his Goldwyn contract ended in 1949, Niven marked time with inconsequential
movies before joining Dick Powell, Charles Boyer, and Ida Lupino to
form Four Star, a television production company. Niven was finally able
to choose strong dramatic roles for himself, becoming one of TV's first
and most prolific stars, although his public still preferred him as
a light comedian.
actor's film career also took an upswing in the '50s with starring performances
in the controversial 'The Moon Is Blue' (1953), a harmless concoction
which was denied a Production Code seal because the word "virgin"
was bandied about, and the mammoth 'Around the World in 80 Days' (1956),
in which Niven played his most famous role, erudite 19th century globetrotter
Phileas Fogg. When Laurence Olivier dropped out of the 1958 film ;Separate
Tables', Niven stepped in to play an elderly, disgraced British military
man. Although he was as flippant about the part as usual - telling an
gave me very good lines and then cut to Deborah Kerr while I was saying
he won an Oscar for this performance. This perhaps sums up David Niven
more than anything else you're likely to read.
continued his career as a high-priced, A-list actor well into the '60s.
He played the amiable comic thief Sir Charles Lytton in 'The Pink Panther'
(1963) and returned to television in the stylish "caper" series
'The Rogues' in 1964. He than played Sir James Bond in the 1967 version
of 'Casino Royale'.
revisited his hobby of writing in the early '70s; an earlier novel,
Round the Ragged Rocks, didn't sell very well, but gave him pleasure
while working on it. But two breezy autobiographies did better: The
Moon's a Balloon (1972) and Bring on the Empty Horse (1975). Working
alone, without help of a ghostwriter (as opposed to many celebrity authors),
Niven was able to entertainingly transfer his charm and wit to the printed
page (even if he seldom let the facts impede his storytelling).
the start of the 1980's he played a real military hero in Andrew V.
McLaglens 'The Sea Wolves' with Gregory Peck and Roger Moore. A very
unusual and enjoyable war time romp – the details of which will
be found elsewhere on the website.
1982, Niven discovered he was suffering from a neurological illness
commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, which would prove fatal within
a year. Courageously keeping up a front with his friends and the public,
Niven continued making media appearances, although he was obviously
deteriorating. While appearing in his last film, Curse of the Pink Panther
(1983), the actor's speech became so slurred due to his illness that
his lines were later dubbed by impressionist Rich Little.
all artificial life-support systems, Niven died in his Switzerland home
later that year. Niven was unsure of how worthwhile his life had been,
believing that perhaps he had not completed all that he wanted to achieve.
But perhaps the legacy of leaving behind countless friends and family
members who adored him should have been enough. In terms of a suitable
epitaph a lovely story springs to mind.
his death journalists were trying to "dig up dirt" following
the actor's death. They came back surprised and perhaps secretly pleased
that none of them could find anyone who would have a bad word to say
about David Niven.
‘Going to war was the only unselfish thing I have
ever done for humanity’
’I have a face that is a cross between two pounds
of halibut and an explosion in an old clothes closet’
‘I see my purpose in life as making the world
a happier place to be in’
'The moons a ballon' (1971)
Suggested films to see:
The Sea Wolves (1980)
Seperate Tables (1959)
Carrington VC (1955) TV
A Matter of life and death (1946)