Reta Shaw

Reta Shaw (September 13, 1912  January 8, 1982) was an American character actress known for playing strong, working women in film and on many of the most popular television programs of the 1960s and 1970s in the United States. She may be best remembered as the housekeeper, Martha Grant, on the television series The Ghost & Mrs. Muir and as the cook, Mrs. Brill, in the 1964 film Mary Poppins.[1][2]

Reta Shaw
Born(1912-09-13)September 13, 1912
DiedJanuary 8, 1982(1982-01-08) (aged 69)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills
Years active1935–1981
Spouse(s)William A. Forester (divorced); 1 child

Birth and early life

Reta Shaw was born in South Paris, Maine, on September 13, 1912, to Edna M. (née Easson) and Howard Walker Shaw. Her father was an orchestra leader. Shaw's younger sister was actress Marguerite Shaw.[3] The daughter and granddaughter of women who believed in spiritualism, Shaw reportedly once told a newspaper interviewer that she had been "brought up on a ouija board."[4]

She was a graduate of the Leland Powers School of the Theater in Boston, Massachusetts.[5]


Shaw's first credited appearance on the Broadway stage was in 1947's It Takes Two.[4] She then appeared in Virginia Reel and on Broadway in a comedic 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 and Escape to Witch Mountain.[2]

She appeared in the first season (1958–1959) of 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, she played the housekeeper Thelma on The Tab Hunter Show. She played a housekeeper in the 1961-1962 series Ichabod and Me.[2]

In 1961, Shaw was cast as Cora in the episode "Uncle Paul's New Wife" of Pete and Gladys, starring Harry Morgan and Cara Williams. In that installment, Uncle Paul is played by Gale Gordon, a semi-regular on the series.[2]

Shaw appears in a 1962 episode of the series Outlaws with Barton MacLane. She also plays a comic 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".[6] Thereafter, she guest starred in the CBS anthology series The Lloyd Bridges Show. She appears too as the bar hostess Tenney in the 1964 episode "The Richard Bloodgood Story" of the series Wagon Train. Shaw's character of Bertha/Hagatha, a matronly witch, is a recurring character on TV's Bewitched, and she performed as Miss Gormley in an episode of The Brian Keith Show.[2]

Shaw plays escaped convict Big Maude Tyler in "Convicts at Large", an episode of CBS's The Andy Griffith Show. She also appears in season four of the comedy series as Eleanora Poultice, the educated voice teacher of Barney Fife. She guest-stars as well as Aunt Clara in the 1965 episode "Return from Outer Space") of Lost in Space. In the 1966 feature film The Ghost and Mr. Chicken Shaw portrays the banker's wife and leader of the "Psychic Occult Society," Mrs. Halcyon Maxwell[2]

On television, she was seen on Mister Peepers, Armstrong Circle Theater, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Millionaire. She appeared on 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 That Girl as a department-store organist. In 1966, she appeared as Bessie, an undercover agent, in the episode of I Spy titled "Lisa".

Shaw co-stars on the sitcom The Ghost & Mrs. Muir where she played housekeeper Martha Grant. 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 titled "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 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 country nurse Ozella Peterson in the Emergency! episode "Snakebite". In 1974, on Happy Days, she played the babysitter Mrs. McCarthy in the episode titled "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do". Her final 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.[2]

Personal life and death

Shaw married only once, to actor William Forester. Before their divorce, they had one daughter, Kathryn Anne Forester.[5]

In 1982 Shaw died at age 69 from emphysema in Encino, California.[4][5] She was cremated and her remains interred in a niche in the Columbarium of Remembrance at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills Cemetery.


Year Title Role Notes
1955PicnicIrma Kronkite
1955All Mine to GiveMrs. Runyon
1957Man AfraidNurse Willis
1957The Pajama GameMabel
1958The Lady Takes a FlyerNurse Kennedy
1960PollyannaTillie Lagerlof
1961SanctuaryMiss Reba
1961Bachelor in ParadiseMrs. Brown
1964A Global AffairNurse Argyle
1964Mary PoppinsMrs. Brill, The Domestic
1965That Funny FeelingWoman at Phone Booth
1965Marriage on the RocksSaleslady at SaksUncredited
1965The Loved OneManager of The Zomba Cafe
1966The Ghost and Mr. ChickenMrs. Halcyon Maxwell
1966Made in ParisAmerican Bar Singer
1975Escape to Witch MountainMrs. Grindley(final film role)


  1. Galbraith, Jane. "TV Servant Had Proper Spirit for Part". Los Angeles, California: The Los Angeles Times, January 18, 1982, p.22.
  2. Reta Shaw on IMDb
  3. "Marguerite Shaw, 66; Actress and Educator". The New York Times. October 2, 1983. Retrieved April 1, 2018.
  4. Galbraith, "TV Servant Had Proper Spirit for the Part", The Los Angeles Times.
  5. "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.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.