Saturday, September 13, 2014

Remembering Reta

If you don't recognize her face, I have to question whether you watched much classic TV. Reta Shaw, born on this date in 1912, is one of those consummate character actresses who seemed to turn up in almost every show at one time or another. Here are two of her guest appearances that immediately come to mind:

Above, on the first-season Lost in Space episode "Return from Outer Space" (originally aired December 29, 1965), she was kindly Clara Simms, who took in young space traveler Will Robinson when he unexpectedly landed back on Earth. On I Dream of Jeannie's "Jeannie and the Wild Pipchicks" (September 23, 1968), pictured below, she was stuffy military officer Colonel Finch, who proved surprisingly willing to shed her inhibitions after a taste of some magical candy.
She may be best known for her two-year run as housekeeper Martha Grant on the 1968-70 sitcom The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. When I was researching Lost Laughs of '50s and '60s Television, I had the chance to see her as another sitcom domestic, in the short-lived CBS comedy Ichabod and Me.

For Shaw, who once thought she wanted to have a career as a missionary, her acting work gave her -- and viewers -- a different kind of satisfaction. "People love to laugh," she said in a 1968 interview. "They love to be entertained. If I can bring a laugh, or please someone, I have accomplished something. It's different from feeding souls in one way, but it's feeding them in another way."

Though Reta Shaw passed away in 1982, she left behind a gallery of wonderful performances, and this blog entry has only scratched the surface. Suffice it to say she accomplished her goal of entertaining people more than she may ever have realized.

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