Maila Nurmi

Maila Nurmi

Original Name Maila Elizabeth Syrjaniemi
Gloucester, Essex County, Massachusetts, USA
Death 10 Jan 2008 (aged 85)
Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot Section 7, Lot 203, Space 1
Memorial ID 23914415 · View Source
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Television Personality. In the 1950s she created the character of Vampira (reportedly named by her then-husband Dean Riesner, a screenwriter who, the year before, had penned MESA OF LOST WOMEN). Popular for both films and as a television horror hostess, the Vampira character would set the standard for an entire legion of horror hostesses, actresses, and cartoon characters to follow. Nurmi, who became famous in the 1950s as the horror-TV hostess, passed away of natural causes in her sleep at her Hollywood, California home on January 10, 2008. She was 86. Her legacy today rests with a brief but memorable silent cameo as the raised-from-the-dead wife of Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood's cult classic Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959); she also appeared in such films as Too Much, Too Soon (Warner Bros. - 1958), The Beat Generation (MGM - 1959), Sex Kittens Go To College (Allied Artists - 1960), The Magic Sword (United Artists - 1962), and I Woke Up Early The Day I Died (Cinequanon Pictures International - 1998). Nurmi got her start as a showgirl and starlet, but in 1953 her career stalled. Hoping to grab a little attention, she disguised herself as Charles Addams's yet-unnamed New Yorker Magazine ghoulishly-macabre cartoon character (eventually to be named Morticia), a dark-haired, wasp-waisted character married to Addams's pen & ink morbid male (Gomez in later drawings), and attended Lester Horton's annual Bal Caribe Masquerade in Hollywood where indeed she not only took First Prize, but was spotted by Television entrepreneur/impressario Hunt Stromberg Jr. (5/23/23-11/25/86). Stromberg had moved into television as the program director on KABC-TV, a Los Angeles station. At the time, Stromberg happened to be looking for a host for a late-night horror movie showcase on his station to boost its ratings. Other local stations around the country had begun hiring hosts for their showings of these and other movies, and Stromberg thought that the wittily provocative, eerily sexy Nurmi as Vampira, would set his station apart from any conceivable competition. Nurmi true to character vanished into the night, and Stromberg spent months tracking her down. In 1954 Maila Nurmi (aka Vampira) went on the air, hosting a gaggle of resurrected vintage scary flicks on the local KABC-TV outlet. Her original show ran on KABC-TV, Channel 7 in Los Angeles, from April 30, 1954 until April 2, 1955, less than a year, but her outrageously seductive personality attracted national coverage in publications like Life, Newsweek, and TV Guide. She became Stromberg's major contribution to popular culture, and a more enduring one than either of them could have guessed in the mid-'50s. In 1955 she was nominated for an Emmy as "Most Outstanding Female Personality" and made "Who's Who in America." Her archetypal host character was well known all over the country when Screen Gems' SHOCK! package was first syndicated in October 1957. Her Hollywood companions included James Dean and Marlon Brando, and after Dean passed away she claimed to be contacted by his spirit. Few kinescopes of her program have survived. In 1956 Nurmi met producer-director-writer Edward D. Wood Jr. and he put her into his film Plan 9 From Outer Space. By the time the movie was made, Vampira was off the air and her career was virtually ended, owing to a dispute with her television station and, by her own account, her subsequent blackballing by the industry. By the end of the 1950s, Stromberg had become a protege of James Aubrey, the top programming executive at the CBS network. As a production executive at the network, Stromberg was one of those responsible for bringing on the air such series as The Beverly Hillbillies, Hogan's Heroes, Green Acres, and Lost in Space.) Of "Plan 9" Maila Nurmi once said, "At the time, I thought it was horrible. I knew immediately I'd be committing professional suicide." Ironically, it became the film for which she is best remembered. As Maila Nurmi had no immediate family, funeral arrangements are pending. Friends are planning to arrange services and a plot at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, and are organizing a hearse procession.

Bio by: Verne Langdon

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Verne Langdon
  • Added: 11 Jan 2008
  • Find a Grave Memorial 23914415
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Maila Nurmi (11 Dec 1922–10 Jan 2008), Find a Grave Memorial no. 23914415, citing Hollywood Forever, Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .