Born in Great Falls, Montana, Stoddard moved from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles, California with her family at age 8. She graduated from L.A. High in 1930, married, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Southern California in 1934 with a Bachelor of Science degree in speech, while appearing in leading roles with the National Collegiate Players.
In 1938 Stoddard married Jack Kirkland with whom she had two children. The couple divorced in 1947 and in the following year Stoddard married director-producer Harold Bromley with whom she had one child. After divorcing Bromley in 1954, Stoddard married actor-producer Whitfield Connor in 1956 with whom she remained married for thirty-two years until his death in 1988.
Stoddard's first professional stage appearance was in San Francisco as a walk-on/under-study in the 1934 California production of Merrily We Roll Along, succeeding to the ingenue's leading role for opening night in Los Angeles. She appeared for 65 weeks in 1935-36 as the mute Pearl in the national touring company of Jack Kirkland's Tobacco Road.
Stoddard arrived on Broadway in 1937, succeeding Peggy Conklin in the title role of Yes, My Darling Daughter. She subsequently starred in A Woman's a Fool – To Be Clever, I Know What I Like and Kindred[disambiguation needed] (1939), Susannah and the Elders (1940), Mr. and Mrs. North (1941), The Rivals (1942), The Moon Vine and Blithe Spirit (1943),Dream Girl (1945), and The Voice of the Turtle (1947). Her co-stars included Clifton Webb, Louis Calhern, Walter Slezak, Peggy Wood, Bobby Clark, Monty Woolly, and Edgar Everett Horton.
During World War II she toured the South Pacific as Lorraine Sheldon in a 1945 USO production of The Man Who Came to Dinner with a cast including director Moss Hart, as Sheridan Whiteside, and Tyrone Power, Dina Merrill, Dora Sayers, Paula Trueman, Nedda Harrigan, and Janet Fox.
She drafted a cookbook entitled Applause and produced a short-lived play called Dead Pigeon. In the late 1960s she opened Carriage House Comestibles, a popular gourmet restaurant off the Boston Post Road in Westport, Connecticut.
She starred in Joan of Lorraine, The Trial of Mary Dugan, and The Voice of the Turtle (1947), Rip Van Winkle (1947-’48), Doctor Social, Goodbye My Fancy, and Her Cardboard Lover (1949), Affairs of State (1950), Springtime for Henry (1951), Twentieth Century, Glad Tidings, and Biography (1952), ten summer stock productions at Denver's Elitch Gardens Theatre and The Frogs of Spring, a revival which she co-produced with husband Harald Bromley on Broadway (1953). She took over the leading role on opening night when illness struck Constance Ford in her own Broadway production of One Eye Closed, took over for Mary Anderson in Lunatics and Lovers in 1954, and directed the national touring production. She played in Ever Since Paradise (1957), Patate (1958), and Dark Corners" (1964).
Stoddard and Jack Kirkland were original share-holders in the creation of the Bucks County Playhouse in 1938; she appeared there in a total of sixteen productions from 1939 to 1958, including The Philadelphia Story, Petticoat Fever, Our Betters, Skylark, The Play's the Thing, Golden Boy, Mr. and Mrs. North, and Biography. During five seasons, she was the Playhouse's leading lady to leading men Walter Slezak and Louis Calhern. She produced her husband's plays The Clover Ring and Georgia Boy in Boston, and The Secret Room on Broadway, all in 1945.
On television Stoddard played the malevolent Aunt Pauline from 1953 to 1971 on CBS-TV's The Secret Storm. In the early days of live dramatic television during the 1950s Stoddard appeared in over 100 teleplays in principal roles on CBS's Playhouse 90, Studio One, The Web, The United States Steel Hour, Hallmark Hall of Fame and The Prudential Family Playhouse; and on NBC's Goodyear Playhouse, Kraft Theatre, The Philco Television Playhouse, The Armstrong Circle Theatre and Robert Montgomery Presents. On radio she played the Little Sister with Orson Welles on Big Sister on CBS. In 1937-39 she simultaneously played Stella Dallas and three other day-time radio serials, then calledwashboard weepers, while appearing on stage in three different plays. Her radio co-stars included Agnes Moorehead, Garson Kanin, and Clark Andrews.
