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Maila Elizabeth Nurmi (Syrjäniemi)

Also Known As: "Vampira"
Birthplace: Gloucester, Essex County, MA, United States
Death: January 10, 2008 (85)
Hollywood, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States
Place of Burial: Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Onni Kosti Syrjäniemi and Sophia A Syrjäniemi
Ex-wife of Dean Franklin Riesner; John D Brinkley and Fabrizio O Mioni
Ex-partner of Orson Welles
Mother of Private
Sister of Robert Kaleva Niemi and Onni Syrjäniemi

Occupation: Pin-up girl, Actor, Television producer, Screenwriter
Managed by: Patricia Ann Clark
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Maila Nurmi

Birth Certificate

Maila Elizabeth Syrjäniemi, alias Maila Nurmi was a Finnish-American actress and television personality who created the campy 1950s character Vampira.

The daughter of a Finnish immigrant, Nurmi was born in Massachusettes, raised in Oregon and relocated to Los Angeles in 1940 with hopes to be an actress. Ever so often, down her career, she claimed to have been born in Petsamo, Finland, as well as being a niece to Paavo Nurmi himself.

After several minor film roles, she found success in the Vampira character, television's first horror host. Nurmi hosted her own series, The Vampira Show, from 1954-55 on KABC-TV.

After the show's cancellation, she appeared in the Ed Wood cult film Plan 9 from Outer Space. She is also billed as Vampira in the 1959 movie, The Beat Generation where she plays a beatnik poet, as well as in the crime film The Big Operator (1959). She was portrayed by Lisa Marie in Tim Burton's 1994 film Ed Wood, starring Johnny Depp.

Find a Grave

Birth: Dec. 11, 1922, Gloucester, MA, USA

Death: Jan. 10, 2008 Hollywood Los Angeles County California, USA

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)

Burial: Hollywood Forever Cemetery Hollywood Los Angeles County California, USA Plot: Section 7, Lot 203, Space 1

Maintained by: Find A Grave Originally Created by: Verne Langdon Record added: Jan 12, 2008 Find A Grave Memorial# 23914415

About Maila Nurmi (suomi)

Birth Certificate

Maila Nurmi, eli Vampira, eli Maila Elizabeth Syrjäniemi syntyi Gloucesterissa, Massachusettsissa. Uransa varrella hän on kuitenkin sanonut syntyneensä Petsamossa, samoin olevansa Paavo Nurmen veljentytär.

Hänen isänsä Onni Syrjäniemi toimi useiden Yhdysvalloissa julkaistujen suomalaisille suunnattujen lehtien (mm. Kansan Lehden) toimittajana ja oli kotoisin Haapajärveltä. Maila kasvoi Ashtabulassa Ohion osavaltiossa, sen suurimmassa amerikansuomalaisten yhteisössä. Vuonna 1939 perhe muutti länsirannikolle Oregoniin.

Maila valmistui lukiosta Oregonin Astoriassa ja muutti sitten Los Angelesiin. Hän työskenteli mallina Alberto Vargasille, Bernard of Hollywoodille sekä Man Raylle ja sai jalansijaa myös elokuva-alalla. Hänellä oli kreditoimaton rooli Victor Savillen elokuvassa Talven henkäys (1947). Broadwaylla Nurmi herätti paljon huomiota esiinnyttyään kauhuteemaisessa keskiyön show’ssa Spook Scandals, jossa hän huusi, pyörtyi, makasi arkussa ja vaani viettelevästi hautausmaata. Hän toimi myös muun muassa showtyttönä Earl Carrollin teatterissa sekä strippari Lili St. Cyrin taustatanssijana.

Nurmi työskenteli Yhdysvalloissa tanssijana, näyttelijänä, mallina ja taiteilijana. Vuonna 1953 Nurmi esiintyi Los Angelesin seurapiirien naamiaistansseissa ja voitti asullaan ensimmäisen palkinnon. Nurmi oli pukeutunut Morticiaksi, Charles Addamsin sarjakuvan hahmoksi. Nurmi oli toivonut, että Addams huomaisi hänet juhlissa ja saisi siitä kimmokkeen siirtää sarjansa kuvaruudulle, mutta Vampiran huomasivatkin televisiotuottajat.

