‘Night of the Living Dead’ star Marilyn Eastman dead at 87

Marilyn Eastman, a cult film star famous for “Night of the Living Dead,” died Sunday. She was 87.

The actress passed away “peacefully” in her sleep at her home in Tampa, Florida, according to her son, John Eastman, who announced her death on Facebook.

“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.”

He continued, “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 Davenport, Iowa, on Dec. 17, 1933, as Marilyn Marie Johnson. She was partners in business and in life with film producer Karl Hardman. They were together until his death in September 2007. Eastman was a mother to sons John and Michael, and she had five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

The 1968 independent horror film earned over $30 million in the box office and was made on a budget of $114,000.
LMPC via Getty Images

The actress, who played Helen Cooper in the 1968 George A. Romero-directed horror film, also helped to finance the iconic film and also lent her talents in the movie’s makeup, prop and sound departments.

Eastman was vice president and creative director of Hardman Associates, a film production company that she ran alongside Hardman.

Marilyn Eastman, Karl Hardman and Kyra Schon in "Night of the Living Dead."
Marilyn Eastman, Karl Hardman and Kyra Schon in “Night of the Living Dead.”
FilmPublicityArchive/United Arch

The George A. Romero Foundation tweeted their condolences on Monday.

“It is with great sadness that we can confirm the passing of Marilyn Eastman on 8/22/21. Please join us in wishing her family peace at this painful time. Godspeed, Marilyn. Give our love to Karl,” they wrote.

She also appeared in the projects “Santa Claws,” “Houseguest” and “Perry Mason.”


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