Reta Shaw

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Reta Shaw
Mary Poppins12.jpg
Reta Shaw (right)
with Hermione Baddeley in Mary Poppins
Born (1912-09-13)September 13, 1912
South Paris, Oxford County
Maine, U.S.
Died January 8, 1982(1982-01-08) (aged 69)
Encino, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Resting place
Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills
Occupation Actress
Years active 1952–1975
Spouse(s) William A. Forester (divorced) 1 child

Reta Shaw (September 13, 1912 – January 8, 1982) was an American character actress known for playing authoritative women, housekeepers, and domineering wives, especially on television. She was a graduate of the Leland Powers School of the Theater in Boston, Massachusetts.[1]


The zaftig actress 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 with Red Skelton, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Patty Duke, and Andy Griffith and appeared on Wally Cox's Mr. Peepers series, 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 (Episode #14 titled "Phantom Of The Horse Opera"). Also in 1966, she appeared as "Bessie", an undercover agent, in the episode of "I Spy" titled "Lisa".

She is best remembered as the housekeeper on the television series, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir. 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 the gentlemanly hotel owner Jason Macauley, played by Ernest Truex.

She starred in the Walt Disney film, "Pollyanna" in 1960 as the infamous cook, Tillie Langerlof. In the 1960-1961 television season, she played the housekeeper, Thelma, to Tab Hunter's character Paul Morgan, a young cartoonist, in NBC's short-lived The Tab Hunter Show. Shaw again 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. 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. On December 29th, 1965, she guest starred in season 1 episode 15 ["Return from Outer Space"] of Lost In Space as Aunt Clara. This is the episode where young Will Robinson actually gets back to Earth but nobody believes he is really who he says he is.

In 1966, Shaw played the role of Mrs. Halcyon Maxwell in the motion picture entitled The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, which is a 1966 American comedy-drama film starring Don Knotts as Luther Heggs, a newspaper typesetter who spends a night in a haunted house, which is located in the fictitious community of Rachel, Kansas.

Shaw also appeared in a September 23rd, 1968 episode 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 23rd, 1973. In 1973 she played a country nurse, Ozella Peterson, in the Emergency! episode "Snakebite."

Reta Shaw's 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. It was produced by Walt Disney Productions, released by Buena Vista Distribution Company and directed by John Hough.


Shaw died of emphysema in Encino, California, on January 8, 1982.[1] She was 69 years old. Shaw was cremated and her remains are interred in a niche in the Columbarium of Remembrance at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery.


Shaw was divorced from the actor William Forester; the couple had one daughter, Kathryn Anne Forester.[1]


  1. ^ a b c "Reta Shaw, Was Mabel In 'The Pajama Game'", The New York Times, January 18, 1982, Section D, Page 10, Column 3; accessdate=September 23, 2011

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