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." 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 Bonfils, the owner and publisher of theDenver Post, played character parts in the summer stock company. Her original cast included Tom Ewell, Alice Ghostley, Paul Ford, Peggy Cass, John McGiver, and the Don Elliott Jazz Quartet, and was directed by Burgess Meredith. A later production, at the Central City Opera House, featured Thurber himself, then blind, as narrator.
Combining her name with Bonfils as Bonard Productions, and associating with her New York theatrical attorney Donald Seawell, she brought to Broadway productions of Noël 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.
Stoddard often had to handle tensions between her conservative producing partner Bonfils and flamboyant figures in entertainment, including Noël Coward. In 1962, Stoddard askedAndy Warhol to design costumes for Thurber's The Beast in Me, after learning of Warhol through choreographer John Butler.
With Bonfils and Davis, Stoddard produced her co-adaptation, with dancer-actress Tamara Geva, of Marcel Achard's Voulez vous jouer avec moi? as Come Play with Me starringTom Poston and Liliane Montevecchi in 1960, and with Mark Wright and Leonard S. Field premiered Harold Pinter on Broadway in 1967 with The Birthday Party. She later offered Off-Broadway productions of Coward's Private Lives (1968), co-producing with Mark Wright and Duane Wilder; Lanford Wilson's Lemon Sky (1970) and The Gingham Dog (1971), and The Last Sweet Days of Isaac a musical by Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford (1970) which won three Obie awards. With Neal Du Brock she produced The Survival of St. Joan(1971); and, with Arnold H. Levy, Lady Audley's Secret (1972) and Love, based on the play by Murray Schisgal, starring Nathan Lane (1984 Outer Critics Circle Award).
Pursuing her interest in young playwrights, she produced off-Broadway productions of Glass House (1981), Casey Kurtii's Catholic School Girls (1982 Drama Desk Award), Sweet Prince (1982), Marvelous Gray (1982), and John Olive's Clara's Play (1983).
Bonard also presented the RSC productions of King Lear and Comedy of Errors to open the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center in May, 1964, and her London productions of A Thurber Carnival (1962) and Sail Away (1963) played the Savoy Theatre in London's West End.
Her dramatic adaptations of Thurber material include Life on a Limb, and Men, Women, and Less Alarming Creatures, produced with The Last Flower on Boston WGBH-TV public television in 1965. In A Round with Ring she adapted Ring Lardner works which she directed in New York for the ANTA matinee series. She also directed the national touring production of Lunatics and Lovers, and she wrote original scripts entitled Abandoned Child and Bird on the Wing, and co-wrote Dahling – A Tallulah Bankhead Musical with composer-lyricist Jack Lawrence.
Stoddard also served as understudy to Bea Lillie, Greer Garson, Betty Field, Rosalind Russell, Uta Hagen, Mercedes McCambridge, and Jessica Tandy. As Rosalind Russell's stand-by, she never played the part of Auntie Mame on Broadway in 1956. Russell, when feeling infirm, would request that Stoddard sit in the wings where she could see her: "So long as I can see you", she said, "I will never let you get on that stage." Russell never relinquished, and once played with a 105 fever. Stoddard got her chance when Russell's replacement, Greer Garson, was indisposed after her first performance in the demanding part.
She replaced Elaine Stritch as the matinee Martha for in the original 1962 Broadway production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, playing the part each Wednesday and Saturday afternoon, and standing by in her dressing room each evening until the curtain rose for the second act with Uta Hagen safely in command on stage.
When Hagen left the Broadway production to open the show in London, Stoddard performed the role of Martha an unprecedented eight times a week until Mercedes McCambridge was ready to replace Hagen for the evening performances. She played with separate casts, opposite different actors. "After that stint, there was nothing more I could do on stage as an actress, so I turned to my greater fondness for writing, adapting, and producing." Meanwhile, she continued to stand by for Jessica Tandy in Edward Albee plays produced on Broadway by Duane Wilder and Clinton Barr.
Following the death of Helen Bonfils in 1972, she incorporated with The Elitch Theatre Company, which produced 25 summer seasons in America's Oldest Summer Theatre in Denver, Colorado between 1962 and 1987. She simultaneously associated with Lucille Lortel to produce summer seasons at the White Barn Theatre in Westport, Connecticut, was on the Board of Directors of New Dramatists in New York City, and a Founding Member of the Westport (CT) Theatre Artists Workshop.
Stoddard died at her home in Weston, Connecticut from cardiopulmonary arrest at age 97.