Vuonna 1954 alkanut ohjelma The Vampira Show muodostui menestykseksi. Nurmi oli Emmy-ehdokkaana 1954. Vampira sai joukoittain ihailijoita ja nousi Hollywoodin seurapiirien kermaan: hän oli muun muassa James Deanin läheinen ystävä.

Kurvikkaasta Vampirasta tuli goottilaisen femme fatale-hahmon perustyyppi. Innoitusta hahmoon Nurmi sai Terry and the Pirates -sarjakuvan Dragon Ladysta, Walt Disneyn Lumikki-elokuvan Pahasta kuningattaresta, Theda Baralta, samoin Auringonlaskun kadun Norma Desmondilta sekä 1950-luvun fetissilehti Bizarren domina- ja bondagekuvastosta.

The Vampira Show jäi lyhytikäiseksi. Myöhemmin Nurmi näytteli muutamissa elokuvissa, kuten Ed Woodin ohjaamassa kulttimaineeseen nousseessa b-elokuvassa Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), jota on aika ajoin sanottu maailman huonoimmaksi elokuvaksi. Ed Woodista tehdyn elokuvan pääosassa Ed Woodia näytteli Johnny Depp. Vuonna 2006, Kevin Sean Michaels teki Nurmesta haastatteludokumentin Vampira: The Movie.

Nurmi oli naimisissa kolme kertaa.

Om Maila Nurmi (svenska)

Maila Nurmi, född som Maila Syrjäniemi, i Massachusettes, var en finsk-amerikansk skådespelerska, mest känd för sitt alter ego Vampira på 1950-talet. Vampira var värd för ett TV-program som visade skräckfilmer och medverkade sedan i den numera ökända kultfilmen Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), regisserad av Ed Wood Jr.

Hon påstod att hon var släkt med idrottaren Paavo Nurmi. Även påstod hon, att hon var född i Petsamo, Finland, men numera anses det annorlunda. Hon växte upp i Oregon.

Vid 17 års ålder flyttade hon till Los Angeles och började arbeta som modell och som skådespelerska i småroller i filmer. Howard Hawks fick upp ögonen för Nurmi och lovade henne en filmroll, men filmen blev aldrig av.

Vampira-karaktären skapades 1953 då Nurmi var inbjuden till koreografen Lester Hortons årliga maskeradbal. Nurmi var inspirerad av Morticia Addams i Charles Addams tecknade serie Familjen Addams i tidningen The New Yorker. TV-producenten Hunt Stromberg, Jr. kontaktade Nurmi och erbjöd henne jobb som värdinna för skräckfilmer.

The Vampira Show hade premiär 1 maj 1954. Serien var en succé; Nurmi nominerades till en Emmy och medverkade som Vampira i ett avsnitt av The Red Skelton Show tillsammans med bland andra Bela Lugosi.

Privat umgicks Nurmi med kändisar som Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley och James Dean. Efter Deans död hävdade hon att hans ande kommunicerade med henne. En dispyt med TV-producenterna om vem som ägde rättigheterna till karaktären Vampira ledde till att hennes program blev nedlagt. Nurmi beskriver att hon hade blivit svartlistad och inte kunde få några jobb längre när hon blev övertalad av Ed Wood att medverka i hans film Plan 9 from Outer Space, vilket hon gick med på under förutsättning att hon inte hade någon dialog i filmen. Under 1960-talet drev hon antikaffären Vampira's Attic där hon även sålde egentillverkade kläder och smycken.

I början av 1980-talet blev hon tillfrågad att åter spela Vampira på TV. Samarbetet med producenterna sprack dock och hon blev ersatt av Cassandra Peterson och dennas karaktär Elvira. Detta ledde till att hon stämde Peterson men utan framgång.

Under 1990-talet och 2000-talet medverkade hon i ett antal dokumentärer om Ed Wood och hans filmer. Den finska regissören Mika Ripatti gjorde en dokumentärfilm om henne. Hon medverkade även i filmen I Woke Up Early the Day I Died (1998), efter ett manus av Ed Wood.

Hon var gift tre gånger, först med tidigare barnskådespelaren, sedermera manusförfattaren Dean Riesner, John Brinkley och senare med Fabrizio Mioni.

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Maila Nurmi's Timeline

December 11, 1922
Gloucester, Essex County, MA, United States
January 10, 2008
Age 85
Hollywood, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States
Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States