Part 3 - Personal Appearances:
Page 6 - Irish in Live Theatre


Like the previous page, this section on Irish's even briefer live theatre career is included her because it is too small to justify a full web page of it's own and it is not directly related to any other topic.  It does, however, fit neatly into the period of Irish McCalla's life that we are examining here.

Bill Black and Bill Feret, Irish's biographers, reported that in the early 1960s Irish made her legitimate stage debut in a Summer Stock production of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter in San Bernadino, California.  Irish played the leading role of Rita Marlowe in this humorous farce by George Axelrod. The story concerns a flirtatious Monroe-like movie star who pounces at a publicity opportunity when the press believe she is having an affair with an advertising man named Rockwell Hunter whose principal goal is to sign her up to endorse Stay-Put lipstick.  At the behest of the ad agency Hunter proposes to Rita on coast-to-coast TV, which breaks the heart of his true love, Jenny, and causes much dismay for Rita's body-building beau, Bobo Branigansky.  The 1957 film of the play was one of Jayne Mansfield's most memorable roles, successfully reprising her role from the hit Broadway play (above right) .

The theatre company obviously felt that it had stumbled upon a winner with Irish and followed this up with another famous Axelrod play made famous by a pneumatic blonde, The Seven Year Itch.  Axelrod's specialty was the packaging of sex farce together with social satire and The Seven Year Itch was a perfect vehicle.  It had been a hilarious and highly successful 1955 film starring Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell, who had also starred in the Broadway production.  The story involves a slightly nerdy guy named Richard Sherman with an overactive imagination who has been stranded in the heat of a New York summer to continue bringing home the bacon while his wife and son escape to the cooler countryside.  An impossibly gorgeous (and nameless) girl moves into the upstairs apartment and sorely tests the poor sap's resolve to remain faithful to his wife.
Generally speaking, throughout her film career Irish resisted all attempts to exploit her sexually (see the She Demons page, The Beat Generation page, and the Five Bold Women page), giving the impression that she felt uncomfortable when called upon to project overt sexuality, despite some of the brazenly provocative poses seen in her glamour photography work (see the Glamour Photos Galleries page).  When Jayne Mansfield appeared in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter on Broadway she appeared on stage in one scene wearing nothing more than a towel (above right).  In the film of The Seven Year Itch Sherman merely fantasises about his new attractive neighbour and never gets beyond making a clumsy pass at her, but in the play he does actually have sex with The Girl before returning to his wife for a happy ending.  While the play does lack the scene of the The Girl's dress blowing up around her waist, as immortalised by Marilyn Monroe (top left), The Girl in the play is significantly more promiscuous than the coy innocent portrayed by Monroe.  She is obviously not averse to a little bit of adultery when the mood takes her.  Irish would definitely have been called upon to project quite a lot of coquettish sexuality in both of these plays, as indicated by the film posters at right.  However, this type of role never seemed to be her real forte.  A tomboy at heart, Irish appeared to be much more comfortable in the tough and dominant roles of Sheena and Big Pearl (see the Five Bold Women page).

It is possible that the reason that it is difficult to imagine Irish in these kinds of carefree, vivacious roles is because almost every second of her performances committed to film in her feature films and in Sheena portray her as implacably serious, with the exception of the all-too-brief jocular finales when Chim is performing his hijinx.  There is, however, a delightful glimpse of Irish's playful side in her appearance on The Milton Berle Show (see Page 2: The Milton Berle Show) in the scene where she joyously embraces her gorilla stepmother.  Another place to view Irish smiling and laughing with joyous abandon is in the painfully short early-1950s beach movie unearthed by the indefatigable Frank Bonilla.  For almost the full five minutes of this wonderful rarity we see a happy, relaxed Irish frolicking in the surf, running along the beach, playing with a beach ball and generally having fun for the camera (dressed in bikinis).  The main image at the top of this page shows two vidcaps from that film.  There are also an excerpt from this film on the Audio Visual page.

The point I'm trying to make is that Irish was a well-rounded individual with a great sense of humour.  This comes through strongly in the many interviews with her in magazines and the recorded interview on the Audio Visual page, and hopefully in the numerous quotes from her that pepper these pages.  The two Axelrod plays that Irish appeared in the early-60s are full of many glorious lighthearted moments for their female leads.  I'm sure Irish had a wonderful time letting her hair down and exploring a side of her personality that was never committed to celluloid.  By this time her acting skills had also developed considerably, as proven by her accomplished performance in Five Bold Women in 1960.  The members of the audience for that brief Summer Stock season were truly fortunate to discover another side of Irish not familiar to them from the Sheena series or her film roles.

If anyone can provide any additional information about Irish's appearance in either of these productions, if anyone actually saw one or both of these performances, or if anyone still has a tattered old program of one of these shows please do not hesitate to email me.

Please don't forget to visit my pages devoted to the twenty-six episodes of Sheena Queen of the Jungle, if you haven't done so already. You will find plot summaries, numerous comments about the individual episodes and video captures from all of the surviving episodes.  There are also large-sized copies of a many of the photos used on these pages available to download on the Sheena Photo Gallery page and the Glamour Photo Gallery page.

TV's Original Sheena - Irish McCalla by Bill Black and Bill Feret, Paragon Publications 1992
• The two vidcaps from the Irish McCalla 1950s Beach Film are from my copy of the DVD kindly donated by Frank Bonilla
• Both photos of Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe and both posters of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter and The Seven Year Itch were all pilfered from eBay auction items
• Read a brief biography of George Axelrod at Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
• Read an examination of the two George Axelrod s plays that Irish McCalla appeared in at Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and The Seven Year Itch


SHEENA © is the property of Sony Pictures Corporation
This independent, fan-based analysis of the Sheena material is copyright © 2005-2007 Paul Wickham
This page was updated August 2007