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4.5 out of 5 stars
The Moon's a Balloon
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79 of 82 people found the following review helpful
Are you looking for an excellent read which will make you or someone in your life laugh? Then look no further. The Moon's a Balloon (and "Bring on the Empty Horses!") are two of the funniest and most satisfying books I have ever read.

David Niven was not always a star. He had to go away and learn his trade in "B" movies before being allowed to enter the big time. He learnt that trade so well he eventually won an Oscar. Unlike some who were destined to become greats of Hollywood, he also put his entire acting career on hold whilst he served as an officer in a fighting unit throughout WW2. This book tells the first half of his life's story and what a story it is. Like every biography ever written, the best bits are not found at the beginning, so some readers, therefore, might find it slow going at first - though most will not. Then we meet the rich and famous stars of Hollywood from another era and learn a little about each of these people and their various relationships as we move from one to another and sometimes back again.

Written in David Niven's own hilarious style, there is so much humour here that you "will" find yourself insisting others read this book. In fact, it is so funny - especially his descriptions of the wrong use of English words by foreign movie directors, one finishes the book in the knowledge that had David Niven not become an Oscar-winning movie star, he would easily have achieved great success as a writer.

Refreshingly, Niven writes about his fellow personalities from that golden age of the Hollywood of yester-year with charming frankness. Where others might expose drunkenness or sordid behaviour, Niven simply makes us laugh and, in so doing you really do get the feeling that those of whom he speaks would approve.

The underlying theme, of course, is David Niven's life and, as one reviewer has said elsewhere, this book leaves you wishing you had met this man. Me too.

NM
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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on 5 July 2000
If, as a novelist, you set out to create a fictional character who is sublimely witty and supremely charismatic but who has a lively capability to disregard "acceptable behaviour" then the end product would surely mimic Niven.
Niven's anecdotes and recollection of experiences from early childhood through his schooling and military career had me enthralled and laughing out loud on more than a few occasions. Recalling his Hollywood years in the company of a "Who's Who" of the Silver Screen enlightens the reader perhaps too young to have followed his career at the time.
There is no doubt Niven lived his life to the full. Equally, be in no doubt that he has the skill and humour to write of his experiences and to keep the reader absorbed and cheered.
How I wish I had met David Niven. An aristocrtic "Diamond Geezer" of the highest order!
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 9 February 2000
I found this book hard to put down. This book gives an honest account of a most extraordinary man and his life from childhood to the height of his hollywood career. His meetings with Women of the night and some of the worlds most important political figures. A story of love, hate, tragedy and ill health.One of those "must read" books
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Are you looking for an excellent read which will make you or someone in your life laugh? Then look no further. The Moon's a Balloon (and "Bring on the Empty Horses!") are two of the funniest and most satisfying books I have ever read.

David Niven was not always a star. He had to go away and learn his trade in "B" movies before being allowed to enter the big time. He learnt that trade so well he eventually won an Oscar. Unlike some who were destined to become greats of Hollywood, he also put his entire acting career on hold whilst he served as an officer in a fighting unit throughout WW2. This book tells the first half of his life's story and what a story it is. Like every biography ever written, the best bits are not found at the beginning, so some readers, therefore, might find it slow going at first - though most will not. Then we meet the rich and famous stars of Hollywood from another era and learn a little about each of these people and their various relationships as we move from one to another and sometimes back again.

Written in David Niven's own hilarious style, there is so much humour here that you "will" find yourself insisting others read this book. In fact, it is so funny - especially his descriptions of the wrong use of English words by foreign movie directors, one finishes the book in the knowledge that had David Niven not become an Oscar-winning movie star, he would easily have achieved great success as a writer.

Refreshingly, Niven writes about his fellow personalities from that golden age of the Hollywood of yester-year with charming frankness. Where others might expose drunkenness or sordid behaviour, Niven simply makes us laugh and, in so doing you really do get the feeling that those of whom he speaks would approve.

The underlying theme, of course, is David Niven's life and, as one reviewer has said elsewhere, this book leaves you wishing you had met this man. Me too.

