Reta Shaw as Martha Grant in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir {image via 20th Century Fox}

Reta Shaw was an American actress who was best known for playing tough-minded, soft-hearted domestic servants. She was the cook in Disney’s award-winning film Mary Poppins(1964). She played housekeeper Martha Grant in the TV series The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Shaw was born September 13, 1912, so Tuesday, September 13, 2022, would have been her 110th birthday. She died January 8, 1982 at the age of 69. Like Lorne Greene (the original Commander Adama on BSG), she went white early and looked older than she was.

Heermione Baddelry as Ellen and Reta Shaw as Mrs. Brill in Mary Poppins {image via Disney}

Reta Shaw in Fantasy and Science Fiction Roles

Reta Shaw’s fantasy and science fiction work included two Disney movies, as well as the TV adaption of R.A. Dick’s novel The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. She played the cook, Mrs. Bill in Mary Poppins (1964). Shaw played orphanage director Mrs. Grindley in Escape to Witch Mountain (1975). Shaw appeared in the classic Don Knotts comedy The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966) as Mrs. Maxwell. On the almost forgotten 1950s scifi RV show Johnny Jupiter, Shaw had a recurring role as Mrs. Clandish. She appeared on Bewitched as Aunt Hagatha, a relative of Samantha’s who occasionally babysat Tabitha. She also played Bertha on Bewitched. She had two guest roles on I Dream of Jeannie and one on Lost in Space

Reta Shaw on Broadway

Before she became typecast as a maid or housekeeper, Reta Shaw appeared on Broadway. She made her Broadway debut in 1947 in It Takes Two. She created the role of Mabel in the Broadway debut of The Pajama Game and reprised the role in the 1957 film. She appeared in Picnic, Annie Get Your Gun, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on stage.

Other movies

In a forty year career as an actress, Reta Shaw appeared on television or in the movies 87 times, in addition to her many stage performances. In the ’60s sitcom Ichabod and Me, she played a housekeeper. She played a housekeeper in The Tab Hunter Show. She played a housekeeper on an episode of My Three Sons. Her best known TV role was as the housekeeper in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Her movies include Picnic (1955), where she played the same role she had on Broadway, Irma Kronkite, Meet Me in St. Louis (1959), where she played Katey the maid, Tillie in Disney’s Pollyanna (1960), Aunt Polly’s cook. Her final film role was in Disney’s Escape to Witch Mountain (1975).

Nancy Olson as Nancy Furman and Reta Shaw as Tillie Lagerlof in Pollyanna {image via Disney}

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