Forest Lawn Memorial-Parks & Mortuaries, 1712 S Glendale Ave, Glendale, CA 91205, Stati Uniti
Edmund Goulding (20 March 1891 – 24 December 1959) was a British film writer and director. "His name evokes a vision of sex without sin," recalled Louise Brooks, "which paralyzes the guilty mind of Hollywood." The freedom of those days, the license, George Cukor would simply sigh and smile enigmatically when someone would mention Edmund Goulding's name. "La Belle Epoque," he'd whisper, and close his eyes.
Edmund Goulding was born in Feltham, southwest of London, on March 20, 1891, to "humble" parents, the fancifully named Goalding Goulding and Charlotte Hartshorn. Father disappears from the record fairly early, but Mother, a theatre devotee, had Eddie singing in London music halls by the time he was nine. Singing led to acting, and soon he was playing the Walrus in "Alice in Wonderland" and the Crier in Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree's "Henry VIII."
The night Britain declared war on Germany in 1914, he wrote a one-act play, "God Save the King," which he cast the next afternoon and presented the following Monday at the Palladium Theater, all before marching off himself. He was twice wounded in action in France before being honorably discharged in 1915.
He crossed the pond soon after, departing from Liverpool on May 29, 1915, and arriving in New York on June 7. Once settled, he began performing in English grand opera at the Winter Garden. After a brief reenlistment in the war in September 1917, Goulding took a sideline job as a cutter at Selznick's New York Studios, making $40 a week. He kept churning out scenarios, selling them at $1.000 a pop. The Perfect Lover and Sealed Hearts both starred Eugene O'Brien, with whom Goulding also shared "something sympathique". They became close friends.
by Arnold Genthe
His friend Elsie Janis, the popular Broadway and vaudeville star, gave him a job writing her first Selznick picture, A Regular Girl (1919). Janis would remain a big booster, writing about the "something sympathique" between her and Goulding. Janis, according to some historians, was gay herself.
Goulding wrote Madonnas and Men for yet another New York-based gay actor, Edmund Lowe, in 1920. James Young, one of the industry's top directors, came to New York from Hollywood with the express purpose of securing Goulding to adapt "The Devil" for George Arliss. This led to Tol'able David, directed by Henry King and starring Richard Barthelmess, which became one of the major hits of 1921. Goulding told the story, over and over, of dining with Hergesheimer while he was adapting Tol'able David. The author, full of himself, disparaged the movies and belittled the talent of movie writers. "I got so mad," Goulding would recall, "I went home that night and wrote two chapters of a novel on hotel stationery." The novel, Fury, a seafaring adventure, took him six weeks to write. It was published by Dodd-Mead in 1922 and became a runaway bestseller, with nine printings. He later adapted it to the screen in a project that reunited Barthelmess as star and King as director.
As an actor early in his career he was one of the 'Ghosts' in the 1922 British made Paramount silent Three Live Ghosts alongside Norman Kerry and Cyril Chadwick. Also in the early 1920s he wrote several screenplays for star Mae Murray for films (Peacock Alley, Broadway Rose, and Jazzmania) directed by her then husband Robert Z. Leonard. By early 1923 Goulding was "one of the best known scenarists in the industry," and in March moved out to Hollywood as a contract writer for Warner Bros.
With Edgar Selwyn, Goulding'd written a play, "Dancing Mothers," which became a long-running Broadway hit in 1924-25. Signing up with the Tiffany of movie studios, MGM, Goulding announced he wanted to direct. Sally, Irene and Mary (1925), which he also scripted, is the tale of three showgirls and their fates. Mary (Sally O'Neill) is the film's heroine, who puts aside all the sordidness of the stage to settle down with an upstanding plumber, played by William Haines. "Bill Haines always had fond memories of that picture," said longtime Haines friend Robert Shaw. "It fit his sensibility, something he shared with Goulding." The director took particular interest in Haines, who'd become a regular at Goulding's parties. By 1927, after smash hits in Brown of Harvard and Tell It to the Marines, he was MGM's biggest draw. In Brown of Harvard, he's clearly more passionate for Jack Pickford than Mary Brian; in Tell It to the Marines, he swishes a lot, and when asked if he's ever been married, he laughs uproariously, responding (via title card): "Who, me? I'm America's Sweetheart!"
Goulding is best remembered for directing cultured dramas such as Love (1927), Grand Hotel (1932) with Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford, Dark Victory (1939) with Bette Davis, and The Razor's Edge (1946) with Gene Tierney and Tyrone Power. He also directed the classic film noir Nightmare Alley (1947) with Tyrone Power and Joan Blondell, and the action drama The Dawn Patrol. He was also a successful songwriter, composer, and producer.
George Cukor had been in awe of Edmund Goulding since he first arrived in Hollywood in 1930, and the two retained an affection until Goulding's death in 1959.
It's not surprising that Goulding was an habitué of the Garden of Allah, Alla Nazimova's converted home-into-hotel that continued its tradition of soirees for the sophisticated crowd. It's not surprising that he became an intimate of Greta Garbo, of Noël Coward, of Cukor and William Haines and Cecil Beaton and Cole Porter and Louise Brooks. He was, like his friend George James Hopkins, a Renaissance man: screenwriter, director, composer, playwright, novelist.
