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The Religious Affiliation of Director
Roman Polanski's parents were both agnostic Jews. Neither his father nor mother were religiously observant Jews. When he was very young in Poland, Polanski had no concept of what it was to be Jewish, but he came to understand that he was Jewish when his family was imprisoned in a Nazi-built ghetto. As an adult, Polanski was known to be Jewish, and he apparently had at least a slight sense of Jewish identity, although he was in no way religiously observant. Polanski received his first and only Best Director Academy Award for The Pianist, a film about Jews in a ghetto in Poland during World War II.
After being introduced to Catholicism primarily by a Catholic family that he lived with while hiding from the Nazis, Roman Polanski became a religious Catholic when he was about 10 years old. He staunchly identified himself as Catholic until he was fifteen years old.
In his 1984 autobiography Polanski said that the murder of his wife Sharon Tate shattered any remaining religious faith he had, and reinforced his "faith in the absurd."
Roman Polanski recalls Christmas celebration, one of his earliest memories as a child growing up in Poland, from: Roman Polanski, Roman by Polanski, William Morrow and Company: New York City (1984), page 14:
I was never bored. There was always something worth watching from the windows on either side of the apartment. In any case, it was difficult to be bored in a city like Krakow, with the trumpeter up in St. Mary's church tower sounding his ritual fanfare on the hour...
When he was a child, Roman Polanski's non-observant Jewish father and mother became increasingly concerned about the rise of Nazism in nearby Germany. From: Roman by Polanski, page 16:
There was winter magic as well. The sparklers fizzing on our Christmas tree mesmerized me with their cascades of silver fire--minieature fireworks in our own home! That, together with the taste of dried raisins, figs, and walnuts, went to make up my first remembered Polish Christmas at 9 Komorowski Street. Snow, too, became part of that Christmas when Uncle Stefan bought me a pair of skis and I tried them out for the first time...
...the hawker was doing a roaring trade. My father told me that the cartoons were of Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels, and Goring. He explained who they were and why the Nazis represented a threat to our country.
Roman by Polanski, pages 21-23:
These names began to crop up more and more often... my father decided to give up the Komorowski Street apartment and rent a hideout in Warsaw, much father from the German-Polish border. Meantime, while awaiting developments, we were to move in with my grandmother and my two unmarried uncles, Stefan and Bernard. Apparently the situation had become so grave that it seemed safer to concentrate the family under one roof.
My grandmother's apartment in Kazimierz, Krakow's only approximation to a Jewish quarter, was in total contrast with our former home...
The first Jews came to Poland from Prague and Germany early in the eleventh century. It was Kazimierz the Great who, three hundred years later, invited the Jews to Krakow from other parts of Europe and bestowed upon them great privileges and opportunities. He saw them as economic pump primers who would turn Krakow into a commercial center rivaling the major cities of Europe.
Roman by Polanski, pages 24-25:
By the time World War II broke out, Krakow's 60,000 Jews had lived cheek by jowl with the rest of the population for more than 500 years and were fully integratd. Although there was a predominantly Jewish quarter, where my grandmother lived, nothing remotely resembling a ghetto existed because--thanks to King Kazimierz and his successors--Krakow's Jews had enjoyed full rights of citizenship from the very first. They had played an important role in the city's development, contributing not only to its commercial growth but also to is reputation as a cultural and intellectual stronghold, with the world-famous Jagiellonian University, magnificent Renaissance architecture, flourishing theaters, fine art galleries, and prestigious publishing houses.
One question is always asked whenever the "Final Solution" comes up: Why did the Jews allow themselves to be slaughtered during World War II? Why weren't they aware, from the outset, of what was in store for them; why didn't they grasp the truth earlier and rise en masse against their oppressors?
The main reason why their apprehensions were only gradualy and belatedly aroused was that the Holocaust had yet to come. It was outside any known frame of references. Pressures built up slowly and did not at first seem more than mildly threatening. The Germans' method was to lull people into passivity, to foster a sense of hope, to persuade the Jews that things couldn't possibly be that bad.
My own feeling was that if only one could explain to them that we had done nothing wrong, the Germans would realize that it all was a gigantic misunderstanding.
What happened to my family is a perfect illustration of the way the "Final Solution" worked.
Superficially life resumed its normal course after our return to Krakow, yet nothing was quite the same.
I started school. It was just around the corner, and I didn't like it. School meant sitting in rows and filling up exercise books with Ala ma kota ("Ala has a cat"). I don't think I got much farther than that because after I was enrolled for only a few weeks, Jewish children were suddenly forbidden to attend. That was all right with me because the tedium of it all would have been unendurable except for a gadget the teacher sometimes produced. This was an epidiascope used for projecting illustrations onto a screen in the school hall. I wasn't at all interested in the words or even the pictures it projected, only in the method of projection. I wanted to know how the gadget worked and constantly examined its lens and mirror or held up the proceedings and made a nuisance by myself by masking the beam with my fingers.
I also found I culd draw... The portraits I made of my family were recognizable. I also remember sketching a pretty good likeness of a German soldier in his teutonic helmet. The only thing I wasn't able to copy, for some reason, was one particular Star of David. The two triangles that made up the star were interlaced with great complexity. I had plenty of time to study this pattern, however. From December 1, 1939, onward, my family had to wear strange white armbands with the Star stenciled on them in blue. I was told it meant we were Jewish.
My parents had never practiced their religion. My mother was only part Jewish, and both she and my father were agnostics who didn't believe in religious instruction for children. Now, being Jewish meant that we couldn't stay where we were.
We moved yet again--not voluntarily, as at the outbreak of war, but under compulsion. We didn't have to move far. Our resettlement, which proceeded without fuss or threats, was handled by the Krakow municipal authorities, not by the Germans. Though permitted to take only as much as we could carry, we found our new quarters no worse than the old except for overcrowding. Our allocated ground-floor apartment, on Podgorze Square, on the far side of the Vistula, was bigger than my grandmother's but shared by several families. Granny was no longer with us. She had been assigned a diminutive room at the older end of Krakow's new "Jewish area."
...This was the first phase. We could come and go freely, and I played with Polish, not just Jewish, kids. The only reason my father didn't buy a Christmas tree that first winter was that he preferred not to draw attention to himself.
Soon afterward Annette took me to the window and pointed. Some men were at work on something right across the street. It looked like a barricade.
"What are they doing?" I asked.
"They're buiding a wall."
Suddenly it dawned on me: they were walling us in. My heart sank; I couldn't stop crying. This was our first real sign that the Germans meant business.
During these early months the ghetto was--despite periodic bouts of terror--a self-contained town where people went courting, got married, and even entertained. In addition to its own Jewish police force, or Ordnungsdienst, the local administration, or Judenrat, its makeshift health service and social workers, the ghetto boasted a small restaurant and a shabby, open-air cafe cabaret with a band in which accordions predominated... The wal of the cafe was adorned with a mural; it depicted a Hassidic Jew, in traditional garb, being checked by a Polish policeman, while from the tails of his long black coat protruted the head of the goose he was smuggling into the ghetto...
Roman by Polanski, page 29:
Though peaceful enough, these weeks were marked by small but ominous turns of the screw. My father's beloved Underwood typewriter was confiscated. Not long after the wall was completed, all Jewish familes had to hand in every scrap of fur in their possession. They stood in line for hours. My mother surrendered her fox; my grandmother, her fur collar.
My father had made plans for my survival should he and my mother both be taken away. Having a lot of friends and acquaintances in town, he found a couple, Mr. and Mrs. Wilk, who were prepared to help me. I was not to live with them but they agreed to find a family that would take me in. I was fortunate in not looking Jewish--one of the factors that persuaded the Wilks to look after me. The other factor was money. My father made this rrangement in the early days, hen ghetto laborers could still move around unescorted, and it cost him plenty--all the family jewelry and his life savings.
