Part 2 - Filming In Mexico
Page 10 - Other Sheena Anecdotes


Below are a collection of unrelated items about the production of Sheena Queen of the Jungle that do not fit neatly into any of the other categories I have created specific pages for in this section.  Not all of them are directly related to the shooting of the series in Mexico, but some of them are.  I thought fans might enjoy them.

• Not only were scenes for the Sheena television series filmed in Mexico and California, but a large portion of it was actually filmed on the African continent itself.  I am, of course, talking about all of the "stock footage" of wildlife and African villages shot by Miki Carter for this series.  The wildlife scenes inserted into each episode of Sheena are sometimes crucial to the plot development.  Episodes such as The Elephant God, which features a search for a one-tusked elephant; The Magic Bag, in which a native is attacked by a rhino, and The Lash and The Leopard Men, where the villains are devoured by crocodiles, are just a few examples of episodes that would have been much less convincing without Miki Carter's footage.  Additionally, Carter's footage of a tribe using large bamboo fish traps featured in the The Rival Queen episode, in which the villains trick the natives into thinking that their magic has killed the tribe's fish stocks, adds a very exotic touch to this otherwise pedestrian series (bottom right).

Miki Carter's photographic exploits in Africa are described in two 1957 episodes of Bold Journey, ABC's adventure series of real travellers recounting their own journey's in wild places (see link for more details).  Miki and and his wife, Peg, lived in a trailer park in Pacific Palisades, California, for four months of the year, but they would spend the other eight months travelling and filming in Africa.  The episode entitled Cartoon King in Africa describes the Carters' trip to Africa in 1956 to collect footage for Tarzan and the Lost Safari.  As mentioned on Page 8: Hollywood Visitors, the Sheena set was visited by MGM second-unit director, Mark Spitz, who was scouting locations for Tarzan and the Lost Safari.  It appears highly likely that the Nassours recommended Miki Carter to Spitz for the wildlife and location footage for that film, qhich still many months away from development.  In the 1957 Bold Journey episodes Miki Carter mentions making six trips to Africa to collect footage of wildlife and villagers.  He may have used his 1953 and/or 1954 trips to collect material that was eventually used in Sheena.  Carter was involved from the very beginning, for his footage is used in the opening credits of the three pilots filmed in California in mid 1954, long before the series was sold, as well as appearing within the pilot episodes themselves.  The title scene of The Renegades (above right), the first episode filmed, shows Carter's involvement from the very beginning (the one-tusked elephant again).  At the time of writing (July 2007), the two Miki Carter episodes of Bold Journey - The Tarzan Adventures were available on VHS from Movies Unlimited.

