come true.
Hal Gefsky introduced Sharon to Herb Browar who determined that he would
introduce Sharon to producer Martin Ransohoff, chairman of Filmways. Ransohoff
was floored by Sharon Tate's incredible beauty. He determined to sign her
there and make her a star. Ransohoff called in Doris and Paul to discuss
the contract. Sharon who was under 21 had to be made a ward of the court
to be under contract in Hollywood and make films. Bowing to Sharon's wishes
Colonel and Mrs. Tate agreed and Sharon was on her way.
Ransohoff felt Sharon was such a unique find that they should bring all their
resources to bear to make her ready for her debut. To that end Sharon was
given a small reoccurring role on a Filmways TV production The Beverly
Hillbillies. Sharon would play secretary Janet Trego for two seasons, disguised
under a dark wig. She also had small parts in other television shows such
as Mr. Ed, Man from U.N.C.L.E and was cast for a short period on Petticoat
Junction. Ransohoff said that the reason for this approach was that it was
almost impossible to launch a new star twice and he wanted Sharon to be ready
when he launched her career. So certain was Ransohoff that Sharon would be
successful, he spent over a million dollars in her training and preparation.
Sharon Tate would come to be known as the Million Dollar Baby, one of the
last of studio stars.
But Sharon was anxious to get started in bigger roles and she began to push
Ransohoff for more work. Eventually, Ransohoff felt Sharon was ready and
he began to look around for roles that would best suit her talent. Sharon
would end up auditioning for the role of Liesl in The Sound of Music, along
with future friends Mia Farrow, Lesley Ann Warren, and Patty Duke. It was
felt that Sharon's look was too mature for the role and it eventually went
to Charmian Carr. In the meantime Martin Ransohoff was able to find what
he felt would be a perfect vehicle for Sharon. He cast her in the film Eye
of the Devil which was originally titled 13.