Gloria Holden: The Dame Who Did “Dracula’s Daughter”

Some brief approving words for Glora Holden (1903-1991). With a little more than three dozen screen parts over nearly a quarter century, she wasn’t the most prolific actress in the world, and her genuinely large parts were fewer still than that. But as the star of the horror classic Dracula’s Daughter (1936) she may be called a Godmother of Goth, and she had enough other significant roles to rate a mention.

Born and London and raised in the Philadelphia Main Line, Holden studied singing in her youth and later attended the American Acadamy of Dramatic Arts before acting with the stock companies and with regional tours in the 1920s and early ’30s. A bit part in The Return of Chandu (1934) starring Bela Lugosi seems prescient in light of her best known role. She was 12th billed in Wife vs. Secretary (1936) with Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, and Myrna Loy. And then, in only her third film Dracula’s Daughter, she STARRED. A rare chance, but she possessed the right combination of icy, spooky hauteur and beauty for the vampiric role.

Unfortunately, it not lead to a starring career. She had a good supporting role in her next film The Life of Emile Zola (1937) with Paul Muni, but after this she rapidly returned to the status she had ascended from (12th billed roles as in Wife vs. Secretary). Other well known pictures she appeared in included Test Pilot (1938), Tod Browning’s Miracles for Sale (1939), Dodge City (1939), The Corsican Brothers (1941), Miss Annie Rooney (1942) with Shirley Temple, Hit the Hay (1945) with Judy Canova, Undercover Maisie (1947), Has Anybody Seen My Gal? (1953) and — hilariously The Eddie Duchin Story (1956) in the role of Mrs. Duchin. By the time of her last film, Auntie Mame (1957) she had slipped back to her original Chandu status as a crowd extra. During the 1930s and ’40s her voice was also heard regularly heard on radio, on shows like Dr. Christian, Lux Radio Theatre, and Eddie Cantor’s show.

But Holden had a legacy greater perhaps than all this. From 1932 through 1937, she had been married to talent agent Harold Winston, who handled a young unknown actor named William Beedle, who became better known to audiences as…William Holden.