NM
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 8 February 2007
I picked this up to read on the train when I first started work and was the first biography I read. That was over fifteen years ago and I still remember much of this book. David Niven takes you through the highs and lows of his life. You are taken on a journey from the early twentieth century through his school years to Hollywood, back home to serve his country in the second world war, to the changing times of the sixties. There are real highs and a devastating blow that you would not want to experience in your own life. This book covers a span of time and experience that current biographies (Jade/Chantelle etc etc) cannot match as none of these chancers have experienced anything yet!
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 5 December 2000
Hugely enjoyable, funny, moving and painfully honest.
Probably the finest autobiography I have read. A must read. Would make an excellent present for almost anyone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 June 2012
I absolutely love this book.
I read it thirty years ago when my children were little and I wanted a good laugh.
I loved David Niven and he was renounded for his sense of humour.
It felt like he was doing a lot of name dropping(which he was) but who cares I dont doubt that he did meet so many famous people and rubbed shoulders with politicians.
The book harks back to a time when anything was possible,i.e. going off to Hollywood with hardly any money and getting in to acting by chance.
The begging of the book was about his very sad childhood when as a privilidged child he was sent off to boarding school,you could feel how lonely he must have been.He showed his sense of fun from the begging and it made me laugh out loud.
I will keep this book to read over and over again.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 17 February 2011
This, as widely described, is a very engaging, very human biography. The book is fully reviewed elsewhere. This is a review of the Kindle version, and how disappointing that the publishers are prepared to put forward an edition for which they would be disowned by their mothers, had it been published on paper. The proof reading is terrible, inexcusable. Footnotes appear at the end of each chapter but you cannot flick to them and back to text. It's very sloppy. I'm not saying don't read it - please do, it's great, but buy the paperback (cheaper, of course, because of VAT), or be prepared to be very, very tolerant. I find reading a Kindle very easy and enjoyable, but I resent paying top wack for sloppiness. I feel insulted.
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on 17 January 2015
This book has been described (deservedly so) as one of the greatest celebrity autobiographies ever written. To me David Niven was just an old time actor I hadn't even seen any of his films, but it seems clear that his life story itself is far more entertaining than anything he's acted in.
Some say that some of the stories may have been embellished but there's no doubt that 'Niv' has led a full and varied life with more than his fair share of good fortune (but also a few rather cruel twists of fate).
From a harsh childhood losing his father aged 5 in the great war then brought up in strictly disciplined boarding schools he enrolled in the navy looking for a chance to change his prospects and travelled the world eventually ending up in Hollywood on the advice of an acquaintance and becoming as an extra. After making his way into the movies with the help of influential friends and a bit of good luck he found his first degree of success, only for the Second World War to disrupt his burgeoning career. After making his return to the England to serve in the army, when the war ended he was able to return to Hollywood and resume his position as a big studio actor and eventually go on to have 113 acting credits over 4 decades and win an Oscar.

The real story of his life however, seems to be how he has been able to endear himself to everyone he met. Like a real life Forrest Gump his story is full of encounters with the great and the powerful. Iconic movie legends, Royalty, powerful businessmen and even world leaders all seemed to be part of his journey and all of them seemed to take to him to such a degree that they were willing to go out of their way to help him out in any way they could.
With all this in his background Niv became regarded by many as the master of the witty anecdote and this tale of a life lived to the full has plenty of namedropping stories that put most 'celebrity' autobiographies to shame.
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on 27 January 2014
We live in an age where every Z list celeb writes a ghastly memoir of trite balderdash and calls it an autobiography. Step back a generation and open this book for instant medicine for tired senses. I read this book nearly forty years ago and it had me in convulsions of laughter. Niven is a master story teller, an absolute genius, and he is a splendid writer too, filling every page, it seems, with a new hilarious memory. He mocks himself too, which is always a good sign, and while there are elements of tragedy, which must have been unendurably painful for him, he keeps that private and doesn't descend into bathos or self pity. Rereading the book, with an older, wiser, more cynical pair of eyes, I found myself delighted to reacquaint myself with Niven's madcap life. The story had lost nothing over the intervening decades, and I laughed joyously at so much of it. The story of the Fire Engine at Dover Castle may be just about the summit of hilarity for me, but it is hard to choose a favourite piece: there are just so many. I rather wish that BBC TV could make a series of some of the stories. Anyway, for those who have never read this book, do so. Don't do it near the fire, open windows, stairwells, sharp objects etc etc as you will be convulsed with laughter and may hurt yourself. Brilliant
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