Nationality: British. Born: London, 20 March 1891. Career: Stage debut in London, 1903; writer, actor, and director, London theatre, until 1914; New York stage debut, 1915; served with British Army in France, 1915–18; returned to America, worked as writer, 1919; hired by MGM as director/scriptwriter, 1925. Died: In Los Angeles, 24 December 1959.
Films as Director:
Sun-up (+ sc); Sally, Irene and Mary (+ sc)
Paris (Shadows of Paris) (+ sc)
Women Love Diamonds (+ story); Love (Anna Karenina) (+ adapt, uncredited, pr, sc)
"Dream Girl" episode of Paramount on Parade (+ role); The Devil's Holiday (+ sc, music, song) [foreign language versions: Les Vacances du diable (Cavalcanti); La vacanza del diavolo (Salvatori); La fiesta del diablo (Millar); Sonntag des Lebens (Mittler); En kvinnas morgondag (Bergman)]
Reaching for the Moon (+ sc); The Night Angel (+ sc, song melodies)
Grand Hotel; Blondie of the Follies (+ co-lyrics, bit role as Follies director)
Riptide; Hollywood Party (co-d, uncredited)
The Flame Within (+ sc)
That Certain Woman (+ sc)
White Banners; The Dawn Patrol
Dark Victory (+ song); The Old Maid; We Are Not Alone
'Til We Meet Again
The Great Lie
one episode of Forever and a Day; The Constant Nymph; Claudia
Of Human Bondage; The Razor's Edge; The Shocking Miss Pilgrim (Seaton) (d several scenes while Seaton ill)
Everybody Does It
Mr. Eight Hundred Eighty
Down among the Sheltering Palms; We're Not Married
Teenage Rebel (+ music for song Dodie)
Henry VIII (Parker) (role)
The Life of a London Shopgirl (Raymond) (role)
Quest of Life (sc, co-play basis)
The Silent Partner (Neilan) (sc, story)
The Ordeal of Rosetta (Chautard) (sc, story)
The Perfect Love (Ralph Ince) (sc); The Glorious Lady (Irving) (sc, story); A Regular Girl (Young) (sc, co-story); Sealed Hearts (Ralph Ince) (sc, co-story); The Imp (Ellis) (sc, co-story)
A Daughter of Two Worlds (Young) (sc); The Sin That Was His (Henley) (sc); The Dangerous Paradise (Earle) (sc, story); The Devil (Young) (sc)
Dangerous Toys (Don't Leave Your Husband) (Bradley) (sc, story); The Man of Stone (Archainbaud) (sc, co-story); Tol'able David (King) (co-sc); Peacock Alley (Leonard) (sc)
The Seventh Day (King) (sc); Fascination (Leonard) (sc); Broadway Rose (Leonard) (sc); 'Til We Meet Again (Cabanne) (sc); Heroes of the Street (Beaudine) (co-sc); Fury (King) (sc; d erroneously attributed to Goulding in Library of Congress Copyright Catalogue); Three Little Ghosts (Fitzmaurice) (role)
Dark Secrets (Fleming) (sc); Jazzmania (Leonard) (sc); The Bright Shawl (Robertson) (sc); Bright Lights of Broadway (Bright Lights and Shadows) (Campbell) (sc); Tiger Rose (Franklin) (co-sc)
Dante's Inferno (Otto) (sc); The Man Who Came Back (Flynn) (sc); Gerald Cranston's Lady (Flynn) (sc)
The Dancers (Flynn) (sc); The Scarlet Honeymoon (Hale) (sc, story; some sources credit story to Fannie Davis); The Fool (Millarde) (sc); Havoc (Lee) (sc); The Beautiful City (Webb) (sc, story)
Dancing Mothers (Brenon) (co-play basis)
Happiness Ahead (Seiter) (story); A Lady of Chance (Leonard) (adapt)
The Broadway Melody (Beaumont) (story)
The Grand Parade (Newmeyer) (sc, pr, songs)
Flesh (Ford) (story); No Man of Her Own (Ruggles) (co-story)
Two Girls on Broadway (Choose Your Partner) (Simon) (remake of The Broadway Melody, 1929)
Flight from Folly (Mason) (story basis)
By GOULDING: book—
By GOULDING: article—
"The Razor's Edge," in Life (New York), 12 August 1946.
On GOULDING: articles—
Time (New York), 19 May 1947.
Obituary, in the New York Times, 25 December 1959.
Sarris, Andrew, "Likable but Elusive," in Film Culture (New York), Spring 1963.
Brooks, Louise, "Why I Will Never Write My Memoirs," in FilmCulture (New York), no. 67–69, 1979.
Walker, Michael, "Edmund Goulding," in Film Dope (London), April 1980.
Films and Filming (London), July 1983.
"Edmund Goulding: Love, Marriage, Infidelity," in National FilmTheatre Booklet (London), January 1984.
* * *
Our sense of Edmund Goulding is, of course, skewed by his frequently revived Grand Hotel and Dark Victory. These films are viewed today not as examples of the director's art, but rather as star acting vehicles, the second also being seen as a prototypical "woman's film." It is generally assumed that such films were primarily authored by the studio and the stars. Yet, without suggesting that Goulding had a visual signature as distinctive as von Sternberg's or a thematic/ideological one as coherent as Capra's, we must recognize the director's personality in the care of the stagings and in the vitality of the performances complemented by those stagings.
Grand Hotel seems, at first, a product of MGM's collective enterprise rather than Goulding's particular imagination. The sleekness of the writing, photography, and art direction are exemplary of the studio that defined cinematic luxury. The assembly of stars—Garbo, Crawford, Beery, John and Lionel Barrymore—in a "hotel" as grand as the studio itself would seem sufficient direction of the film. Yet we must give Goulding credit for the exceptionally involved choreography of faces, voices, and bodies in Grand Hotel when we look at the same stars in other movies of the period. The film's numerous two-shots are organized with a nuance that makes us as attentive to the shifting relationships between those starry faces as we are to the faces themselves. And we need only see Garbo as directed by Clarence Brown or George Fitzmaurice to appreciate the contribution of Edmund Goulding. He is exceptionally sensitive to the time it takes the actress to register thought through her mere act of presence.
That sensitivity is not diminished when Goulding directs Bette Davis, whose rhythm is totally dissimilar to Garbo's. In Dark Victory and The Old Maid the director presides over shots that permit us to perceive star and character simultaneously, a requisite of successful screen star performance. Goulding's strength is in characterization, in creating the kind of atmosphere in which actors explore the richest areas within themselves, and in creating the visual/aural contexts that put such exploration in relief for the viewer. This is certainly the case in The Constant Nymph. Its precious narrative conceit—a soulful adolescent girl (Joan Fontaine) inspires an excessively cerebral composer (Charles Boyer) to write music with emotion—both reflects the emotional qualities of Goulding's films and displays the actors at their most courageous.
For Goulding, the mature Joan Fontaine is able to sustain her impersonation of an impulsive, loving girl for the whole length of a film. And in Nightmare Alley, Tyrone Power is pushed to expose his own persona in the most unflattering light—the "handsome leading man" as charlatan. But that exposure, one of many in the films of Goulding, is also evidence of his affinity for the dilemma of the performing artist, vulnerable in the magnifying exposures of the cinematic medium and dependent on the director's empathy if that vulnerability is to become a meaningful cinematic sign.