Roman by Polanski, pages 30-31:
My youngest uncle, Stefan, married a very pretty, Aryan-looking girl, Maria, who had forged papers enabling her to live as a Pole outside the ghetto. She must have paid off a guard because she once managed to slip in and visit her new husband. While there, she taught me how to make the sign of the cross and the basic Catholic prayers--further protection if I had to make it on my own.
Not long after this latest move my father learned that another raid was imminent. My mother took me out, on her pass, to the Wilks'. When the time came for me to go back, it was my father, not my mother, who collected me on his way from the factory in town where he was employed as a metalworker. He had bribed a guard to let him quit work early and was returning to the ghetto without his armband. When Mrs. Wilk handed me over to him in the street, he hugged and kissed me with surprising intensity.
"On the day that the Krakow ghetto was finally liquidated, March 13, 1943," Roman Polanski's father helped him escape, sending him to live outside the ghetto with the Wilk family (Roman by Polanski, pages 34-35). Polanski's autobiography has much more about this topic, the time he and his family were confined to a Nazi-built ghetto, not excerpted here.
As we were walking back across the Padgorze bridge toward the ghetto, he started weeping uncontrollably. At last he said, "They took your mother."
I said, "Don't cry, people are watching." I was afraid his tears might advertise the fact that we were Jews, unescorted and off limits. He pulled himself together. Then, near the entrance of the ghetto, we joined a group of returning workers.
My mother's disappearance affected me far more deeply than Pawel's, but there was no doubt in my min that we would be reunited.
Living with the Wilk family, free from Nazi imprisonment in the ghetto, Roman Polanski became known as "Roman Wilk" (page 36). After a while, the Wilk family became tired of taking care of young Roman. The boy was moved to a small village named Wysoka where he lived with Buchala family, who were peasant farmers. It was here that Roman first lived with devout Catholicism. From Roman by Polanski, pages 39-40:
The whole family revolved around Mrs. Buchala, a strong, scrawny, energetic woman whose head scarf was as much a part of her as her amiable, gap-toothed grin. She was the civilizing influence that made everything bearable. She was also the real head of the family, deeply religious but without cant, kind and sensitive but almost as illiterate as her husband. Her kindness to me was all the more remarkable in that the Puteks [the friends of Roman's father, who had been paid to make sure Roman was taken care of] rarely paid her anything for my keep; most of my father's unofficial trust fund had seemed to vanish en route.
Although Roman's parents were agnostic and did not practice Judaism religiously, Roman was indeed circumcised as an infant, something not true of non-Jews in his country. Roman by Polanski, page 40:
The day began with her singing, as she kindled the fire, "When comes the dawn, all living creatures render thanks unto thee, O Lord." It would have been unthinkable to start a meal without first making the sign of the cross.
Although I was never seriously ill at Wysoka, I always had boils on my legs, was covered in insect bites, and had to be regularly deloused with kerosene. Such washing as we did was done in the cowshed, to which I would duly retire with my pitcher and basin, careful never to expose myself. In Poland only Jews were circumcised.
Roman by Polanski, pages 41-42:
It was during this cold weather, with the countryside at its bleakest and strong winds whistling through the leafless trees, that I saw, a long way off, a man making his way toward me in the snow. He looked familar; for one delirious moment I thought it was my father, released from the concentration camp and coming to fetch me. Then, as he drew nearer, I saw that he didn't resemble my father in the least. When he was out of sight, I burst into tears and, swept up by my new faith, began praying fervently with my well-learned Catholic verses.
Polanski describes his first Christmas while living with the devoutly Catholic Buchala family as a boy, in Roman by Polanski, page 42.
Roman by Polanski, page 43:
It was soon after this that I came across some moldy old papers and mouse droppings alongside a trunk left behind by Mrs. Buchala's eldest sister, a schoolteacher. There was a dog-eared copy of a Catholic magazine entitled The Soldier of the Immaculate Queen, full of accounts of miracles, bleeding stigmata, and edifying tales of divine retribution visited on sinful children. I also found The Song of Roland. Though practically illiterate, I struggled through every word. So the first book I ever read was a twelfth-century French epic poem translated into baffling archaic Polish.
