Roman Polanski and actress Sharon Tate had one of the most infamous and tragic relationships in Hollywood history. Their complicated one-year marriage ended in horror in 1969 when Tate, who was 8½ months pregnant with the couple’s first child, was murdered — along with Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski and Steven Parent — in a horrific stabbing at their Los Angeles-area home by followers of cult leader Charles Manson.
Manson, whose name became synonymous with evil after his arrest in connection with the 1969 murders of Tate and eight others, died of natural causes on Sunday night. He was 83 and serving a life sentence in California’s Corcoran State Prison at the time of his death, which was confirmed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
“I said a prayer for his soul,” Sharon’s sister Debra told of the moment after she received a call from a prison official informing her Manson died.
Polanski’s short marriage to Tate is back in the spotlight in light of Manson’s death. Here’s a look back at the couple’s highs and lows.
Their Strange First Dates
The two were first introduced by producer Martin Ransohoff in the mid 1960s, who was attempting to help Tate snag a role in Polanski’s upcoming film. The actress relayed to her sister, Debra, that her and Polanski didn’t immediately hit it off, as revealed in the book Sharon Tate Recollection, compiled by Debra. According to the tribute, Polanski refused to talk to Tate on their first date. On the couple’s second excursion, he allegedly scared Tate by “storming” at her while wearing a Frankenstein mask.
Their Movie Together
After their bizarre introduction, Tate landed the role of Sarah Shagal in the Polanski-directed film The Fearless Vampire Killers. Polanski also co-starred in the film as Alfred, Tate’s romantic interest.
Their Rocky Marriage
Despite their less than idyllic meeting, the pair fell in love and got married on January 20, 1968 in London. Their marriage was riddled with wild rumors — ranging from infidelity to forced threesomes. Tate was reportedly deeply in love with Polanski, who was nine years her senior, but also extremely intimidated by the director. In the book Sharon Tate: A Life, one of Tate’s friends, Joanna Petter, said Polanski had a high level of control over his is wife. “He told her how to dress; he told her what makeup he liked, what he didn’t like. He preferred her with nothing, no makeup.”
In an introduction to Sharon Tate Recollection, Polanski recalled some telling moments from their marriage. “She was also a born housewife,” said Polanski. “Aside from cooking like a dream, she used to cut my hair, a skill acquired from [ex-boyfriend and hairstylist] Jay Sebring.”
Tate’s friend, photographer Shahrokh Hatami, also alleged in Sharon Tate: A Life that Polanski forced Tate to engage in threesomes with random women. “Sharon told me about Roman — about imposed sexual scenes on her,” Hatami said. “He was bringing other girls to have threesomes with Sharon, and Sharon didn’t like that he was picking up girls on the Sunset and bring them home to have sex with them.”
The director allegedly refused to sleep with Tate after she became pregnant with his baby in 1968, and urged her to get an abortion. When she protested, he left the U.S. for London and had an affair with Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas, author Ed Sanders wrote in Sharon Tate: A Life.
On August 9 1969, Tate, pregnant with the couple’s son, was murdered along with four others in the home she shared with Polanski. Tate and friends — Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski and Steven Parent — were murdered as a part of the murderous cult-leader Charles Manson’s attempted plan to start a race war called “Helter Skelter.” They were each stabbed a dozen times and their blood used to write on the walls.
Diana Tate later recalled to what her father said about the crime scene: “He said in all his time in the military that he hadn’t seen such slaughter. And he cried.”
Polanski was in London when he received the news that his pregnant wife had been killed. His friend Andy Braunsberg, who was with Polanski when he got the life-changing phone call, said the Rosemary’s Baby director was inconsolable. “He literally unravelled in front of my eyes,” Braunsberg said in Sharon Tate: A Life. “He disintegrated.”
Polanski confessed how Tate’s death still impacts him every day in Sharon Tate Recollection. “Even after so many years, I find myself unable to watch a spectacular sunset or visit a lovely old house or experience visual pleasure of any kind without instinctively telling myself how much she would have loved it all,” Polanski wrote. “In these ways I shall remain faithful to her till the day I die.”