Classic 1950s TV series - Introduction & Episode Guide

Sol Lesser, who produced seventeen Tarzan films between 1933 and 1958, had plans to produce a Sheena film as early as 1952, according to entertainment gossip in Quick magazine in September of that year (see Page 1: The Sheena Movie Project in The Sheena Audition section for more detail).  That project never came to fruition unfortunately, but plans to produce a Sheena movie didn't die.
Somehow the Nassour Brothers acquired the rights to the Sheena film property but they eventually changed their minds and decided to make a television series instead.  The story of how Irish McCalla came to play Sheena in the series is told in considerable detail on the Irish McCalla's Television Career pages.
Twenty six episodes of Sheena Queen of the Jungle were filmed on a shoestring budget in the jungles of Mexico over a seven and a half month period in late 1955 and early 1956.  The series was a joint production by Rodriguez Productions in Mexico and Nassour Studios, an American company run by two brothers.  The series began screening in syndication while the crew were still filming in Mexico and Irish McCalla was a major star by the time she returned to California.
Despite the show being a big hit on both American and overseas television the Nassour Brothers decided not to continue with the venture and no more episodes were made.  The same 26 episodes were continually repeated both locally and abroad over the next few years and Irish managed to survive on income from personal appearances for several years.
 Not many people challenge the idea that Irish McCalla was the "definitive" Sheena - she looked exactly like the Fiction House Comics character and her understated, naïve delivery made you believe she was raised in the jungle.  Other pretenders to the crown, Tanya Roberts and Gena Lee Nolin, are very disappointing by comparison.  However, the generations exposed to these more modern Sheenas do appear to have a preference for the Sheenas they were first introduced to.  Poor misguided fools!

Sheena aficionados disagree on the dates of the first screening of the Irish McCalla series.  In their definitive book on Irish, TV's Original Sheena - Irish McCalla, Bill Black and Bill Feret claim that the first episode aired was Forbidden Cargo on 16 September 1956.  They also claim that the final episode screened was Touch of Death on 17 March 1957.  The TV Collector magazine, however, states that the series was first released for syndication in late 1955 and the earliest run they were able to track was in Springfield, Massachusetts in December 1955.  They suspect that the much-quoted Black and Feret dates are probably from a later New York or Los Angeles run.

The 1956/57 sequence used by Black and Feret is curious for several reasons.  Firstly, the Roman numerals given in the copyright notices in series' credits say 1955 and 1956, which matches the copyright dates given by The TV Collector.  Further evidence lies in the fact that Irish appeared on The Milton Berle Show within a week or so of arriving back in the US from Mexico on 5 June 1956 (see Page 2: The Milton Berle Show in the Personal Appearances section).  It appears that Black and Feret unwittingly created a spurious myth by publishing a convenient list in their book, and those incorrect dates have since been perpetrated in other publications and websites.
Click below to see the opening titles of the series:

I have decided not to provide any dates for screening because Black and Feret's are clearly incorrect and no others are available.  I have, however, included the dates the episodes were copyrighted according to The TV Collector, where those are available.  I have used Black and Feret's screening order because I believe that it is accurate.  The TV Collector also states that the series ran in different time slots in different markets and that the broadcast order was mainly random in many markets.

The principal stars of the series were Irish McCalla as Sheena and Christian Drake as Bob Rayburn.  Chim, Sheena's chimp companion was played by a trained chimp named Neal, who was trained by Howard Bryant (see Page 7: Neal in the Filming in Mexico section).  Stock African animal footage was shot by Miki Carter, who also provided animal footage for Tarzan and the Lost Safari (1957), Tarzan and the Trappers (1958) and Tarzan's Fight For Life (1958).


Click the image below to explore all of the episodes of the series.
Click the image below to see a tribute to Christian Drake.

TV's Original Sheena - Irish McCalla by Bill Black and Bill Feret, 1992, Paragon Publications
The TV Collector magazine Jan-Feb 97
The colour photo of Irish McCalla as Sheena was donated by Frank Bonilla
All other photos on this page are screenshots taken from my DVDs of this series
The video of the opening titles of this series was uploaded to Youtube by me specifically to embed in this web page

SHEENA © is the property of Sony Pictures Corporation
This independent, fan-based analysis of the Sheena material is copyright © 2005-2008 Paul Wickham