Poland was liberated from the Nazis in 1939. Young Roman Polanski returned to Krakow. The Russian military that had helped to liberate Poland came. Roman converted to the religion of Communism. From: Roman by Polanski, page 49:
The Russians brought their ideological pageantry with them--not just billboard portraits of Marx and Engels, Lenin and Stalin, but huge plaster of paris busts of them as well. They also erected obelisks adorned with red stars and inscriptions extolling the heroism of their soldiers. It all seemed designed to appeal to children, and it did. Without understanding what communism was about, I became a convert.
Roman, now eleven years old, was reunited with his uncles Stefan (who was married to an Aryan-appearing wife named Maria) and David, who had "survived deportation by becoming a Kapo, or concentration camp trusty. Bernard, the eldest and my favorite, was not as fortunate. We were soon to learn that he had been killed--clubbed to death, ironically enough, by a Kapo wielding a chair leg" (Roman by Polanski, page 53).
I rushed to see my first Soviet film... the plot was... outside my experience: a heroic Red Army soldier trapped behind the German lines, tapping out messages in Morse to his headquarters.
Roman by Polanski, pages 54-55:
Gradually Red Army propaganda displays gave way to Polish government posters carrying announcements of all kinds. Various organizations were being founded or reconstituted. In my need to belong to something--anything--I joined the Boy Scouts. Filling out the application form, I wrote "Wilk, Roman." I hesitated when I came to the space beside "Religion," then put "Catholic." It wasn't just that my real religion might have debarred me from membership. Roman Wilk, Catholic--that's who I felt I was.
Roman by Polanski, pages 56-57:
My small size and lack ofuniform set me apart from the rest. After my first outing with the troop my feet hurt so much I knew I had to have some proper shoes. I didn't want to ask Uncle Stefan, but one of his friends advised me to try the local Jewish relief organization. Roman Wilk, Catholic, felt somewhat uneasy about this. "We help only Jewish children," I was told.
After detailed questioning I came away with a magnificent pair of brand-new black rubber-soled boots...
My relations with Uncle Stefan went from bad to worse. Eventually Aunt Teofila took me to live with her and Uncle David. They and their seven-year-old daughter... shared a large but crowded apartment with the Horowitz family... Regina Horowitz was a typical Jewish mother, warm, resilient, and vital--a tower of strength. She always lit candles on Friday nights, and for the firs time in my life I found myself in a household where Jewish rites were observed. It was a strange and unfamiliar experience. Jews were still very reluctant to practice their religion in public--a great deal of anti-Semitism still existed in Poland. Several pogroms took place at this period, at least one of them in Krakow.
Whether or not I derived some stimulus from the sight of my on naked body, stripping for bathing after years spent in households were baths were unknown, I discoverd masturbation. It gave me some inkling of why grown-ups made such a fuss about sex. The trouble was, I believed it to be an invention of my own, so its pleasures were marred by a profound sense of guilt. I prayed to God, less in the hope of resisting temptation--that, I knew, was too much to ask--than as a kind of talisman designed to preserve me from temptation in the first place. When I prayed, I still prayed as a Catholic.
Much to the surprise of Roman and his relatives, Roman's father survived the Nazi concentration camps and was reunited with Roman (Roman by Polanski, page 57). Roman's mother had not survived. Roman's father soon re-married and the family was soon quite affluent. Roman did not like his mother-in-law at all, and his father arranged for him to have his own lodging in town. His father also hired a tutor to help the thirteen-year-old Roman prepare for school after years without any formal education (Roman by Polanski, pages 58-59).
Roman began attending a Catholic school, where he took religious instruction classes. From: Roman by Polanski, pages 62-63:
In other teachers' classes we [Roman and his friend Piotr Winowski] both engaged in varying degrees of hooliganism. It was during religious instruction that Winowski really went to town. Father Grzesiak was a ruddy-cheeked priest with pale blue eyes... and the face of a bewildered peasant. Winowski did some truly terrible things to him. He would start cleaning the blackboard, then surreptitiously grab the volleyball from the closet beside it and embark on a lightning game behind the priest's back. Far worse was his tripwire routine, which he referred to as bearbaiting. To get Father Grzesiak moving in the required direction, he would punctuate his remarks by twanging a steel comb... When Father Grzesiak charged in the general direction of this infuriating sound, he would trip and fall flat on his face. Getting to his feet, the unfortunate man would clasp his hands and roll his eyes heavenward in silent prayer.
