Irish McCalla

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Irish McCalla
Irish McCalla 1961.JPG
1961 publicity still
Born(1928-12-25)December 25, 1928
DiedFebruary 1, 2002(2002-02-01) (aged 73)
OccupationFilm, television actress, Artist
Spouse(s)Patrick McIntyre (1951-57); 2 sons
Patrick Horgan (1964-69[1][2])
Chuck Rowland (1982-89; separated)

Nellie Elizabeth "Irish" McCalla (December 25, 1928 – February 1, 2002) was an American actress and artist best known as the title star of the 1950s television series Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. Sheena co-starred with actor Chris Drake. McCalla was also a "Vargas Girl" model for pin-up girl artist Alberto Vargas.


Early life[edit]

Born in Pawnee City, Nebraska, she was one of eight siblings born to Lloyd, a butcher, and Nettie (née Geiger) McCalla. The family moved often, settling in Des Moines, Iowa, in late 1939, when Lloyd began working for Condon Bros. meat dealers. The family lived at 1070 10th Street. The family moved to Marshalltown, Iowa, in November 1941, and to Omaha, Nebraska in September 1942, before returning to Pawnee City, where she completed high school. At age 17, she joined some of her siblings in Southern California, where she worked as a waitress and at an aircraft factory.[3]

In 1951, she married insurance salesman Patrick McIntyre, with whom she had two sons. McCalla was already a popular pinup model by 1952, when several other models and she appeared in the film River Goddesses, comprising voluptuous young women frolicking in Glen Canyon.[4]


McCalla publicity still, costumed for her most famous role

In a newspaper interview, McCalla recalled being discovered by a Nassour Studios representative while throwing a bamboo spear on a Malibu, California, beach, adding of her Sheena experience, "I couldn't act, but I could swing through the trees".[5] Her 26-episode series aired in first-run syndication from 1955-56.

The athletic, 5'9½" (1.8 m) tall McCalla said she performed her own stunts on the series, filmed in Mexico, until the day she grabbed an unsecured vine and slammed into a tree, breaking her arm. Her elder son, Kim McIntyre, once told the press he remembered watching his mother swinging from vine to vine and wrestling mechanical alligators. Following the one-season Sheena, McCalla appeared in five films from 1958 to 1962, and guest roles on the TV series Have Gun — Will Travel and Route 66.

Later life and art career[edit]

McCalla and McIntyre divorced in 1957, and the following year, McCalla married English actor and James Joyce/Sherlock Holmes scholar Patrick Horgan. They divorced in January 1969.[1][2][6] In 1982, McCalla, then living in Malibu, California, married Chuck Rowland, a national sales manager for an auto-glass firm, and moved with him to Prescott, Arizona, where she lived out her days. They separated in 1989.[7]

As an artist, she drew numerous oil paintings and collector plates, and sold prints of her work.[3] She was a member of Woman Artists of the American West,[8] and her work has been displayed at the Los Angeles Museum of Arts and Sciences.[4] She made personal appearances at autograph conventions, appearing as late as 1996 in a faux-leopard Sheena costume.[3]


At age 73 in 2002, Irish McCalla died of a stroke and complications from her fourth brain tumor.[5] She was survived by two sons, Kim and Sean McIntyre.[5]

McCalla has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 1722 Vine Street.[9]


As one writer described the effect of McCalla's signature character on girls growing up in that era, "Sheena was the only female portrayed on the tube who didn't conform to the fifties stereotype. Sheena was a real rugged individualist. Watching her struggle with a new adventure every week made me feel more capable at a time when everything was so unexplored. If she could handle the jungle, I felt sure that I could handle my world".[10]

Selected filmography[edit]

Magazine bibliography[edit]


Hillman Periodicals' People Today (August 11, 1954): McCalla, best known as Sheena, appeared as herself on many magazine covers.
  • Eve   October 1950, December 1950
  • Cavalier   (back cover) 1951 Vargas "4 of Diamonds" McCalla nude
  • Night and Day   January 1951, September 1951
  • Show   November 1952
  • Jest   May 1957
  • Fabulous Females   No. 1 1955
  • People Today   August 11, 1954
  • Focus  September 1954
  • Vue   March 1956
  • Blighty   (UK), 6April1957, Iss. 910
  • Snappy   March 1957 (back cover)
  • Ultra Filmfax   Apr-May 1998
  • Scarlet Street   No. 23


