Marilyn Burns

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Marilyn Burns
Marilyn Burns at the TCM panel at Days of the Dead Indianapolis 2012.
Born Mary Lynn Ann Burns
(1949-05-07)May 7, 1949
Erie, Pennsylvania, United States
Died August 5, 2014(2014-08-05) (aged 65)
Houston, Texas, United States
Alma mater University of Texas at Austin
Occupation Actress
Years active 1970–1994, 2011–2014

Marilyn Burns (born Mary Lynn Ann Burns; May 7, 1949 – August 5, 2014) was an American actress, best known for her roles in Tobe Hooper's cult horror films The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), its sequels, and Eaten Alive (1977). She is also known for portraying Linda Kasabian in the three-time Emmy-nominated miniseries Helter Skelter (1976).

Early life and career

Burns was born in Erie, Pennsylvania, (1949)[1] and raised in Houston, Texas. In seventh grade, she appeared in a musical production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. In 1970, she made her first film appearance in the Robert Altman movie Brewster McCloud (1970). Burns attended the University of Texas at Austin and graduated from there with a degree in Drama in 1971. Burns was cast in Lovin' Molly (1974), but was replaced by Susan Sarandon. Burns stayed on as a stand-in for Sarandon and Blythe Danner.[2]

She also had a small part in George Roy Hill's The Great Waldo Pepper (1975), where she helped cast some of the film's extras.[3]

Horror roles

In Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Burns, in her first lead role, played Sally Hardesty, a teenager who travels with her brother and some friends to the cemetery where her grandfather is buried to investigate reports of grave vandalism, and then encounters an insane, murderous family including the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface. The film was a massive hit, becoming one of the most successful independent films ever at the time.[4]

Other works

In 1976, Burns had a role in the television miniseries Helter Skelter about the real-life trial of Charles Manson and several others. In the series, she played Linda Kasabian, a member of the Manson Family who was granted immunity in exchange for her testimony against the defendants. The miniseries was nominated for three Emmy awards.

Recalling her memories of working on Helter Skelter, Burns said: "It was a great experience. But nobody really wanted to touch it [due to the subject matter]. It was like, 'Who wants to be in that picture? Who's actually gonna do that picture?'"[3]

Burns had a few roles in the 1980s (Kiss Daddy Goodbye (1981), Future-Kill (1985)) and had an uncredited cameo as her character from the original film, Sally Hardesty, in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994). Burns also made a cameo appearance, playing Verna Carson, in the sequel Texas Chainsaw 3D,[5] which was released on January 4, 2013. However aside from these roles and occasional appearances at Horror conventions Burns lived a relatively quiet life out of the spotlight in the Houston area during her later years.[6]

Burns was found dead in her Houston, Texas home by her brother Bill. [7]


Year Title Role
1974 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Sally Hardesty
1976 Helter Skelter Linda Kasabian
1977 Eaten Alive Faye
1981 Kiss Daddy Goodbye Nora Dennis
1985 Future-Kill Dorothy Grim
1994 The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation Patient on Gurney/Sally Hardesty
2012 Butcher Boys Ruth
2013 Texas Chainsaw 3D Verna Carson/Sally Hardesty[8]
2014 Sacrament Beulah Standifer
2015 Mindflip Marilyn Hardesty
2015 In a Madman's World Mrs. Hill


  1. "Marilyn Burns, 'Chainsaw' Actress, Dies at 65". The New York Times. 2014-08-06. Retrieved 2014-08-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Alison Macor. Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids 30 Years of Film making in Austin, Texas University of Texas Press: Austin, 2010.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Lady of the Chainsaw: An Interview with Marilyn Burns". The Terror Trap. January 2004. Retrieved August 6, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Friedman 2007, p. 132
  5. "Marilyn Burns Returns for 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D!'". 2011-01-19. Retrieved 2014-08-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Marilyn Burns profile,; accessed August 9, 2015.
  7. David, Colker (2014-08-08). "Marilyn Burns dies at 65; starred in 'Texas Chain Saw Massacre'". Retrieved August 9, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Lionsgate releases official Press Release for Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3-D". July 19, 2011. Retrieved July 19, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links