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Polanski Breaks Down, Cries When Told Of Murders

LONDON, Aug. 10 — Film director Roman Polanski “broke down and cried” when he heard about the macabre murders of his wife and four friends in Hollywood, close friends reported yesterday.

Polanski, 35, has been here two months on movie negotiations. A close friend said he heard of the murders in an apartment in Knightsbridge, an expensive West End area of London.

“He broke down and cried,” said the friend. “He called me on the telephone and couldn’t even talk. I understand he’s going to catch the first available flight to Los Angeles tomorrow (today),”

Polanski was told of the slayings at the Knightsbridge apartment of Victor Lownes, managing director of the London Playboy Club, said the friend.

Late-last night Lownes was taking no telephone calls and receiving no visitors at the apartment.

The Playboy Club is the London subsidiary of the chain controlled by Hugh Hefner of Chicago.

Polanski, 35, had been scheduled to fly home to Los Angeles this week, about the time he and Sharon Tate expected their baby. She was 8 1/2 months pregnant.

The tow-haired director, whom friends described as “an energy ball with a quicksilver brain,” was born in Paris of Polish parents. He had a bleak childhood in Nazi-occupied Poland and later attended the Cracow Art School and the State Film College at Lodz.

It was at the state film college where he produced “Knife in the Water,” a spine tingler that won a prize at the Venice Film Festival and prompted an English movie company to finance his next production, “Repulsion.”

Later productions that included “Cul de Sac” and “The Fearless Vampire Killers” led up to what Polanski considered his greatest triumph, “Rosemary’s Baby.”

He called it the “perfect thriller” in a recent London interview, and it earned him acclaim as a mastermind of spine-chilling horror movies.

In the interview he described how he was handed the story on his return to Hollywood from a trip abroad.

“They said ‘read it tonight.’ I thought. I’d read it the next morning,” he said. “But I was curious to see what it was about, and didn’t stop reading it until it was 4 a.m.

“I found it thrilling and fascinating for a film. Immediately I went to London and wrote a script and two months later we started production.”

“Rosemary’s Baby,” starring Mia Farrow, centers on a witchcraft cult in a New York apartment house and fits exactly with Polanski’s philosophy of shaking people out of rigid beliefs.

Polanski says he was born Jewish, was brought up as a Roman Catholic, and says he is now an atheist and a “citizen of the world.”

Polanski said he regards breaking taboos as a duty.

“A taboo is the result of superstition,  and that’s a thing which causes the greatest unhappiness and cruelty in society,” he said. “Sex is a taboo. But the genesis of it is religion. What really fixes us is religion.”

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