Polanski discusses at some length (pages 64-67) his experiences with the Boy Scouts. Roman by Polanski, page 64:
[Polanski describes more of the mean things that his friend Winowski did to Father Grzesiak.]
One thing I couldn't share with Winowski. His limp precluded him from joining the Boy Scouts, and my new school troop--No. 22--was becoming the focal point of my life.
Polanski first became enthralled with acting while performing comedy skits for his Boy Scout troop (Roman by Polanski, pages 66-67).
From the time he was about ten years old until he was fifteen, Roman Polanski had a strongly Catholic self-identity. He describes the events that led him to turn his back on Catholicism at the age of fifteen. Roman by Polanski, pages 72-74:
Thanks to all these novel distractions, my school grades further deteriorated. Winowski and I walked a tightrope. We were just good enough to move up with our class at the end of the year, but ours were the lowest grades of those who did. Then Father Grzesiak took his revenge.
Roman was fifteen or sixteen years years old when he experienced his first real teen love and kiss. Roman by Polanski, page 80:
I came home one day to find him deep in conversation with Mrs. Sermak. It was exceptional for teachers to visit their pupils, so my heart sank at the sight of him. Mrs. Sermak disappeared into the kitchen, and the priest started interrogating me. He wanted to know all about my past.
I already had an inkling that he regarded me with suspicion because of something that had happened in church one Sunday. Catholic prayers I could recite by heart, but the ritual of confession was a mystery to me--I didn't know the proper words to use so I never confessed. Realizing that it was a heinous offense to take communion unshriven, I'd been horrified when Winowski gave me a surreptitious tug that landed me on my knees beside him in a row of boys awaiting the wafer and chalice. On reaching me, Father Grzesiak pointedly passed over me as if I didn't exist, then went on to the next in line. Now he fixed me with his beady blue eyes.
"Who exactly are you?" he asked. "Where were you baptized?" I mumbled something about living in the country during the war. "Where?" he insisted. "What was the name of your parish priest? Tell me, and I'll write to him."
I ducked his questions and retired to my room. Grzesiak followed me, superciliously noting the picture of the Black Virgin of Czestochowa above my desk. In the absence of a Winowski to cut him down to size, he pursued his inquisition to the bitter end.
"You're a little liar," he said finally. "You've never been baptized at all." He took me by the ear and led me over to the mirror. "Look at yourself. Look at those eyes, that mouth, those ears. You aren't one of us." On that note he flounced out of the room. My mind was in turmoil. Being Polish was more than a question of religion or registration; it was like belonging to a select club. In quest of an identity I could take pride in, I'd falsified my membership form. I had sinned by omission in failing to disclose that I was Jewish, not out of shame, but because, after my Wysoka years, I tended to regard myself as a Catholic. Now my sin had found me out.
I was enraged that the priest should have discussed me and my family background with Mrs. Sermak; I felt it was none of his damned business. Worse still, I suspected that he might have been tipped off by none other than Winowski for the sheer fun of it. He had once seen Mrs. Horowitz light the Friday night candles. I never found out.
As soon as Grzesiak had gone, I took another look at myself in the mirror. I didn't look Jewish, with my fair hair and upturned nose, but I did look undersize and puny for my age. My face I couldn't change, my physique was another matter. I took a pillowcase and went straight downstairs to the street, where I filled it with some cobblestones left behind by some road workers. From then on I engaged in daily weight-lifting and body-building sessions, determined that no one should humiliate me in the same way again.
Like many youngsters growing up in Communist Poland, I was not unnaturally torn between Catholicism and Marxism. The effect of Communist propaganda on the young was considerable--after all, the Red Army had liberated us from German occupation--but something of Mrs. Buchala's simple faith had lingered with me. Now that Catholicism wore the face of Father Grzesiak, I turned my back on it.
