Marilyn Eastman Dies at 87: ‘Night of the Living Dead’ Actress & Producer

Actress Marilyn Eastman passed away after playing significant parts in the creation of George A. Romero’s 1968 zombie masterpiece Night of the Living Dead. The news was shared on Facebook by her son John Eastman. She was 87 years old.

When Eastman and Karl Hardman teamed up with director-screenwriter Romero, screenwriter John A. Russo, and producer Russell Streiner to start Image Ten Productions, they were vice president and creative director of Hardman Associates, an industrial film production business that Eastman co-founded with Karl Hardman.

The financiers scraped together $6,000 to begin Night of the Flesh Eaters’ production, and the grainy, black-and-white movie rapidly became popular in midnight showings around the nation in 1968. However, the distributor left the copyright bug off when it was retitled Night of the Living Dead, which prevented the funders from receiving the majority of the revenues.

John Eastman made a point of mentioning how much his mother valued the support of the movie’s viewers in his remembrance: “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.”

Here is the complete statement that her son published on Monday:

I regret to inform you that my mother, MARILYN EASTMAN, passed away on August 22, 21 in Tampa, Florida. On December 17, 1933, Marilyn Marie Johnson was born in Davenport, Iowa. Early in the 1960s, my mother relocated to Pittsburgh and eventually joined Karl Hardman at Hardman Associates. Marilyn and Karl later on in life partnered up in business and in life till Karl passed away in 2007.

Marilyn was a stage, television, radio, and film performer in addition to her well-known role as Helen Cooper in the 1968 horror classic “Night of the Living Dead.” She was also a writer and producer. She was also a dedicated single mother who raised my brother and myself by herself. I can’t emphasise enough how much she loved the love and attention she received from the innumerable NOLD admirers, and she was still organising personal appearances until a few weeks ago. My brother Michael and I, together with her five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, are left behind. At the age of 87, Marilyn Eastman passed away peacefully while sleeping. Plans to return to Pittsburgh were her wish, and they will be revealed later date.

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