  • Night and Day – August and September 1950; January, March, April & September 1951; February, April, May and August 1952; January, February, March, July, and October 1953; and February 1956
  • Famous Models – Sept.-October 1951
  • Frolic – July and May 1951, February 1955
  • Man (UK) – August 1952
  • Pagent – August 1952
  • People Today – 1952 Vol.5, No.6, December 1957
  • T.V. Star Parade – February 1956
  • Gala – March 1952 (vol.2, #6, pg.25) and January 1955 (vol.5, #5)
  • Vue – October 1952 and March 1956
  • Photo – October 1954
  • Point – March 1954, December 1955
  • Tempo – March 21, 1955
  • Man's – June 1955
  • Picture week – March 27, 1956
  • Show – October 1956
  • Starweek – August 1982
  • Preview Pin Up Special 2 – Aug.-October 1994
  • Tease – No.3, 1995
  • Femme Fatales – January 1999
  • Playboy – March 1997 ("Glamourcon" by Kevin Cook), January 1999 ("Sex Stars of the Century"), Special Edition (August 1999, "Sex Stars of the Century")
  • Celebrity Sleuth – 1991 (vol.5, #1, "Separate But Sequel: Irish McCalla"), 1996 (vol.9, #9, "Sheena Lives") and 1997 (vol.11, #1, "Star-Tistics")
  • Irish of the JungleAC Comics, 1992
  • Jungle Girls #4 & #5 – AC Comics, 1992
  • TV's Original Sheena: Irish McCalla – AC Comics, 1992
  • Good Girl Quarterly #11 – AC Comics, 1993
  • The Golden Age of Sheena – AC Comics, 1999
  • Wild Woman #1 – AC Comics, 1999
  • Playboy – December 2001 ("Sheena's World") and February 2008 ("Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, Without Her Wrap" by Leonard Martin)
  • Femforce #118 Special Edition – AC Comics, 2003
  • Alberto Vargas: Works from the Max Vargas Collection by Reid Stewart Austin & Hugh Hefner (2006, ISBN 978-0821257920). A painting and sketch of McCalla

Record album covers[edit]

  • Latin Twist (1959) — Crown Records – CLP 5171


  1. ^ a b "John P Horgan in the California, Divorce Index, 1966-1984". Retrieved 2016-08-30.
  2. ^ a b "By...Jack O'Brian". Schenectady Gazette. Schenectady, New York. January 27, 1969. p. 22. Retrieved August 30, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Oliver, Myrna (February 11, 2002). "Irish McCalla, 73; Actress Played TV's 'Sheena, Queen of the Jungle'". Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Wickham, Paul; Bonilla, Frank. "River Goddesses (1952)". Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  5. ^ a b c "TV actress Irish McCalla dead at 73". Associated Press via The Honolulu Advertiser. February 11, 2002. Archived from the original on July 1, 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help); Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  6. ^ Wickham, Paul; Bonilla, Frank, eds. "Irish McCalla biodata". Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. p. 3 ("The Final Years: Those Three Husbands"). Archived from the original on August 30, 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Black, Bill; Feret, Bill (1992). TV's Original Sheena-Irish McCalla. Paragon Publications/AC Comics. ISBN 978-1562250058.
  8. ^ "Irish McCalla (1928 - 2002)". Archived from the original on April 5, 2008. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  9. ^ "Hollywood Star Walk, Irish McCalla". Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ Hatfield, Carol (Winter 1994). "I Remember Sheena". The Realist. Archived from the original on November 7, 2007. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Ultra Filmfax   April 1988, Issue 66, pp. 74–78, by Herb Fagen, "Sheena, Queen of the Jungle"
  • Preview   October 1994, Vol. 3, Issue 2, pp. 34–39, by Steranko, "The She-Cat Who Put the She in Sheena"
  • Alberto Vargas: Works from the Max Vargas Collection, by Reid Stewart Austin, Hugh Hefner. 144 pp (2006); ISBN 978-0821257920
  • Playboy   February 2008, vol. 55, #2, pp. 60–68, by Leonard Maltin, "Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, Without Her Wrap, Irish McCalla"
  • Black, Bill. TV's Original Sheena: Irish McCalla (Paragon Publications/AC Comics); ISBN 1-56225-005-1