Book Review: Sharon Tate: Recollection
The woman staring back at you from the page was a fashion icon and a rising star in her own right. By all accounts, she was a kind soul; sensitive, prone to being hurt and deeply affected by the sadness experienced by her loved ones. Yet, despite all this, the tragedy is that it’s almost next to impossible to glimpse a photo of actress Sharon Tate and not think of her brutal demise in August 1969.
Eight months pregnant, married to director Roman Polanski and only 26 years old at the time of her death, Tate was one of the victims on the Manson Family and became the focal point in the sensationalist trial that gripped the nation and set Hollywood on edge.
Now, on the eve of the 45th anniversary of her death, Tate’s younger sister Debra has published Sharon Tate: Recollection (Running Press, 2014), a gorgeous, glossy coffee table book commemorating Sharon’s career and brimming with old newspaper clippings, family snapshots, fashion shoots and rare behind-the-scenes photos in an effort to provide a full profile of her late sister. Scattered among the images are quotes from those who knew Tate best, including Polanski (who also wrote the Forward) and former costars.
But despite remembrances from relatives and close friends, the most effective comment comes from actor Dave Draper, her costar in the 1967 beach flick, Don’t Make Waves.
“Not many people got to know Sharon Tate very well. The dear child, the beautiful woman, lived only 26 years. I met her during one of those precious years when life was brimming with promise and flooded with sunshine. We passed in the night like lost friends. I miss her today.” (p. 104-5)
The highlight of Recollection is the array of stunning images from photo shoots Tate did over the years. There’s no denying she was a beautiful woman, but she managed to make it look so natural and effortless. All the photos, in fact, portray a woman who, by all appearances, loved life and her family–although pictures of her laughing with her former lover and close friend, celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring, add a dark element to the collection since he died alongside Tate at the hands of the Manson Family.
Tate most famously appeared in the 1967 camp classic, Valley of the Dolls. But it was during her guest appearances on hit TV shows such as The Beverley Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction in 1964 that she made her first indelible mark on the scene. Her first significant screen performance was alongside David Niven and Deborah Kerr in 1966’s Eye of the Devil. It’s easy to see why Debra Tate chose to dedicate multiple pages to photos from the set of the film. Sharon had relished the role and doors that it opened for her. Those who knew her best claimed she was forever grateful for the opportunity to take control of her own career.
Sharon Tate: Recollection may only be for devoted fans who would treasure her photo shoots and childhood pictures. The book is short on biographical information or profound revelations, so readers hoping for a glimpse of the real woman behind all the beauty shoots will have to look elsewhere. However, in the meantime, you can visually take in the life of a young woman on the cusp of stardom and impending motherhood. That she never achieved either is the true tragedy.
So, who is Sharon Tate? Alas, Recollection doesn’t tell us. But the testaments from her loved ones and former colleagues, all their glowing praises of her kind disposition, speak volumes.
Sharon Tate: Recollection was published by Running Press on June 6, 2014.