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Nellie Elizabeth "Irish" McCalla (December 25, 1928February 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.


Early life

Born in Pawnee Citymarker, Nebraskamarker, United Statesmarker, McCalla was one of eight children of father Lloyd, a butcher, and mother Nettie Geiger McCalla. The family moved often, settling in Des Moines, Iowamarker in late 1939 when Lloyd began working for Condon Bros. meat dealers. They family lived at 1070 10th Street. Nellie attended Washington Irving Junior High School before the family moved to Marshalltown, Iowamarker in November 1941, and Omaha, Nebraskamarker 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 other models appeared in the film River Goddesses, consisting of several voluptuous young women frolicking in the Grand Canyonmarker.


In a newspaper interview, McCalla recalled being discovered by a Nassour Studios representative while throwing a bamboo spear on a Malibu, Californiamarker, beach, famously 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 Mexicomarker, 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 prolific British actor and James Joyce/Sherlock Holmes scholar Patrick Horgan. They divorced in 1963. McCalla was reportedly married a third time, though by then she was out of the spotlight and details are sparse. She moved from Malibu to Prescott, Arizonamarker in 1982.

As an artist, McCalla reportedly 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 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. McCalla has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker, at 1722 Vine Street.

Aged 73, Irish McCalla died of a stroke and complications from her fourth brain tumor — previous tumors were diagnosed in 1969 and 1981 — and was survived by two sons, Kim and Sean McIntyre, and two granddaughters, Chelsea and Halley McIntyre, among other relatives.


Carol Hatfield
The Realist (Winter 1994)


  • 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

Magazine bibliography


  • 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)


  1. Associated Press obituary, February 11, 2002, quoting her from a previous article in The Prescott Courier of Prescott, Arizona
  2. Irish McCalla


  • Ultra Filmfax   April 1988, Iss.66, pg. 74-78, by Herb Fagen, "Sheena, Queen of the Jungle"
  • Preview   October 1994, Vol.3, Iss.2, pg.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. 144pp (2006) (ISBN 978-0821257920).
  • Playboy   February 2008, vol. 55, #2, pg. 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

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