She was the only one to survive the first horrific onslaught of the man known as “Leatherface” in 1974…two years later, on television, she gave the testimony that sent Charles Manson and his followers to prison for life…she braved a psychopath’s pet alligator, and in the early 1980s, even ran with a homicidal punk gang through tough inner city streets…she was one of the first of two staples of horror films, the “Scream Queen” and the “Final Girl”…
…but sadly, on August the 5th, 2014, the horror community lost this icon.
Marilyn Burns was born in Erie, Pennsylvania on July 5th, 1950, but she was raised in Houston, Texas. Early on, it was obvious entertainment would be her calling: she appeared in her first play in middle school, and went on to earn a Drama degree from the University of Texas. It was here that she met Tobe Hooper, and went on to immortality starring as the lead in his classic film, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. After appearing in the pivotal role of Linda Kasabian in the 1976 telefilm Helter Skelter, she again teamed with Hooper in his film Eaten Alive in 1977, where she shared the screen with Carolyn Jones and the future Freddy Krueger, Robert Englund. Remaining active in Texas theater and on convention circuits up until her death, she still found time over the years to play a part in a few other horror films and thrillers, most notably cameos in both Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994) and Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013), giving her fans more of her in the franchise that she helped begin. Remaining a presence in the genre even recently, earlier this year she had a role in Sacrament, and will appear one last time in Josh Vargas’ upcoming film, In A Madman’s World.
For my part, I can say without question that as Sally Hardesty, she was the unforgettable focal point of one of my all-time favorite films; no one, in my opinion, has ever topped her performance of stark, wide-eyed hysterical terror…but still with the instinct and inner strength to do what it took to survive. Regrettably, I never had the privilege of meeting her in person.
Marilyn is remembered by friends, co-stars, and many convention-goers as a warm, friendly person who lit up the room when she entered.
We at LeglessCorpse join them in mourning her passing.
Although her filmography only comprises ten films in her sixty-four years, the mark she has left on our beloved genre is one that will endure for all time…and through her gritty, riveting portrayal of Sally Hardesty’s frantic and determined fight for survival, she too will survive for us Fellow Fans, living in our memories through the ages.
Rest in peace, Marilyn…you will be missed.