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, Maine, U.S.
Died January 8, 1982(1982-01-08) (aged 69)
Encino, California, U.S.
Cause of death Emphysema
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills
Occupation Actress
Years active 1935–1981
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 may be best remembered as the housekeeper on the television series, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir.[1]

Birth and Early Life[edit]

Reta Shaw was born in South Paris, Maine, on September 13, 1912, to Edna M. (née Easson) and Howard Walker Shaw. Her father was a New England orchestra leader. Shaw's younger sister was actress Marguerite Shaw (1916 –1983).[2][3] She was a graduate of the Leland Powers School of the Theater in Boston, Massachusetts.[4]


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 & Escape to Witch Mountain.[1]

She 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.[1]

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.[1]

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 on a $500 bill that Lucy lost and soon after sits on Lucy's hand in the episode "Lucy Misplaces 2,000 Dollars".[5] 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.[1]

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 comedy-drama film The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.[1]

On television, she was also 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 1965 she appeared in an episode of My Three Sons. She played a housekeeper named Fredocia whom Steve had hired after Bub took a trip to Ireland. That particular episode was Uncle Charley's first appearance. 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".

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. 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 who was a former army colonel in the episode "Maid for Each Other", which aired 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 babysitter, 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 where Tia and Tony are sent after the death of their foster parents, the Malones.[1]


Shaw died of emphysema in Encino, California, on January 8, 1982. She was 69 years old.[4] 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.[4]


Year Title Role Notes
1955 Picnic Irma Kronkite
1955 All Mine to Give Mrs. Runyon
1957 Man Afraid Nurse Willis
1957 The Pajama Game Mabel
1958 The Lady Takes a Flyer Nurse Kennedy
1960 Pollyanna Tillie Lagerlof
1961 Sanctuary Miss Reba
1961 Bachelor in Paradise Mrs. Brown
1964 A Global Affair Nurse Argyle
1964 Mary Poppins Mrs. Brill, The Domestic
1965 That Funny Feeling Woman at Phone Booth
1965 Marriage on the Rocks Saleslady at Saks Uncredited
1965 The Loved One Manager of The Zomba Cafe
1966 The Ghost and Mr. Chicken Mrs. Halcyon Maxwell
1966 Made in Paris American Bar Singer
1975 Escape to Witch Mountain Mrs. Grindley (final film role)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Reta Shaw on IMDb
  2. ^ "Marguerite Shaw, 66; Actress and Educator". The New York Times. October 2, 1983. Retrieved April 1, 2018. 
  3. ^ "Reta Shaw". Find a Grave. November 23, 1998. Retrieved April 1, 2018. 
  4. ^ a b c "Reta Shaw, Was Mabel In 'The Pajama Game'". The New York Times. January 18, 1982. p. 10, Column 3, Section D. Retrieved April 1, 2018. 
  5. ^[dead link]

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