Marilyn Eastman, ‘Night of the Living Dead’ Star, Dead at 87

Actress Marilyn Eastman has passed away, fans learned on Monday. Eastman was best known to modern audiences for playing Helen Cooper in the 1968 Night of the Living Dead. Her death was announced by the George A. Romero Foundation on social media.

“It is with great sadness that we can confirm the passing of Marilyn Eastman on 8/22/21,” the foundation’s official Twitter account posted. Please join us in wishing her family peace at this painful time.” Eastman was 87 years old, and is survived by her two sons John and Michael, as well as five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. John Eastman posted more details on Facebook, revealing that his mother had passed away peacefully in her sleep on Sunday at her home in Tampa, Florida.

“Marilyn was a stage, television and radio performer as well as a writer and producer,” he wrote. “More importantly, she was a hard-working single mother who raised my brother and I on her own. I cannot overstate how much she enjoyed the affection and attention shown to her by countless NOLD fans, and up until several weeks ago [she] was planning personal appearances.”

Eastman was born in Iowa in 1933 and moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the 1960s, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She was married to Karl Hardman, and together they ran an industrial film production company called Hardman Associates, which partnered with Romero on Night of the Living Dead, giving Eastman her big break.

“Godspeed, Marilyn. Give our love to Karl,” read another tweet from the Romero Foundation. Hardman passed away in 2007.

In addition to playing Helen Cooper, Eastman worked on the makeup, props and sound department for Night of the Living Dead. She was active in the tight-knit horror fandom, including the convention circuit when possible. She had two more film roles after Night of the Living Dead — an appearance in Houseguest in 1995 and a role in Santa Claws in 1996.

Eastman had one earlier TV role as well, playing a secretary in a 1960 episode of Perry Mason. She is credited in the makeup department on Night of the Living Dead and for documentary appearances in Reflections on the Living Dead (1993), A-Z of Horror (1997) and One for the Fire: The Legacy of Night of the Living Dead (2008). Fans continue to mourn Eastman on social media, and share their own favorite memories of her on screen or otherwise.

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