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September 13, 1912|
South Paris, Maine, U.S.
|Died||January 8, 1982
Encino, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Emphysema|
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills|
|Spouse(s)||William A. Forester (divorced); 1 child|
Reta Shaw (September 13, 1912 – January 8, 1982) was an American character actress known for playing authoritarian women, housekeepers, and domineering wives, especially on television. She was a graduate of the Leland Powers School of the Theater in Boston, Massachusetts. She may be best remembered as the housekeeper on the television series, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir.
She appeared on Broadway in her comic role as Mabel in the original production of The Pajama Game in 1954, as well as in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Picnic, and Annie Get Your Gun, the last on tour with Mary Martin. She had featured roles in several motion pictures, including Picnic, The Pajama Game, Mary Poppins, Pollyanna, The Ghost And Mr. Chicken, Bachelor in Paradise (with Bob Hope) & Escape to Witch Mountain.
On television, she was seen on Mister Peepers, Armstrong Circle Theater, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Millionaire. She appeared on CBS's The Dick Van Dyke Show as an unemployment office worker. In 1966, she appeared in a bit part on ABC's That Girl as a department-store organist. In 1966, she appeared as "Bessie", an undercover agent, in the episode of I Spy, "Lisa".
She earlier appeared in the first season (1958–1959) of CBS's The Ann Sothern Show in the role of Flora Macauley, the overbearing wife of Jason Macauley, played by Ernest Truex. She appeared in Pollyanna in 1960 as Tillie Langerlof. In the 1960-61 television season, she played the housekeeper Thelma on The Tab Hunter Show. She played a housekeeper in the 1961-1962 CBS series Ichabod and Me, starring Robert Sterling and George Chandler as active and retired newspapermen in a small New England town.
In 1961, Shaw was cast as Cora in the episode "Uncle Paul's New Wife" of the CBS sitcom, Pete and Gladys, starring Harry Morgan and Cara Williams. The "Uncle Paul" was played by Gale Gordon, a series semi-regular.
In 1962, Shaw appeared in the NBC Western series Outlaws with Barton MacLane. She also played a comical role for The Lucy Show as a grandmother who sits a $500 dollar bill that Lucy lost and soon after sits on Lucy's hand in the episode "Lucy Misplaces 2,000 Dollars". Thereafter, she guest starred in the CBS anthology series The Lloyd Bridges Show. She also appeared in 1964 as the bar hostess Tenney in the episode "The Richard Bloodgood Story" of ABC's Western series Wagon Train. Shaw's character of Bertha/Hagatha, a matronly witch, was a recurring role on TV's Bewitched. She also appeared as Miss Gormley in an episode of NBC's The Brian Keith Show.
Shaw played escaped convict Big Maude Tyler in an episode of CBS's The Andy Griffith Show, entitled "Convicts at Large". She appeared again in season four as Eleanora Poultice, the educated voice teacher of the legendary Barney Fife. She guest starred in season 1 episode 15 ["Return from Outer Space"] of Lost in Space as Aunt Clara (which aired on December 29, 1965). In 1966, she played Mrs. Halcyon Maxwell in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, which is a 1966 American comedy film starring Don Knotts as Luther Heggs, a newspaper typesetter who spends a night in a haunted house, located in the fictitious community of Rachel, Kansas.
Shaw was a co-star on the prime time TV sitcom The Ghost & Mrs. Muir where she played housekeeper Martha Grant. The show ran for two seasons, on NBC in 1968-69 and on ABC in 1969-70. Interestingly, the show took place in the fictional fishing village of Schooner Bay, Maine while Shaw was born in South Paris, Maine.
Shaw also appeared on an episode (which aired September 23, 1968) in season 4 of I Dream of Jeannie entitled "Jeannie and the Wild Pipchicks", in which she played a strict dietician who has her innermost inhibition released (in her case a beautiful butterfly). In ABC's The Odd Couple, she appeared as a nanny in the episode entitled "Maid for each Other" who was a former army colonel on November 23, 1973. In 1973 she played a country nurse, Ozella Peterson, in the Emergency! episode "Snakebite". In 1974, on ABC's Happy Days, she played the baby sister, Mrs. McCarthy, in the episode entitled "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do". Her final acting performance came in the 1975 film Escape to Witch Mountain in the role of Mrs. Grindley, owner of the orphanage Tia and Tony are sent to after the death of their foster parents, the Malones. Escape to Witch Mountain was based on the novel Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key.
Shaw died of emphysema in Encino, California on January 8, 1982. She was 69 years old. She was cremated and her remains interred in a niche in the Columbarium of Remembrance at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills Cemetery.
Shaw was divorced from the actor William Forester; the couple had one daughter, Kathryn Anne Forester.
- Picnic (1955) as Irma Kronkite
- All Mine to Give (1957) as Mrs. Runyon
- Man Afraid (1957) as Nurse Willis
- The Pajama Game (1957) as Mabel
- The Lady Takes a Flyer (1958) as Nurse Kennedy
- Pollyanna (1960) as Tillie Lagerlof
- Sanctuary (1961) as Miss Reba
- Bachelor in Paradise (1961) as Mrs. Brown
- A Global Affair (1964) as Nurse Argyle
- Mary Poppins (1964) as Mrs. Brill, The Domestic
- That Funny Feeling (1965) as Woman at Phone Booth
- Marriage on the Rocks (1965) as Saleslady at Saks (uncredited)
- The Loved One (1965) as Manager of The Zomba Cafe
- The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966) as Mrs. Halcyon Maxwell
- Made in Paris (1966) as American Bar Singer
- Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) as Mrs. Grindley (final film role)
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