1961 publicity still
December 25, 1928|
Pawnee City, Nebraska, U.S.
|Died||February 1, 2002
Tucson, Arizona, U.S.
|Occupation||Film, television actress|
|Spouse(s)||Patrick McIntyre (1951-57); 2 sons
Patrick Horgan (1958-?)
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 actor Chris Drake. McCalla was also a "Varga Girl" model for pinup girl artist Alberto Vargas.
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. Nellie attended Washington Irving Junior High School before the family moved to Marshalltown, Iowa in November 1941, and Omaha, Nebraska in September 1942, before returning to Pawnee City, where she completed high school. At 17, she joined some of her siblings in Southern California, where she worked as a waitress and at an aircraft factory.
In 1951, she married insurance salesman Patrick McIntyre, with whom she had two sons. McCalla was already a popular pinup model by 1952, when she and several other models appeared in the film River Goddesses, comprising voluptuous young women frolicking in Glen Canyon.
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". Her 26-episode series aired in first-run syndication from 1955-56.
The athletic, reportedly 5'10" 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. Additionally, she formed McCalla Enterprises, Inc.
Later life and art career
McCalla and McIntyre divorced in 1957, and the following year McCalla married English actor and James Joyce/Sherlock Holmes scholar Patrick Horgan. They divorced sometime in the 1960s. 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.
As an artist, McCalla reportedly[weasel words] completed more than 1,000 paintings and eight collector plates, and sold lithographs of her work. McCalla was a member of Woman Artists of the American West, and her work has reportedly[weasel words] been displayed at the Los Angeles Museum of Arts and Sciences. She made personal appearances at autograph conventions, appearing as late as 1996 in a faux-leopard Sheena costume.
At age 73 in 2002, Irish McCalla died of a stroke and complications from her fourth brain tumor — previous tumors were diagnosed in 1969 and 1981. She was survived by two sons, Kim and Sean McIntyre.
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".
- River Goddesses (1952) — Herself
- Irish McCalla at the Beach (1950?) Five-minute film of Irish modeling a leopard-skin bikini and a striped bikini
- Queen of the Jungle (1956) Three TV episodes with new footage, created for non-U.S. theatrical market — Sheena
- She Demons (1958) — Jerrie Turner
- The Beat Generation (1959); reissued as This Rebel Age — Marie Baron
- Five Gates to Hell (1959) — Sister Magdalena
- Five Bold Women (1960) — "Big Pearl" Jackson
- Hands of a Stranger, also known as The Answer (1962) — Holly
- 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 1950, September 1950, January 1951, March 1951, April 1951, September 1951, February 1952, April 1952, May 1952, August 1952, January 1953, February 1953, March 1953, July 1953, October 1953, February 1956
- Famous Models Sept.-October 1951
- Frolic July 1951, May 1951, February 1955
- Man (UK) August 1952
- Pagent August 1952
- People Today 1952 Vol5, No.6, December 1957
- T.V. Star Parade February 1956
- Gala March 1952, vol. 2, #6, pg. 25
- Vue October 1952
- Photo October 1954
- Point March 1954, December 1955
- Gala January 1955, vol. 5, #5
- Tempo 3/21/1955
- Man's June 1955
- Vue March 1956
- Picture week March 27, 1956
- Show October 1956
- Starweek August 1982
- Preview Pin Up Special 2 Aug.-October 1994
- Femme Fatales January 1999
- Tease No.3 1995" "
- Playboy March 1997, vol. 44, #3, pg. 118, by Kevin Cook, "Glamourcon"
- Playboy January 1999, vol. 46, #1, pg. 105-128, 214-220, "Sex Stars of the Century"
- Playboy Special Edition August 1999, pg. 89, by staff, "Playboys Sex Stars of the Century"
- Celebrity Sleuth 1991, vol. 5, #1, pg. 32-33, by staff "Separate But Sequel:Irish McCalla"
- Celebrity Sleuth 1996, vol. 9, #9, pg. 56-59, "Sheena Lives"
- Celebrity Sleuth 1997, vol. 11, #1, pg. 56, "Star-Tistics"
- Playboy December 2001, vol. 48, #12, pg. 168, "Sheena's World"
- Alberto Vargas: Works from the Max Vargas Collection, by Reid Stewart Austin, Hugh Hefner. 144pp (2006) (ISBN 978-0821257920). Includes Vargas nude painting and sketch of McCalla
- AC Comics Irish of the Jungle, 1992
- AC Comics Jungle Girls, #4 1992
- AC Comics Jungle Girls, #5 1992
- AC Comics TV's Original Sheena:Irish McCalla, 1992
- AC Comics Good Girl Quarterly, #11 1993
- AC Comics The Golden Age of Sheena, 1999
- AC Comics Wild Woman #1, 1999
- AC Comics Femforce #118 Special Edition, 2003
- Playboy February 2008, vol. 55, #2, pg. 60-68, by Leonard Martin, "Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, Without Her Wrap, Irish McCalla" (nude pictorial)
- Wickham, Paul; Bonilla, Frank. "River Goddesses (1952)". TerrorOstralis.com. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011.
- "TV actress Irish McCalla dead at 73". Associated Press via The Honolulu Advertiser. February 11, 2002. Archived from the original on June 11, 2011. Additional WebCitation archive.
- Wickham, Paul; Bonilla, Frank, eds. "Irish McCalla Biography". Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. p. 3 ("The Final Years: Those Three Husbands"). Archived from the original on November 17, 2010.
- Black, Bill; Feret, Bill (1992). TV's Original Sheena - Irish McCalla. Paragon Publications / AC Comics. ISBN 978-1562250058. via Wickham, Bonilla
- "Irish McCalla (1928 - 2002)". AskArt.com. Archived from the original on April 5, 2008.
- "Hollywood Star Walk, Irish McCalla". Los Angeles Times.
- Hatfield, Carol (Winter 1994). "I Remember Sheena". The Realist. Archived from the original on November 7, 2007.
- Irish McCalla at the Internet Movie Database
- Irish McCalla at AllMovie
- Irish McCalla at Find a Grave
- Holloway, Clark J. "Sheena, Queen of the Jungle", The Holloway Pages (fansite), 2000
- 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