Scream Queen Marilyn Burns, who played Sally Hardesty in the 1974 classic horror film Texas Chainsaw Massacre, died August 5 at her home in Houston, Texas.
“She was found unresponsive by a family member this morning in her Houston, TX area home. Her family asks for privacy at this time. Further details will be released later,” Marilyn’s representative confirmed to E! News.
Marilyn got her big break in the now-iconic slasher pic, in which her character is the only one to survive Leatherface’s killing spree. She went on to star in Helter Skelter, Eaten Alive, and Kiss Daddy Goodbye, as well as to have cameos in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D. (via Hollywood Life)
From Brutal As Hell:
… Boy, could that girl scream. And boy, who could blame her? The dinner table scene set the bar on both physical and psychological torture, with Ms. Burns screaming so continually that it almost becomes background noise at some points – almost. But her confusion, her desperation and her wild-eyed terror ensure that her plight remains believable – we care about Sally. When she finally escapes from Leatherface, leaving that warped fucker swinging his chainsaw in frustration, the audience is with her. They want someone to survive, and her utter jubilation makes us so glad it’s her. Sally’s escape is one of the most famous, most formative scenes in horror history.
It’s (literally) criminal that this seminal movie didn’t make the cast and crew a fortune, what with the mobsters who muscled in on distribution soaking up most of the killer profits made by the film in following years. It certainly limited Marilyn Burns’ future prospects and it certainly took a lot of the impetus out of working as an actress, which of course it would. She should have been huge, but she didn’t act in many more roles – despite again working with Hooper on a Texas/cannibalism schtick in Eaten Alive a few years later, and then in a handful of other parts during the rest of her cinematic career: biker horror Kiss Daddy Goodbye, Future-Kill (which I confess I haven’t seen) and the decent Manson drama, Helter Skelter. Still, it’s such a short filmography for an actress who starred in one of the most famous gonzo horror movies of all time, and this is something which will always feel like an injustice.
Marilyn Burns’ death at the age of 65 is a sad loss, and we’re in her debt for her part in the history of the horror genre. A lot has happened in the forty years which have passed since The Texas Chain Saw Massacre appeared – a hell of a lot – but one of those things relates to a phrase. The phrase is ‘scream queen’, and it has come to mean many things, for good or ill. Yet Marilyn Burns will always be the original scream queen – as well as one of our best-loved final girls. She did all of this with both good grace and modesty.