• As mentioned on the section on Page 7: Neal, Irish had her oldest son with her in Mexico for about four-and-a-half months.  Kim, who had his third birthday in Mexico, accompanied Irish when she returned to the Sheena set after the Christmas 1955 hiatus because she was very homesick.  He remained with her until filming on the final episode was completed around mid-May 1956.  Irish has said that Kim had a baby-sitter with anybody in the crew and she would also hire young Mexican boys from the fields nearby to play with him (The TV Collector).  Irish has acknowledged that it was difficult for Kim to adjust to his mother's double life as a make-believe jungle queen and dependable female parent.  When Irish put on the Sheena costume Kim would ask her, "Are you Sheena now?", to which she would reply, "Yes, I'm Sheena now."  All day Kim would call her Sheena.  In the evening Irish would change out of the Sheena costume and Kim would ask, "Are you Mommy, now?"  Irish would assure him that she was Mommy now, and all evening Kim would call her "Mommy" (Scarlet Street).
• For someone who did not come from an acting or theatrical background, Irish appears to have been highly conscientious about the artistic integrity of the Nassours' low budget production.  She also appears to have had concerns about how Africans were portrayed in the series.  She did not like the "ooga booga" dialogue assigned to the natives in early episodes of the series so she organised for a Swahili phrasebook to be sent down from the US.  She has said that she attempted to learn the correct words for the scenes they were shooting.  Anyone who has spent a little time on wildlife safaris in East Africa will recognise common Swahili words like rafiki (friend) and jambo (hello) used frequently throughout the series.  I attribute Irish's initiative in this matter to her intelligence and to her inherent artistic sensitivity (see both the Art page and the Artistic Development section of the Childhood page) (Prevue).
• While analysing the frequency of vine-swinging scenes in the Sheena series I was fascinated to learn that in the eighteen surviving episodes there are only six episodes that include Sheena swinging on vines.  There are several reasons for this surprisingly low number.  Firstly, there are no vine swinging scenes at all in the three pilot episodes (Forbidden Cargo, The Renegades and Touch of Death).  This isn't surprising considering that Irish had recently given birth to her second child and had little time to train for these kinds of stunts.  Secondly, vine swinging scenes disappear completely from the series for the last eleven episodes, although this group includes four lost episodes.  It appears that the shows were screened in the sequence that they were filmed so it is highly unlikely that the four lost episodes differ significantly from the other seven in this sequence.  The only explanations I can think of for the removal of this emblematic component of the series is that Raul Gaona (right) either quit the series to go back to the circus (or for some other reason), was injured or died.
• In her in interview in Prevue Pinup Special 2 Irish, when talking about how she earned her living after the series was cancelled, said that as well as the money she received from her personal appearances she was paid residuals for the last 13 episodes of the series when they played in syndication.  In the entertainment business residuals are payments made to performers and other creative personnel for subsequent showings or screenings of a filmed work.  The term is typically used for payment for television reruns (Wikipedia).  It is hard to imagine why Irish would have been granted residuals for only the last 13 episodes.  As mentioned above in the discussion of Page 9: Irish's Accident, she frequently said that her accident occurred while filming the thirteenth episode.  When I first read about the residuals she was paid I assumed that she had been offered these payments as compensation for the accident.  When I realised that her accident had occurred while filming the fourth episode (see above) it became apparent there must have been some other reason, but I have no idea what it is.  I mention it here only because it struck me as unusual.
• Irish had never acted before she appeared in the pilot episodes of Sheena, and she had a stressful and nerve-wracking experience attempting to acquire these new skills, as described on Page 3: The Pilot Episodes section above.  When Irish returned to the US in May 1956 she finally got a chance to see some of the episodes of the series in their entirety and she was dismayed by the quality of her acting.  She realised that she needed some acting lessons if she was going to pursue this newfound career any further.  She promptly enrolled in acting classes with Jeff Corey (left), a well-known character actor who had worked in film since 1939, has begun working as a drama coach after being blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Commission in the early 1950s (Prevue).  During the 12 years that Corey didn't work in film or television he became highly sought after by members of the Hollywood establishment and continued to coach actors until his death in August 2002.  His list of pupils includes Kirk Douglas, James Dean, Anthony Perkins, Jane Fonda, Robin Williams and Jack Nicholson.  His acting credits includeThe Killers (1946), In Cold Blood (1967), Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), Little Big Man (1970) and numerous television appearances including The Untouchables, Star Trek, Bonanza, Starsky and Hutch and Charmed. (IMDb)
 Irish has said that without Sheena she wouldn't have had an acting career ("I couldn't act for beans!  I called myself an actress but, but I was really a personality, a character.")  She hated learning lines, and while her dialogue in Sheena wasn't exactly Herculean, she found the accumulative demands of knowing where to be at exactly the right time, paying attention to what's going on around her and what other cast members were doing and delivering her lines at exactly the right moment to be very demanding (The TV Collector).  When Irish said that it was probably a good thing that she hadn't had any acting lessons before shooting the Sheena series she was absolutely correct (Ultra Filmfax).  Her restrained, unaffected delivery is very convincing and it is very easy to believe that Irish McCalla's Sheena was someone who had spent her entire life living in a jungle.
• Irish has said that the Mexican set construction crews were very efficient.  They could fabricate whole native villages very quickly and once that had to construct a bridge across the river.  As a result, the producers decided to shoot as many episodes as they could at one time to take advantage of these quickly built sets.   As mentioned on Page 6: Working Conditions, all of the village scenes or all of the river scenes were filmed simultaneously and Irish and Christian Drake were required to memorise four or five scripts at one time (Ultra Filmfax & Prevue).  An example of the set builders' handiwork is shown at right.

• It appears that the Sheena production crew probably arrived in Mexico in late September 1955.  Apart from a two-week break around the middle of October when Irish had her accident, and another ten-day break over Christmas when the Mexican crew took a holiday, the episodes were in constant production.  They already had three episodes in the can when they arrived in Mexico - the three pilots filmed in California over a year before - so they used the six and a half productive months to produce the other twenty-three episodes.  As mentioned in the previous paragraph, sometimes several episodes were in production at the same time, which makes it difficult to calculate the number of episodes being produced each week.  Based on the time available to them (approximately 28 weeks) and the number of episodes produced ( 23) we can roughly say that if they had been working on one episode at a time then it would have taken them about nine days to produce one episode.

As mentioned on the Sheena Queen of the Jungle intro page, the series was released for syndication in late 1955 according to the excellent documentation for the series provided by The TV Collector.  That publication found that the show ran in different time slots in different markets and the broadcast order was frequently random.  I agree with Black and Feret's broadcast order but I dispute their much-quoted screening dates (Sep 56 to Mar 57).  The TV Collector found that the first recorded run of the series was in Springfield, Massachusetts where the show commenced airing in December 1955.  We don't know exactly when in December 1955 they first began screening the completed episodes on a weekly basis.  However, if we err on the side of conservatism and say mid-December, we can calculate that they wouldn't need to start repeating the series until mid-June 1956.  This, however, only applies to Springfield, Massachusetts.  In other cities where the series commenced airing later then it would have run into late-1956 before the station would need to repeat episodes previously screened.  Black and Feret's comparatively late run of September 1956 to March 1957 was probably a New York City or Los Angeles run, according to The TV Collector.

