Before moving to films, Goulding was an actor/playwright/director on the London stage. Goulding is best remembered for directing cultured dramas and such as 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.
However, he also directed the classic film noir Nightmare Alley (1947) with Tyrone Power and Joan Blondell. He was also a successful songwriter, composer, and producer. Goulding was married to British dancer Marjorie Moss from 1931 until her death in 1935.
A 2004 biography of Goulding, Edmund Goulding's Dark Victory by Matthew Kennedy says that it was widely known in Hollywood that Goulding was bisexual, and hosted wild parties for all persuasions.
He died during surgery at Cedars of Lebanon Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.