Tuesday, January 15, 2008


The beauty of Maila Nurmi

Vampira of films and tv, 1954

1922 - 2008
Maila Nurmi, in a 2005 photo, portrayed Vampira, a vivacious vampire who hosted scary late-night movies during the 1950s. (Heather Saenz / Associated Press)

Maila Nurmi; actress, TV horror film hostess Vampira
By Jocelyn Y. Stewart, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
8:52 AM PST, January 15, 2008

In the early days of television, when horror movies were often campy by nature, actress Maila Nurmi created the character Vampira, a glamorous ghoul who as hostess of late-night fright films in the 1950s layered on her own brand of camp.

Vampira played with her pet tarantula, gave gruesome recipes for vampire cocktails and bathed in a boiling caldron. With a knack for the double-entendre and the requisite blood-chilling scream, Vampira was a hit.

The character won Nurmi short-lived fame and a dedicated cult following. Nurmi claimed Vampira was also the uncredited inspiration for later ghoulish yet glamorous female characters in film and television, including Elvira.

Nurmi, who also appeared in the 1959 Edward D. Wood Jr. movie "Plan 9 From Outer Space," was found dead in her Hollywood home Jan. 10. The cause of death was still being investigated, said Lt. Fred Corral of the Los Angeles County coroner's office. Nurmi was believed to be 85, although sources offer conflicting dates of birth.

Born Maila Syrjäniemi in Finland, Nurmi immigrated to the United States when she was a toddler. By 17, she had dropped her surname and taken on that of her famous uncle Paavo Nurmi, a world-class runner known as the "Flying Finn."

In her teens, she moved to New York, and then Los Angeles, to pursue a career in acting.Little came of Nurmi's efforts to land conventional leading roles in theater or on-screen. The unconventional came calling in 1953, after Nurmi attended a Hollywood masquerade ball dressed as the ghoul of Charles Addams' New Yorker cartoons.


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