Symona Boniface: Stodgy for the Stooges

Symona Boniface (1894-1950) was a bit player in films who enjoyed larger supporting parts in comedy shorts, in particular those of Three Stooges. She has been called the equivalent of the Stooges’ Margaret Dumont, as she is most frequently cast as a grand dame in their films, included expressly to have her dignity affronted by the comedy team.

The 1910 census suggests that she was the daughter of distinguished Broadway actor George C. Boniface, who’d been in the original American productions of The Black Crook and Trelawney of the “Wells”. She is not normally listed among his children; she was the product of a second marriage. Symona worked in stock theatre for many years as an actress, playwright and occasional producer.

Her first film was the silent Charley Chase short The Caretaker’s Daughter (1925). Nearly 150 credits followed. The comedy greats she supported included Chase, Laurel and Hardy, Our Gang, Clark and McCullough, Andy Clyde, Anita Garvin & Peanuts Byron, Thelma Todd & Zasu Pitts, Buster Keaton, Abbott and Costello, and most frequently (and prominently) The Three Stooges. Her last credit is for the Stooges comedy Scheming Schemers (1956) although her scenes in this film were composed of stock footage.

In addition to shorts, she also appeared in well-known features such as Show Girl (1928), The Black Cat (1934), The Count of Monte Cristo (1934), Broadway Bill (1934), The Last Days of Pompeii (1935), Ninotchka (1939), Woman of the Year (1942), Wilson (1944), Earl Carroll Sketchbook (1946), The Jolson Story (1946), The Beast with Five Fingers (1946), and Beware of Blondie (1950).

For more on classic comedy films, please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube