Marilyn Burns only has a handful of credited roles as an actress, but her performance as Sally Hardesty in Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre made her an icon of modern horror that won’t soon be forgotten.
As the legend goes, the set of that film reached temperatures in excess of 120 degrees. Sometimes I think that story has survived so many re-tellings, and the reason fans are so eager to believe it, is because of Burns’ performance in the infamous dinner scene. Her expressions are so tortured, so believable, you half expect the Texas state police to bust down the door and arrest her co-stars. Burns is often pegged as a classic “final girl,” and it’d be difficult to find another actress in another role who made the survival of their character look as harrowing as she did.
Burns worked with Hooper again on Eaten Alive and with a few rare exceptions, the remainder of her filmography consists of variations on her Chain Saw role. She was found dead in her Texas home at the age of 64. Her cause of death is as yet unknown.