Actress and Producer Haila Stoddard Dies at 97

Broadway producer and and actress Haila Stoddard passed away on February 21 in her Connecticut home. She was 97 years old.

Born in Great Falls, Montana, Stoddard moved to Los Angeles, California where she obtained a degree from the University of Southern California. In 1934 Stoddard made her first stage appearance at the Belasco, Los Angeles, in the play Merrily We Roll Along. During her career as an actress Stoddard appeared in a number of plays, movies, and television series including sixteen years as Pauline Rysdale in The Secret Storm.

Stoddard also worked as a producer, both independently and with her Production Company, Bonard Productions Incorporated, which Stoddard created with Helen Bonfils in 1960. In addition to adapting plays such as Come Play with Me and Men, Women, and Less Alarming Creatures, Stoddard also wrote plays such as A Round With Ring (1969) and Zellerman, Arthur (1979).

Stoddard was the first to bring the work of James Thurber and Harold Pinter to Broadway. New York Times Drama Critic Brooks Atkinson called her 1960 adaptation of A Thurber Carnival "the freshest and funniest show of the year". Her concept called for three upstage turntables for instant scene changes, and a jazz quartet moving across the sketches on a downstage conveyor belt.

Stoddard produced the Tony Award winning musical, her first production on Broadway, with Colorado heiress Helen Bonfils and Michael Davis. She had befriended Bonfils while appearing during the summer of 1953 as leading lady at Denver's Elitch Theater where Miss Bonfils, the owner and publisher of the Denver Post, played character parts in the summer stock company.

Combining her name with Bonfils as Bonard Productions, and associating with her New York theatrical attorney Donald Seawell, she brought to Broadway productions of Noel Coward's Sail Away (1962), The Affair by C.P. Snow (1962), her own adaptation of Thurber's The Beast In Me (1963), and the Royal Shakespeare Company's The Hollow Crown (1963), which went on to tour American colleges for four months in the spring of 1964. For Sail Away she was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Producer of a Musical. In association with Kathleen and Justin Sturm she presented That Hat!, her adaptation of An Italian Straw Hat", in 1964.

Some of her additional Broadway credits include: One Eye Closed, Dead Pigeon,The Frogs of Spring, Glad Tidings, Springtime for Henry, Doctor Social, The Secret Room, Blithe Spirit, and The Moon Vine. 

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