At fifteen I had reached the stage where Polish children either transferred to a lyceum, which prepared them for admission to a university, or went straight to a vocational training school...
By the time I left Rabka I was head over heels in love, even though Krysia and I had done no more than kiss, hold hands, and talk. She'd given me her address in Krakow, but I couldn't summon up the courage to call on her. Poland was still an orthodox Catholic country with narrow views on boy and girl relationships, and it would, for example, have been unthinkable to expose my beloved to the disapproving gaze of Mrs. Sermak [the elderly woman he was lodging with at the time].
About a year later, at the age of seventeen, Roman Polanski lost his virginity to a sexually experienced fourteen-year-old girl whose name he eventually forgot. He did remember, however, that he was fortunate to have this happen with a young, attractive girl, rather than with "some fat old prostitute, as so many of my Krakow classmates did..." (Roman by Polanski, page 90).
In chapters 8, 9 and 10 (pages 91-136) in his autobiography (Roman by Polanski), Polanski describes his later teen years and his early film school years in Poland. A large proportion of these chapters describe the increasingly pervasive and repressive influence of the Russian-based Communists who took over Poland in those years.
From Roman by Polanski, page 135:
I paid Arct a visit. He looked a mess--black eye, swollen lips. Some fellow patients had roughed him up for trying to wrench a crucifix off the wall. He was quite demended. "There are two kinds of people in here," he whispered hoarsely, "Communists and Catholics, but the Communists are just Catholics in disguise."
Polanski finally left Poland and moved to Paris, France, where he continued his film studies and budding career as a filmmaker (Roman by Polanski, page 136). In Paris, Polanski first stayed with his sister Annette and her husband. From: Roman by Polanski, pages 138-139:
Although Annette's husband wan't an Orthodox Jew, I underwent another brief immersion in the kind of close-knit Jewish family atmosphere I'd last known when lodging in Krakow with the Horowitzes. Annette and Marian took me to delicatessens, where I ate kosher food for the first time in ages...
Roman by Polanski, page 163:
[Pierre] Roustang himself was to play a prominent part in my life for the next few years. A rotund, balding man with gold-rimmed glasses and a distinctly parsonical maner, he had an aristocratic wife, a Jesuit brother, a luxurious Paris apartment... Before becoming a [film] producer, Roustang had run an advertising agency that handled films recommended by Catholic associations. When we first met, he was at the zenith of his career and sat on an influential Catholic film vetting committee. He wound up turning out soft porn.
When Roman Polanski first came to the United States (after having worked and studied in Paris), he first worked with minor television producer Archer King. From: Roman by Polanski, page 200:
When my [Roman Polanski's] Air France plane touched down at Idlewild, Archer King was there to meet me in person. An ebullient, fast-talking New York Jew, he showed up at the airport with his PR girl...
Roman by Polanski, pages 207-208:
The Compton Group had been making so much money of this operation that it was anxious to change its image, so its interests coincided with Gene's and mine. Thanks to this combination of circumstances, two more figures on the fringe of the film industry entered my orbit: Tony Tenser and Michael Klinger, who owned the Compton Group. I flew over to London for exploratory talks with them.
Roman by Polanski, pages 213-214:
Michael Klinger's father, a Polish Jew, had been a presser in a tailor's sweatshop in London's East End. Thickset and bald, with heavy horn-rims, an ever-smoldering King Edward cigar, and an inexhaustible fund of Jewish jokes, Klinger spoke only a few words of Polish but was fluent in "Jewish," his term for Yiddish. He had been variously employed, in the course of a checkered career, as a sausage salesman, a bouncer, and a nightclub manager.
Tony Tenser, another East End Jew, had adopted a completely different persona. A tall man with a cliped gray mustache, he held himself ramrod straight and could have passed, except when betrayed by certain rare vocal inflexions, for a retired colonel.
Despite their eagerness to make a film with Gene and me, however, neither Klinger nor Tenser would consider If Katelbach Comes. What they wanted was a horror movie. Back in Paris, Gerard and I started work. We completed the script for Repulsion [the film Polanski made for Klinger and Tenser] in seventeen days.
