How Did Sharon Tate Rank as an Actress ?

For some reason, I was thinking of Sharon Tate yesterday and I realized that basically, almost all I know of her is her tragic demise. I have no idea of how she was considered as an actress. I have seen only one of the films she was in : The Fearless Vampire Killers and to be honest, I don’t remember much of her performance.

So, how did she rank as an actress. A-List ? Somewhat well-known but not quite a major star ? Just another up-and-coming starlet ?

She was just breaking in to the point where her name meant something. Valley of the Dolls gave her an important role in a major success.

Same issue with Dominique Dunne. Poltergeist and an episode of CHiPs and she was gone.

“Up-and-coming starlet.”

Most of her roles were bit parts and supporting roles. Her one big role was in Valley of the Dolls, based on a Jacqueline Suzanne novel, so not exactly Oscar-bait.

It was just too early to tell how good she was.

I think the facts that she started as a fashion model, and that she married a director, would probably have prejudiced the critics against her, regardless of her ability.

If not for the fact she was brutally murdered by a cult of crazy fanatics, no one would recall her for much of anything, I suspect. She wasn’t exactly top talent, as her limited roles show. Of course, these days, she’d be all over IG, and probably have her own reality TV show.

She was in 15 episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies.

The two movies I’ve seen her in recently are The Wrecking Crew* and The Fearless Vampire Killers.

She did a decent but not great job in TWC. They liked her enough she was going to be in another one. Dean Martin said he decided not to make it due to her death. Thus the end of the Matt Helm movies.

She did nothing notable at all in TFVK. She was just set decoration. And this was a Polanski film. But then again everyone was acting badly in it. (Which includes Polanski.)

I’ve also seen Twelve Plus One (The 13 Chairs) and Don’t Make Waves not all that long ago. Just generic “pretty girl” roles and not much expected out her characters, so not much provided.

Ignoring her infamous death and her marriage, if it wasn’t for VotD no one would remember her at all today. And Dolls isn’t remembered by that many people. (For me, it’s just the crappy prequel to the great Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.)

*TCM had a Matt Helm thing a couple months ago and I love cheesy stuff like this.

She had multiple opportunities to break through (her first film role was in 1961) but she didn’t exactly set the screen on fire. Darren Garrison notes she appeared on Beverly Hillbillies a number of times, but she was also rejected for one of the daughters on Petticoat Junction.

She might have gotten better as she matured as an actor, but she wasn’t there yet when she was murdered.

In terms of fame, was she known well enough to be a guest on Johnny Carson or some other nationally broadcast talk show?

As I remember reading, she was very focused on domesticity, and preparing for her baby when she was murdered. I think without the Manson gang, she probably would’ve faded away from the public stage very happily as a housewife.

Until Polanski discovered the joys of teeny-boppers, of course. No way of knowing how she would’ve reacted to that whole mess.

I’m guessing she probably could have been a good candidate for The Tonight Show. But mostly because Johnny liked having gorgeous young actresses on as guests, not because she was particularly famous.

I saw a snippet of an interview with her in which she was asked about her acting, and she said something to the effect that she thought she would do a good job in light comedic roles. I’ll infer from that that she didn’t have illusions about her acting ability.

Paraphrased old joke:

Why does Johnny Carson have so many gorgeous young actresses on as guests?

Because he can.

Googling on Carson and Tate I came up with nothing. Most links are things like someone like Capote talked about Tate on Carson, etc.

She appeared on Merv Griffin in 1966 showing him around Carnaby St. in London.

Given that the later appears on her IMDb “self” listings and there’s a video of it on YouTube but nothing like it for Carson, I’d have to say she never appeared on The Tonight Show.

So quite minor fame, I’d say.

Regarding her indirect fame as Roman Polanski’s wife, not all that great either. They had been married a short time when she died. The only film Polanski did that most Americans had heard of at the time was Rosemary’s Baby. So he was a minor celeb, too. Bigger movie but directors don’t get the same attention.

I bet she would have called him a Pig.

She was also in Playboy. She wasn’t Maggie Smith but she could have developed into a Jacqueline Bisset.

That 1966 Merv Griffin clip was completely bizarre. The man seemed to be completely obsessed by miniskirts. I’m sure he was pissed off by Sharon wearing a knee-length skirt, since he was clearly skeeving on her.

Would he still have gone down that route if the murders had not happened?

Merv was gay. I doubt he cared.