Glamour Ghoul: The Passions and Pain of the Real Vampira, Maila Nurmi

The image of Vampira is certainly iconic. With her memorable and striking image, Vampira cemented herself as a star of horror, fashion, and drama. While many will certainly remember Vampira as a horror goddess, the story of Maila Nurmi–the woman behind Vampira–has long needed to be told.

The daughter of Finnish immigrants, Nurmi longed to express herself in creative ways and to connect with audiences through her passions. Eager to secure fame and fortune, she took a bus to Los Angeles in order to reimagine her life.

Of course, the path to fame was ridden with challenges and hardship. However, after a small role on the Red Skelton Show, donning a provocative Halloween costume, Vampira was both freed and trapped in a character that she developed.

Glamour Ghoul: The Passions and Pain of the Real Vampira, Maila Nurmi is a fascinating portrayal of Nurmi’s life and career. Nonetheless, its strongest asset is the fact that it was lovingly written by Nurmi’s niece, Sandra Niemi, who affectionately and honestly writes about her aunt. While their paths progressed through patterns of crossing and diverging, Niemi captures the essence of both respecting her aunt’s personal and professional legacy while also clearly communicating her wish to know more about her life and to connect with her in a stronger sense. Niemi expertly weaves together her personal observations about her aunt as well as an incorporation of Nurmi’s own diaries and letters. Moreover the story is supplemented by interviews with family and friends, highlighting Nurmi’s connections with Orson Welles, James Dean, and Marlon Brando, among others.

Additionally, the timing of the release is perfection. Niemi has worked on this biography for years, both while her aunt was alive and after her passing. Though the loss of Nurmi is mournful and posed challenges in the creation of the biography, the latter half of the biography is especially intriguing. In an exciting twist of events, Nurmi’s story continues and remains very much alive as more family members were discovered. The story is current enough to also mention exciting family reunions after COVID-19 subsides as well as the fact that Nurmi’s grave at Hollywood Forever Cemetery is visited frequently by admirers from all over the world.

Of course, the Niemi’s personal connection to this story makes it all the more special. Supplementing her narrative are also an array of family photos, publicity stills of Nurmi throughout her professional career, and plenty of pictures featuring Nurmi in her non-Vampira attire.

Nurmi’s work helps readers to gain a more complete understanding of Nurmi as both the character of Vampira and the real woman behind the character. Fans of classic film, horror, and Vampira will definitely enjoy this fine exploration of a beloved horror icon.

Glamour Ghoul: The Passions and Pain of the Real Vampira, Maila Nurmi is available through Feral House.

About Annette Bochenek

Dr. Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is an avid scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for TCM Backlot, she also writes for Classic Movie Hub, Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco Society Magazine.
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