"All for love he directed his sexual events with the same attention he gave the directing of films," Louise Brooks tantalized. "His clients might be the British aristocracy, bankers or corporate executives. His call girls might be waitresses or movie starts." Goulding served as "master of ceremonies," according to Frederica Sagor Maas, who, at age 99, remained as scandalized by his "seamy, lecherous world" as she had been in the 1920s. Goulding "initiated more women and men into more kinds of kinky sexual practices than one can possibly imagine," Maas said, using as bait the promise of a screen test or a bit part in a movie. Maas rebuffed his attempts to lure her in, but she didn't seem to mind the more vicarious thrill of serving as his "mother confessor, to ease his troubled coscience." According to Maas, Goulding claimed to be "an ardent Christian Scientist who read his Bible every morning when he got up." His preferences for males as such events was widely known; the women tended to be corraled by fellow director (and rake) Mickey Neilan. "Everyone from the grips to the executives knew what Goulding was up to," Maas said. "Sexual excesses were rampant everywhere but particularly at MGM. If anything went wrong, MGM managed to save itself from notoriety, all the while being permissive with dissolutes like Edmund Goulding." In the days before the Production Code clampdown, Goulding's entertainments were not only tolerated by the studio brass, but possibly even tacitly encouraged, with such studio heads as Hunt Stromberg rumored to take part. However, producer David Lewis, who was gay, would recall never having seen anything more than "heavy drinking" on Goulding's part.
His parties became legendary; a happy mix of men and women, straight and gay. There were stories of outrageous bisexual galas, one of which allegedly landed two women in the hospital and prompted Irving Thalberg to send Goulding to Europe until the furor died down. In London he apparently got into still further trouble, for studio lawyer Mabel Willebrandt had to write to the State Department in December 1932 inquiring into Goulding's detainment on "an immorality charge of some kind."
On November 28, 1931, Edmund Goulding married British dancer Marjorie Moss, much to Hollywood's shock. Moss was on old friend. The marriage came about after her diagnosis with tuberculosis; the doctors gave her less than three years to live. According to Louise Brooks, Goulding married Moss because she was depressed and poor, and he wanted her to live her last years comfortably, surrounded by friends. Indeed, two years later, they would be forced to deny reports that they had separated; they had never, in fact, lived together. Marjorie spent most of her time in Palm Springs, where she died (outliving predictions) in 1935. Goulding flew in to be with her, but arrived a few minutes after her death.
When the papers reported "the Edmund Gouldings" were entertaining the visiting Cecil Beaton, there was no winking suggestion of outrageous goings-on. In fact, directly after their wedding ceremony, the new Mr and Mrs Goulding obliged the press, "going out of their way to entertain the fourth estate... the reception looked like a mass meeting of newspaper people."
Father Daniel Lord wrote to Hays that merely seeing Edmund Goulding's No Man of Her Own (1932), which celebrated the free-loving worldview of a gambler played by Clark Gable, "was a sin."
In Blondie of the Follies (1932), Goulding inserted a "very funny routine" for the Rocky Twins, drag queens he'd seen at a gay bar in Venice Beach.
In Dark Victory (1939), Goulding gave the advice to Ronald Reagan to play his character, Davis' devoted pal Alec, as gay. But the straitlaced Reagan balked: "Mr Goulding want me to play my character as if he were the king of guy who wouldn't care of a young lady were undressing in front of him." Despite Reagan's discomfort, Alec can still be read as gay in the final film.
In The Razor's Edge (1946), based on W. Somerset Maugham's 1944 novel of the same name and starring Tyrone Power, Goulding encouraged the very gay Clifton Webb to play his character the same way.
In his personal life Edmund Goulding settled down, living with his mother and sister, less inclined toward the old bacchanalias of the 1930s. In 1956 he made an attempt to regain some currency, both writing (with his friend Charles Brackett) and directing a comeback vehicle for Ginger Rogers called Teenage Rebel.
He died during heart surgery at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles, California. He was buried at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
Interviewed about his Goulding biography Edmund Goulding's Dark Victory (2009), film historian Matthew Kennedy stated:
He not only directed many types of films, but he took on multiple functions on each set. Though he didn’t usually take credit, he co-wrote many scripts, composed incidental music, produced, even consulted on makeup, costumes, and hair styling. His one blind spot in production seems to be the camera...When shooting a scene, Eddie was intent on capturing performers at their best and most truthful, but he left the mechanics of filming to his cameramen...he seemed adept at just about everything — comedy (Everybody Does It, We’re Not Married!), ensemble dramas (Grand Hotel), family relations (White Banners, Claudia), war (The Dawn Patrol, We Are Not Alone), psychiatry (The Flame Within), show business (Blondie of the Follies), male-female relationships (The Devil's Holiday, Riptide), and even existentialism (The Razor's Edge) and the dark arts of spiritism (Nightmare Alley).
My published books:
BACK TO HOME PAGE