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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A new and more revealing book about Niven
This is the second major biography of David Niven and is much more revealing than the previous one by Sheridan Morley. Like the previous bio Graham Lord focuses perceptively on the contradiction between the public and private Niven - the witty, gregarious and carefree celebrity and the darker and often very painful private world carefully hidden from public view. Lord has...
Published on 27 Mar 2005

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Niv"
If you have enjoyed reading "The Moon's a Balloon" and "Bring on the Empty Horses" it's probably better to leave those good memories of David Niven's life at that. This book is a rather downbeat account of it all. Is that what you want? Cos that's what your'e gonna get!
Published on 25 Mar 2011 by Prof. Actualfactual


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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A new and more revealing book about Niven, 27 Mar 2005
By A Customer
This is the second major biography of David Niven and is much more revealing than the previous one by Sheridan Morley. Like the previous bio Graham Lord focuses perceptively on the contradiction between the public and private Niven - the witty, gregarious and carefree celebrity and the darker and often very painful private world carefully hidden from public view. Lord has the huge advantage of writing after the death of Niven's widow and where Morley could only hint at the marital traumas Lord can go into much more detail.
This bio is not necessarily an improvement over the previous one it just has certain advantages of more available information. Sometimes this leads to to much unnecessary detail for the reader to wade through but in general Lord has got the balance right between an examination of Nivens career and private life. At the end of the bio the reader is left with an impression of a brave and admirable man who never let his guard slip and kept his stiff-upper lip in often very difficult circumstances.
This bio is a largely well-researched and engrossing read which should appeal to fans of Niven and indeed anyone interest in the film world of yesteryear
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A first rate read., 26 Oct 2009
By 
A. R. Jacubs (Kent, England) - See all my reviews
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish. David Niven was I believe one of the great characters of both Hollywood and the British film industry. This book contains so much information about Niv and all the famous people he mixed with. It does not over glamourise him nor does it go to lengths to damage his image. It relies on a lot of comments and opinions of people who knew Niv well. This book also corrects a great deal of Viv's "over the top" claims for which he was famous. The latter part of Niv's life was was increasingly traumatic for him and his illness which culminates with his death all alone in Switzerland is covered in considerable detail by Graham Lord. His attention to detail and the extensive research that he must have carried out is to be congratulated. To all David Niven fans I would say - please read this book!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Niv", 25 Mar 2011
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If you have enjoyed reading "The Moon's a Balloon" and "Bring on the Empty Horses" it's probably better to leave those good memories of David Niven's life at that. This book is a rather downbeat account of it all. Is that what you want? Cos that's what your'e gonna get!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insight into a complex character, 11 Jun 2013
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David Niven was the quintessential Hollywood Englishman. He never became a U.S. citizen and always maintained his Anglo Saxon mannerisms and diction which were to become his trademark.

Graham Lord has written a good biography of "Niv" here and its certainly very entertaining. I can feel the heavy hand of David Niven Jr's influence in certain sections of the book which do read as if Mr Lord was given firm instruction as to what to write. Never the less, it's a thoroughly enjoyable romp through Hollywood's golden age when the doors to stardom were perhaps charmed open a little more easily and the silver screen was magically aloof. Niv's friendships with Errol Flynn, Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers etc make interesting reading and one cannot have anything but respect for his wartime service in WWII which saw him finish up as a Lt. Colonel with the Phantom squadron.

There is a often used quote that Niv's best ever role was "playing David Niven", which to some extent comes through in this book. His screen and public persona was largely a heavily romanticised version of his real self, which hid a lot of insecurity, tragedy and a loveless relationship with his second wife "Hjordis". Rita Hayworth put it very well when she said "Why is he married to the one woman in the world who cannot stand him?".

Niv was that heady mix of professional success and personal unhappiness. Perhaps he's always destined to be something of an enigma, but I would recommend that you supplement your knowledge with his own books "The Moons a balloon" and "Bring on the empty horses", which give you the fun side of his recollections.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars PAtchy, 14 Jan 2004
The early part of the book is heavily borrowed from "The Moon's A Balloon" but offers expansions on Niven's time at Stowe, his family finances, his ambition and names some of the conquests whom he declines to identify in his own books (esp the GBS).
The second part of the book offers more original material, but in parts is simply a complete hatchet job on his second wife who is portrayed as the nightmare alcoholic bitch from hell. There is little light and shade where she is concerned, with only a few redeeming comments aired. It's a shame that an interesting biography at times loses its way with a desire to state yet again, what a harpy she was.
Also, there's an implication that she slept around because she was a bitch, whereas he slept around because she drove him to it! This conveniently ignores the evidence that he couldn't keep it in his trousers as a bachelor, and indeed cheated on his first "beloved" wife.
Double standards abound, but it's still an interesting protrait.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well done job!, 30 Nov 2003
By A Customer
As there was no biography of Niven available for a long time, I looked very much forward to this one. I was not to be disappointed; the author got many sources of information and so created a wonderful characterization of the actor. As the book also contains many hilarious anecdotes it is very funny and entertaining to read. Especially if you know the author`s two volumes of autobiography you will be surprised about how often Niven "stretched" the truth (particularly about his second disastrous marriage).
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Quintessential Englishman, 9 April 2007
By 
Mr. R. D. M. Kirby "Dick Kirby" (Suffolk, UK) - See all my reviews
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It was inevitable that a personality who represented the quintessential Englishman as much as David Niven did, would spawn a number of biographies and this one, by Graham Lord, is probably the best of the bunch.

