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Night of the Living Dead Actor and Producer Marilyn Eastman Dies at 87

Marilyn Eastman, an actress and producer best known for her role on George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, has passed away at the age of 87. The news was announced via a Facebook post from her son, John Eastman, who confirmed that the actress passed away in her sleep on Sunday, August 22nd. Eastman developed a cult following of fans for her involvement in the 1968 horror film, including playing one of the film’s human characters, Helen Cooper. Eastman’s roles on the film did not stop there, as she also served on the makeup and props department, and reportedly also contributed to the editing of the film’s screenplay. In addition to that, she was also the vice president and creative director of Hardman Associates, Inc., an industrial film firm that partnered with Romero on the film. They would later team with Romero, John A. Russo, and producer Russell Streiner to form Image Ten Productions.

“I’m very sad to announce the passing of my mother, MARILYN EASTMAN on 8/22/21 in Tampa, Florida,” John Eastman’s statement reads. “Marilyn Marie Johnson was born in Davenport, Iowa on December 17th, 1933. My mother moved to Pittsburgh in the early 60’s and eventually joined Karl Hardman at Hardman Associates. Later in life Marilyn and Karl became business and life partners until Karl’s passing in 2007.”

“In addition to her iconic role as Helen Cooper in the 1968 Horror Classic Night of the Living Dead, Marilyn was a Stage, Television and Radio performer as well as a writer and producer,” the statement continues. “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, was planning personal appearances. She is survived by my brother Michael and I, 5 Grandchildren and 8 Great Grandchildren. Marilyn Eastman died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 87. It was her desire to return to Pittsburgh and those plans are to be announced at a later date.”

The George A. Romero Foundation also released a statement about Eastman’s passing, which you can find below.

In addition to her involvement in Night of the Living Dead, Eastman portrayed a secretary on a 1960 episode of Perry Mason, a “Society Woman” in the film Houseguest, and her final onscreen role was Mrs. Quinn in 1996’s Santa Claws.

Our thoughts are with Eastman’s family, friends, and fans at this time.

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