Those who know me know that, as far as the horror fan side of my personality, my favourite films in the entire genre are Dawn of the Dead and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I first saw Texas Chain Saw when I was about sixteen years old, the end of the nineties, twenty-plus years after the cult classic had been released. I was, then, later than many on seeing the film but once I did watch it, I fell in love, and horror cinema, and cinema in general, would never be the same again for me.
The feeling I got while watching Leatherface, this terrifying mountain of a man who wielded a grunting and howling weapon in his thick dirty hands while unrelentingly hunting his victims down had an effect on me that I haven’t had since, and hadn’t experiences prior. He didn’t scare me but he had the effect of making a vivid statement to my eyes, he smashed his feet into the concrete floor of my psyche and became one of my favourite horror characters. But what was Leatherface, what was Texas Chainsaw, without the victims, without the protagonists, the humane group of friends who were just out for a good time? What would Tobe Hooper’s 1974 classic have been without the great Marilyn Burns? It just wouldn’t have been the film it was.
Marilyn Burns was born in Erie, Pennsylvania in the spring of 1949 before moving to the town of Hudson, Texas where she was raised. Graduating from the University of Houston in 1971 in Drama, she would make her feature film debut in 1974 in a movie that would remain a big part of her career for the rest of her life, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Playing Sally Hardesty, Marilyn was one of the standout characters in the film and was featured in the film’s most iconic scenes. Going on to have a part in the well-received television mini-series “Helter Skelter” in 1976 as well as cameos in Texas Chain Saw Massacre spin-off/rehash films, The Next Generation and Chainsaw 3D, Marilyn Burns’ career was surrounded by her iconic performance and role in the original film, and horror fans held her in great acclaim due to this.
Her performance in Chainsaw was excellent, and memorable. The amount of energy and gusto that she put into the role stands out to me as one of the best in horror’s rich history. Not merely a “scream queen”, Burns’ Sally became a horror icon unto herself.
Marilyn Burns was found in her Houston, Texas home by her family on August 5th, 2014 and pronounced dead. She was 65 years old. She leaves behind a legacy as a horror character beloved by so many. The Cinephiliacs team sends Marilyn’s family our condolences for their loss. May she rest in peace.