Looking back, I find it strange that those first few months in London should have brought me into contact with so many people who were to play an important part in my life. While Gerard and I were still putting the finishing touches to Repulsion with David Stone, I received a call from someone who said we'd met in Paris. I didn't remember, but I asked him around for a drink anyway. His name was Simon Hessera, and his considerable ambitions ran the gamut from scriptwriting to direction and production...
Roman by Polanski, pages 286-287:
Unlike Simon Hessera, who was permanently broke and thoroughly un-English--he was a French Moroccan Jew--Andy Braunsberg lived in a gracious Regent's Park house and made an ultra-British impression despite his German Jewish origins.
It was through us that [Peter Sellers] met Mia Farrow--a true soulmate if ever there was one. Like her, Peter was heavily into the whole range of crackpot folklore that flourished in the 1960's, from UFOs through astorlogy to extrasensory perception. They both liked dressing up as rich hippies, complete with beads, chunky costume jewelry, and Indian cotton caftans.
Roman by Polanski, pages 291-292:
Lovable though he was in many ways, Peter's idiosyncrasies could be a drag. Just as, on the set, he would walk off if anyone appeared wearing purple, an "unlucky" color, so he would walk out of restaurants if he picked up "bad vibes." To my embarrassment, this often happened at The Luau. I grew to dread the moment when, after ordering, Peter would whisper, "Ro, I can't stand it . . . bad vibes in here . . . let's go somewhere else."
It was around this time that Mia [Farrow] and Peter Sellers started their romance, and the four of us [Farrow, Sellers, plus Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate] saw a lot of each other. We spent one weekend at Joshua Tree, a spectacular stretch of desert near Palm Springs. Because of its reputation for UFO sightings, it was much in vogue. After smoking some grass one evening, Mia and Peter wandered off into the desert, hand in hand. I picked up a stick and tiptoed after them.
At the time of the premiere of Rosemary's Baby, from: Roman by Polanski, page 294:
They were deeply engrossed in a mystical dialogue about the stars, the infinite, and the likelihood of extraterrestrial life. I decided to enrich their experience and threw my stick high in the air so it landed at their feet--a real-life manifestation of the inexplicable.
"Did you hear that?" I hear Peter whisper in awe.
"What was it?" Mia whispered back.
"I don't know, but it was fantastic. Fantastic!"
At this point they found the stick that testified to the presence of the supernatural in a treeless, uninhabited desert.
"We've got to tell Roman and Sharon," Peter said. "They'll never believe this."
I scurried on ahead through the darkness, back to the motel where were were staying, and got there just in time to fill Sharon in. When they arrived, panting, at our door, we both expressed suitable wonder.
As for Peter and Mia, they were in the heyday of their Indian period, all beads and chains and billowing muslin.
Roman by Polanski, pages 292-293:
For some time I'd realized that Sharon was something permanent in my life. The thought of marrying and raising a family scared me, not because it might encroach on my freedom--Sharon, I knew, would never let that happen--but because personal ties made me feel vulnerable. This fear was a hangover from my childhood, from the insecurity I'd experienced at the age of five or six, when my family began to disintigrate. The only way of not getting hurt, I'd always felt, was to avoid committing myself deeply in the first place. There was implicit insecurity in any relationship--the awareness that any emotional attachment carried the risk of heartache...
Before Polanski's wife, actress Sharon Tate, could give birth to their child, she and the baby were murdered by the followers of Charles Manson. From: Roman by Polanski, pages 323-324:
Against this was the fact that Sharon made no secret of her strong desire to have a child. Although she never mentioned marriage, and despite her liberated California life-style, I knew that her Catholic upbringing made marriage important to her.
I proposed off the cuff, over dinner in a restaurant. The date we settled on--January 20, 1968--fell a few days before her twenty-fifth birthday.
...The wedding ceremony at the Chelsea Registry Office in the King's Road [in London] turned into a media event...
