Goulding was a boy actor who appeared in Alice in Wonderland and The Picture of Dorian Gray (16, Fred Durrant). After war service, he went to America and, with Edgar Selwyn, wrote the play Dancing Mothers. That led him to write for the movies, with Inspiration, Tiffany, and Fox: Dangerous Toys (21, Samuel Bradley); The Man of Stone (21, George Archainbaud); ToVable David (21, Henry King); Broadway Rose (22, Robert Z. Leonard); Fascination (22, Leonard); The Seventh Day (22, King); Till We Meet Again (22, Christy Cabanne), which Goulding later remade; Dark Secrets (23, Victor Fleming); Fury (23, King), which Goulding also turned into a book; Tiger Rose (23, Sidney Franklin); Dante’s Inferno (24, Henry Otto); and Havoc (25. Rowland V. Lee). His writing credits also include Broadway Melody (29, Harry Beaumont) and many of his own earlv films. He acted again in Three Live Ghosts (22, George Fitzmaurice).
As a director, Goulding was an expert handler of actresses in expert romantic melodrama, a man rooted in 1930s cinema who was ill at ease after the Second World War. His best-known film, Grand Hotel, is not his best, and it seems likely that on so prestigious a movie his control w'as reduced by executives and the stars themselves. Contrary to legend, Joan Crawford is the best thing in that film, and it is worth noting that Goulding had directed her in one of her first important roles: Sally, Irene and Mary. Goulding was at his best in four extravagant Bette Davis films: That Certain Woman, Dark Victory, The Old Maid, and The Great Lie. The latter also contains an acid performance from Mary Astor. He made excellent, if conventional, use of Joan Fontaine and Charles Boyer in The Constant Nymph; of Tyrone Powder, Gene Tierney, and Anne Baxter in The Razor’s Edge; and of Dorothy McGuire in Claudia.
Despite a reputation that had been won with actresses, immediately after the war Goulding made two films around unbeguiling actors: Mister 880, a weird mixture of Fox’s postwar realism and grass-root sentimentality, with Edmund Gwenn so benign one could wring his neck; and Nightmare Alley, a bleak study of breakdow n that struggled to make Tyrone Power af fecting.