We also need to keep in mind that the production crew were still producing episodes in Mexico until mid-May 1956.  In an interview in Scarlet Street magazine Irish said that they they began to fall behind on the production schedule and were rushing through some of the episodes.  She claimed that in some cases they were shooting and delivering the shows only a week before they were being screened on television.  An examination of the copyright dates provided by The TV Collector for some of the episodes indicates that this statement was an exaggeration.  The general trend of the copyright dates shows that the production company were generally ahead of schedule.  For example, one of the later episodes, Hot Treasure (Episode 22), was copyrighted on 17 February 1956.  Black and Feret's screening order indicates that only three more episodes were shot in Mexico after this one.  The last episode screened, Touch of Death, (Episode 26) was one of the pilots filmed in California much earlier.

Why did production suddenly slow right down in early 1956?  We know that Irish arrived home in mid-to-late-May 1956 because of her 5 June appearance on The Milton Berle Show.  It is highly unlikely that shooting was concluded much before mid-May because Irish had not seen her youngest son since Christmas.  She would definitely have been on the first flight back to LA as soon as she was no longer needed in Mexico because she was a very devoted mother.  This means that it did in fact take about three months to make the last three episodes of Sheena.  It is interesting to note that Episode 14, Eyes of the Idol, is the first episode where the copyright date in the credits changes from 1955 to 1956.  Above I mentioned that Episode 22 was copyrighted on 17 February 1956, which means that nine episodes were completed in only six weeks.  This means that the company had cut their production time down from nine or ten days per episode to only four or five days.  For the next three episodes, however, the production time suddenly jumps up to about 30 days per episode.  This leads me to conclude that the production company encountered some very serious unforeseen obstacles in early 1956.  It is difficult to imagine what these might have been.  They were no longer facing the impediments that had dogged them when they first arrived - wet season rains and Irish's ill health.  The weather had improved and Irish was being supplied with canned food to counter the effects of the dysentery that continued to plague her.  She was, supposedly, also under the care of three doctors (Prevue).  Additionally, the production crew were much more experienced by this stage so it is hard to imagine that the delays were caused by routine technical problems.  My personal suspicion is that the Nassours and Ishmael Rodriguez were becoming increasingly distracted by preparations for their next project, The Beast of Hollow Mountain (see Page 1: The Nassour Brothers and Page 11: Series Cancelled).

• Irish McCalla and her costar, Christian Drake (right), appear to have had a very good working relationship.  In the interview with Christian Drake in Ultra Filmfax magazine he said, "Irish was absolutely perfect for the role; she was stunningly beautiful, and she epitomized Sheena from the very start.  Irish was also quite a nice person."  When the The TV Collector magazine interviewed Irish around the same time (late 1990s) they wrote that Irish remembered her costar fondly.  "He was a good person.  He really helped me keep my sanity at times." She said.   She also commented that he was a little shorter than she was because the producers wanted to make sure that Sheena looked very big.  Drake has also pointed out that he handled about ninety per cent of the dialogue and Irish handled ninety per cent of the action.  "It's nice to be rescued by a beautiful girl." He commented.  Quoting from an earlier article on Sheena in Ultra Filmfax No. 59 written by reviewer David J Hogan, Drake said that Sheena, referring to Bob's other role as safari guide, should have told him, "Bob, why you keep bringing ratbastards into jungle?"

• When Irish was asked to rate her best performance she said, "Maybe good, but mostly I was mediocre.  For what I had to do in Sheena, I was good.  Essentially I was myself as a teenager playing in the woods.  Sheena and Irish were one person."  Elsewhere, Irish said there were a couple of scenes that still stood out in her mind.  Speaking of her climactic encounter with the giant villain Bull Kendall in The Lash, she said that she had to learn to use a bullwhip for that scene and that she would have to slip on her jeans to practice with it.  ("And I loved the way I looked when I saw it on film.  I loved the menacing way I did that.")  The other time when Irish really felt she did a good job was when she was asked to slide on her belly in the mud to enter the river in The Sacred River.  ("It was kinda like when you're a kid and your playing army.") (Prevue and The TV Collector)  You can watch the two short scenes that Irish is referring to by visiting the Audio/Visual page.

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 Gallery page.

Scarlet Street magazine No. 23, 1996
Prevue Pinup Special 2 magazine, Aug/Oct 94
Wikipedia, the free encyclodedia
The Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
Ultra Filmfax magazine, APR/May 98

The TV Collector magazine, Jan/Feb 97

• The video captures of the Miki Carter credits and stock footage are from my DVD-Rs of the Sheena Queen of the Jungle series
• The coloured photo of Raul Gaona up a tree is from TV Guide magazine, week of 16-22 Jun 56
• The photo of Jeff Corey was pilfered from an eBay auction item
• The video captures of the African village sets built in Mexico are from my DVD-Rs of the Sheena Queen of the Jungle series
• The photo of Irish as Sheena gripping spear is from my personal collection
• The photo of Christian Drake as Bob Rayburn is from Ultra Filmfax magazine, APR-May 98
Read Jeff Corey's very comprehensive filmography at The Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
Bag yourself Sheena Queen of the Jungle on VHS at Moviecraft


SHEENA © is the property of Sony Pictures Corporation
This independent, fan-based analysis of the Sheena material is copyright © 2006-2007 Paul Wickham
This page updated July 2007