The thing that amazed me about the Manson "family" was the extent to which it had been dominated and exploited by a single individual. Prior to the murders, I'd never thought of hippies as potentially dangerous. On the contrary, I'd found them an attractive social phenomenon--one that had influenced us all and affected out outlook on life. I'd also seen their movement as one more proof of American affluence. What other society in the world could have supported such a sizable fringe of people who, through wholly unproductive, contrived to live relatively well?
In 1978 Roman Polanski was convicted for drugging and statutory raping 13-year-old Samantha Geimer. Polanski in his autobiography claims that he did not drug the girl, but admits committing statuatory rape ("consensual" sex with a minor). Eventually he fled to Europe to avoid further prison time. But Polanski did spend time in a U.S. prison. An anecdote from that time, from Roman by Polanski, page 420:
Clearly I'd underestimated the dangers latent in the hippie life-style, for which Sharon and I both had felt a certain admiration, seeing only its absence of cant, its freedom from hang-ups and hypocrisy. "I want a hippie wife," I remember telling Sharon on more than one occasion. I had not expected that she would lose her life because of this obscene pervision of hippie values.
Sharon's death is the only watershed in my life that really matters. Before she died, I sailed a boundless, untroubled sea of expectations and optimism. Afterward, whenever conscious of enjoying myself, I felt guilty. A psychiatrist I met shortly after her death warned me that it would take me "four years of mourning" to overcome this feeling. It has taken far longer than that.
There used to be a tremendous fire within me--an unquenchable confidence that I could master anything if I really set my mind to it. This confidence was badly undermined by the killings and their aftermath. I not only developed a closer physical resemblance to my father after Sharon's death but began to take on some of his traits: his ingrained pessimism, his eternal dissatisfaction with life, his profoundly Judaic sense of guilt, and his conviction that every joyous experience has its price.
Aside from being visited by some clergymen and a rabbi, I was interviewed as a matter of course by two psychiatrists and a psychologist--the purpose of my imprisonment. The psychologist, a woman, made me do all sorts of written tests with multiple choice answers. she also issued me two sheetsof paper and asked me to draw a man and a woman. I'd attended life classes so often at art school in Krakow that habit prompted me to draw them naked. [Polanski's attorney] Doug Dalton's comment when I told him was "Oh, sh--!"
It is difficult to ascertain the degree to which Polanski is remorseful about the statuatory rape he was committed of. He generally lived a libertine lifestyle, and although his autobiography seems to acknowledge some wrongdoing, he mostly seems to explain away what he did. Roman by Polanski, pages 402-403:
"What was I supposed to do," I asked him, "give them fig leaves?"
Many people who appeared sympathetic were really only eager to boast of having met the notorious Hollywood rapist. Overnight I'd crossed the fine line between decent folks and scum. In all my many premonitions of danger, one thought had never crossed my mind: that I should be sent to prison, my life and career ruined, for making love.
Roman by Polanski, pages 449-450:
Tempermentally, howeer, I was on the side of law and order. I had a great admiration for American institutions and regarded the United States as the only truly democratic country in the world. Now, because of a moment's unthinking lust, I had jeopardized my freedom and my future in the country that matterd most to me.
Since Sharon's death [Roman Polanski's wife Sharon Tate was murdered]... and despite all appearances to the contrary, my enjoyment of life has been incomplete.
In moments of unbearable personal tragedy some people find solace in religion. In my case the opposite happened. Any religious faith I had was shattered by Sharon's murder. It reinforced my faith in the absurd.
I still go through the motions of being a professional entertainer... but I know in my heart of hearts that the spirit of laughter has deserted me. It isn't just that success has left me jaded or that I've been soured by tragedy and by my own follies. I seem to be toiling to no discernible purpose. I feel I've lost the right to innocence, to a pure appreciation of life's pleasures. My childish gullibility and loyalty to my friends have cost me dear, not least in my relations with the press, but my growing wariness has been just as self-destructive.
I am widely regarded, I know, as an evil, profligate dwarf. My friends--and the women in my life--know better.
Webpage created 2 July 2005. Last modified 19 August 2005.
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