George A. Romero, Father of the Zombie Film, Dies at 77


Laura Lezza/Getty Images George A. Romero

His low-budget body of work, which included ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and ‘Dawn of the Dead,’ creeped out audiences for decades.

George A. Romero, the legendary writer-director from Pittsburgh who made the 1968 cult classic Night of the Living Dead for $114,000, thus spawning an unrelenting parade of zombie movies and TV shows, has died. He was 77.

Romero, who put out five other zombie movies after a copyright blunder cost him millions of dollars in profits on his wildly popular first one, died Sunday in his sleep after a battle with lung cancer, his producing partner, Peter Grunwald, told the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the news. Romero’s family confirmed his death to the newspaper as well.

Romero’s manager Chris Roe posted on Facebook that the director died while “listening to the score of The Quiet Man, one of his all-time favorite films, with his wife, Suzanne Desrocher Romero, and daughter, Tina Romero, at his side. He died peacefully in his sleep, following a brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer, and leaves behind a loving family, many friends and a filmmaking legacy that has endured, and will continue to endure, the test of time.”

Romero’s 1978 sequel Dawn of the Dead was made for $1.5 million and grossed $55 million. He followed that by writing and directing Day of the Dead (1985), Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009), a decomposing body of work that earned him the nickname Father of the Zombie Film.

Romero also penned a new version of Night of the Living Dead, released in 1990, that was directed by Tom Savini, his longtime collaborator and horror effects guru. (And Dawn of the Dead was remade by Zack Snyder in 2004.)

Some film scholars and horror enthusiasts contend that social commentary — specifically salvos against the military and materialism — lurked within Romero’s films. Most of his work was shot in Pittsburgh, where Romero attended Carnegie Mellon University.

Night of the Living Dead, the story of seven strangers trapped in a farmhouse besieged by a lynch-mob posse of staggering zombies, devastated/delighted audiences at the time of its release, its stark and grainy black-and-white cinematography imbuing it with a documentary realism.

Romero and his nine other investors, including co-writer John A. Russo, had cobbled together $6,000 to start production on the film, then titled Night of the Flesh Eaters. It premiered at the Fulton Theater in Pittsburgh on Oct. 1, 1968, and quickly caught on as a staple of midnight screenings around…

Sasha Harriet

Sasha Harriet

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Sasha Harriet

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