Maila Nurmi was a Finnish-American actress who created the 1950s character Vampira.
She was mostly known as TV’s first horror host and in the Ed Wood cult film Plan 9 from Outer Space.
She moved to the United states with her family when she was two-years-old and grew up in Ashtabula, Ohio.
She graduated from high school in Astoria, Oregon, before arriving in Los Angeles.
She worked as a model for Alberto Vargas, Bernard of Hollywood, and Man Ray, gaining a foothold in the film industry with an unaccredited role in the 1947 film, If Winter Comes.
Nurmi was hired by producer Mike Todd for a mysterious revue called Spook Scandals, where she played a vampire.
His project was to make this beauty a new Lauren Bacall and he promised her the first role in a film written by William Faulkner but this production never came.
In 1954, on April 30, KABC-TV aired a preview, Dig Me Later, Vampira. The Vampira Show premiered on the following night, May 1, 1954. Each show opened with Vampira gliding down a dark corridor flooded with dry-ice fog.
At the end of her trance-like walk, the camera zoomed in on her face as she let out a piercing scream. The show has become a cult classic, spawning fan clubs the world over.
The idea for the Vampira character was inspired by Morticia Addams from the Addams Family.
The name Vampira was the invention of Nurmi’s husband and it was influenced by the Dragon Lady from the comic strip Terry and the Pirates and the evil queen from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Nurmi was nominated for an Emmy in 1954 as “Most Outstanding Female Personality.”
Two years later, she appeared in the 1956 low-budget horror film Plan 9 From Outer Space and in the late 1950s and 60s she appeared in three movies produced by Albert Zugsmith including Sex Kittens Go To College.
Mika J. Ripatti made a Finnish documentary film about her called About Death, Sex and Taxes in 1995. On January 10, 2008, Nurmi died of natural causes at her home in Hollywood at age 85.
She was buried in the Griffith Lawn section of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.