Haila Stoddard

Performer, Producer, Writer

Female

Born: November 14, 1913
Great Falls, Montana

Died: February 21, 2011
Weston, Connecticut

Obituary: Haila Stoddard, an unusual Broadway artist who transitioned from actress to producer during a lengthy theatre career, died at her home in Weston, CT. The cause was cardiopulmonary arrest. She was 97.

As an actress, Ms. Stoddard performed in a wide variety of Broadway plays in the 1930s and 1940s, including I Know What I Like, Kindred, Suzanna and the Elders, The Moon Vine and Springtime for Henry, none of which were particularly successful. She experienced greater success, however, when she began producing in the 1950s, bringing James Thurber's A Thurber Carnival and The Beast in Me, Noel Coward's Sail Away and Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party to Broadway. Her sole Tony Award nomination was as producer of the 1961 Coward musical.

Born Nov. 14, 1913, in Great Falls, Montana, to Canadian Mormons, her family moved to Los Angeles when she was eight, and she attended the University of Southern California. She began her career in 1934 in a California production of Kaufman and Hart's Merrily We Roll Along. The next two years, she toured with the popular hit Tobacco Road. The play was adapted for the stage by Jack Kirkland. He would become the second of her four husbands. Together, they had two children.

Perhaps her best known stage performance was as one of the Marthas that followed Uta Hagen in the original production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (She replace Elaine Stritch, who starred in Ms. Stoddard's Sail Away. Frequently, she understudied bigger stars such as Jessica Tandy, Rosalind Russell and Greer Garson. On television, where she acted in many live dramas in the early days of the medium, she gained notice as the villainess Aunt Pauline on the soap opera "The Secret Storm," from 1954 through the 1960s.

She was also one of the founders of the Bucks County Playhouse, once one of the primary summer stock theatres in the Northeast. There, she appeared in a total of 16 productions, including Biography and The Philadelphia Story, and reigned for several seasons as the playhouse's leading lady. A few plays that began there, and in which she starred, such as Springtime for Henry and Dead Pigeon, eventually played on Broadway.

Other Broadway producing efforts were The Affair, The Hollow Crown and The Beast in Me. Her final Broadway producing credit was Lanford Wilson's The Gingham Dog in 1969, but she continued to produce Off-Broadway, backing such works as Wilson's Lemon Sky in 1970, the award-winning Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford musical The Last Sweet Days of Isaac, and Murray Schisgal's Luv in 1984. Many of her productions featured future stars at the beginnings of their careers, including Chrisopher Walken, Charles Durning, F. Murray Abraham, Mary Alice, Nathan Lane and Brent Spiner

As a producer, she did not shy away from tough decisions. During the rehearsals of The Last Sweet Days of Isaac, she grew concerned that director Word Baker couldn't seem to make the quirky musical gel properly. Previews were troubled. Ms. Stoddard responded by ordering that the sets be removed immediately after opening. Once the reviews came out, and were raves, the sets stayed of course.

Three of her marriages ended in divorce. The fourth, to Whitfield Conner, ended with his death in 1988. She is survived by sons Christopher Kirkland, daughter Robin Kirkland MacDonald of Manhattan, stepdaughter, Erin Connor, seven grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

 

Roles

Playbill Cover - The Gingham Dog The Gingham Dog
Apr. 23, 1969 - Apr. 26, 1969
Producer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - The Birthday Party The Birthday Party
Oct. 3, 1967 - Jan. 20, 1968
Producer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - The Beast in Me The Beast in Me
May 14, 1963 - May 18, 1963
Conception
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Oct. 13, 1962 - May 16, 1964
Martha [at matinee performances]
Sep. 11, 1963
Performer
(Replacement)
 
Playbill Cover - A Thurber Carnival A Thurber Carnival
Feb. 26, 1960 - Nov. 26, 1960
Producer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Patate Patate
Oct. 28, 1958 - Nov. 1, 1958
Edith Rollo Performer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Lunatics and Lovers Lunatics and Lovers
Dec. 13, 1954 - Oct. 1, 1955
Marian Harrison Performer
(Replacement)
 
One Eye Closed
Nov. 24, 1954 - Nov. 25, 1954
Producer
(Original)
 
    Denia Cameron Performer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Dead Pigeon Dead Pigeon
Dec. 23, 1953 - Jan. 9, 1954
Producer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - The Frogs of Spring The Frogs of Spring
Oct. 21, 1953 - Oct. 31, 1953
Kay Allen Performer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Glad Tidings Glad Tidings
Oct. 11, 1951 - Jan. 5, 1952
Ethel Nash Performer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Springtime for Henry Springtime for Henry
Mar. 14, 1951 - Apr. 28, 1951
Mrs. Jelliwell Performer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Doctor Social Doctor Social
Feb. 11, 1948 - Feb. 14, 1948
Lee Manning Performer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - The Secret Room The Secret Room
Nov. 7, 1945 - Nov. 24, 1945
Produced In Association With
(Original)
 
Blithe Spirit
Sep. 6, 1943 - Oct. 2, 1943
Elvira Performer
(Original)
 
The Moon Vine
Feb. 11, 1943 - Feb. 27, 1943
Mariah Meade Performer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - The Rivals The Rivals
Jan. 14, 1942 - Feb. 28, 1942
Lydia Lanquish Performer
(Original)
 
Suzanna and the Elders
Oct. 29, 1940 - Nov. 23, 1940
Sister Suzanna Leeds Performer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Kindred Kindred
Dec. 26, 1939 - Jan. 6, 1940
Agnes Keefe Performer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - I Know What I Like I Know What I Like
Nov. 24, 1939 - Dec. 2, 1939
Rita Performer
(Original)
 
A Woman's a Fool - to Be Clever
Oct. 18, 1938 - Oct. 22, 1938
Nina Suffeva Performer
(Original)
 
 

Awards


Tony Award

Year Category Production Winner/Nominee
1962 Producer of a Musical Sail Away Nominee
 
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