Unfortunately, one of the horror genre’s all-time greatest scream queens has left us, as Marilyn Burns passed away on August 5, 2014 at age 65. Of course, Burns is best known for her portrayal of Sally Hardesty, the heroine in the original 1974 Tobe Hooper-directed version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s a truly memorable performance and one that redefines the word “scream queen”: Burns literally spends the entire last half of the movie constantly running and screaming with virtually no let-up!
After Chainsaw, Burns had a few memorable roles. She appeared in Tobe Hooper’s follow-up film, Eaten Alive, and came very close to breaking into mainstream Hollywood by portraying one of Charles Manson’s followers, Linda Kasabian, in the Emmy-nominated adaptation of Helter Skelter. Burns pretty much gave up acting by the mid-1980s, but did return for some cameo appearances in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation and Texas Chainsaw 3D. However, it’s hard to blame anyone involved in the original Chainsaw Massacre for taking an early retirement from acting since by all accounts, the shoot was an hellacious experience and no one suffered more than Marilyn Burns. Watching the film, it feels like the actress is truly going through hell for the sake of her art and the climactic dinner table sequence (which was filmed in brutal 100-degree Texas heat) is particularly tough to watch since it looks like Burns is losing her sanity right there on camera. I don’t think The Texas Chainsaw Massacre would have been nearly as effective if Burns hadn’t been such a sympathetic heroine. R.I.P., she will be missed.