Born in 1922, Maila Nurmi was a Finnish American actress who created the campy 1950s character Vampira. Her portrayal of this character as a television horror host and in films was influential over decades that followed.

The idea for the Vampira character was born in 1953 when Nurmi attended choreographer Lester Horton's annual Bal Caribe Masquerade in a costume inspired by a character in The New Yorker cartoons of Charles Addams. Her signature pale white skin and tight black dress caught the attention of television producer Hunt Stromberg, Jr., who wanted to hire her to host horror movies on the Los Angeles television station KABC-TV. The name Vampira was the invention of Nurmi's husband, Dean Riesner.

On April 30, 1954, KABC-TV aired a preview, Dig Me Later, Vampira. The Vampira Show premiered on the following night, May 1, 1954. As Vampira, Nurmi introduced films while wandering through a hallway of mist and cobwebs. Her horror-related comedy antics included ghoulish puns such as encouraging viewers to write for epitaphs instead of autographs and talking to her pet spider Rollo.

Nurmi died this past January.

:images retrozone via tatielle


Jane Flanagan said...

Have you seen Ed Wood? I love that film. She was portrayed in it too!

tangobaby said...

Having been subjected in my youth to Plan 9 From Outer Space by my father, Vampira made quite an impression on me at an early age.

That second photo is simply priceless.

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