Although Niven was possibly as shallow and certainly as insecure as most actors, he nevertheless appeared in a creditable number of films and although there were some howlers: 'The Statue', 'The Brain' and the deeply embarrassing 'The Elusive Pimpernel', there were also some very fine ones, including 'A Matter of Life and Death', 'The Way Ahead', 'The Guns of Navarone' and of course, 'Seperate Tables' for which he won a very well-deserved Oscar.

Graham Lord has very carefully (and widely) researched this book and has written it in an even-handed way, especially when he mentions Niven's extra-marital affairs, neither exulting in them, not condemning them. It may appear that Mr. Lord comes down rather heavily on Niven's second wife, Hjordis but then again, it seems on the balance of probabilities, she was really a rather unpleasant person.

Without doubt, Niven (who was a superb writer and raconteur) stole stories from others and embellished them, as well as his own stories and these are pointed out by Mr. Lord but does it really matter? The end result is all that counts and if a story, larded-up or not, is funny, then that is the object of the exercise; nobody is going to be entertained by a po-faced, badly told story which isn't amusing.

So Mr. Lord has written the book well (although he would be well-advised to leave out expressions such as, "David went spare" in any further books) and he has dealt with Niven's war service in especially fine fashion.

A very good read, indeed.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The book's a balloon, 7 April 2006
By A Customer
This is a mean-spirited book populated by a number of not very likable characters including, if you read between the lines of this account, Niven himself. There are also some serious double standards at work here. His second wife is exorciated for her infidelities while Niven's are laughed off as a part of his incurable randyness (and how tiresome were the constant references to the size of his you-know-what)?. The fact that he cheated on 'the love of his life', his first wife, while the sheets on their marriage bed were still warm is put down to serial laddishness. Long before the end of this book I was firmly on the side of Hjordis, the unfortunate second Mrs Niven, but the author and Niven's close friends clearly do not believe the old adage that there are two sides to every story. Every vaguely favourable comment on Hjordis (and there are plenty) has a codicil from the author pointing out that, these admirers had it all wrong and she really was a nasty piece of work. To hear her rubbished by Lauren Bacall (sleeping with Frank Sinatra while her husband Humphrey Bogart was dying of cancer) was cant of the highest order. But, hey, that's show business.
Maybe someone should write a biography of Hjordis, if only to set the record straight.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where were the empty horses?, 1 Mar 2004
By A Customer
I first read The Moons A Balloon when I was in the army, doing a three month tour of Norway back in 1986. I never stopped laughing. I had of course heard of David Niven but never really knew much about him, other than he was an actor and I had seen a couple of his films. I then re-read the same book, again when I was in the army, this time doing a six month tour of Northern Ireland. On that occasion I "permanently" borrowed the book from the Sergeants Mess in Lisnaskea Barracks in County Fermanagh. It is still in my book collection. I would also like to apologise to whoever it is in Lisnaskea and I will be more than happy to pay them for the book! Shortly afterwards I read Bring On The Empty Horses and again I couldn't stop laughing. This time though I bought the book.
Anyway, back to "Niv". I personally thought that Graham Lord has written a magnificent book about if not the best actor of the Hollywood golden age then most certainly the one who tried his damndest.
It was a shame that Niv wasn't the person that he portrayed within his books although his real life story is just as interesting. I was dissapointed that Niv didn't resign his Army commission the way he said and that he wasn't in love with his second wife Hjordis as he portrayed.
Niv was obviously very popular with members of the opposite sex though and the affair he had with Merle Oberon was the GBS he referred to in The Moon's A Balloon. (I personally thought it was Mae West but as I am 37 years old I can be forgiven!).
Mr Lord has clearly researched his subject material well and like him, I only wished that I too had met Niv.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars disappointing, 2 Feb 2012
By 
Far too much detail to wade through - needs alot more editing - very little real insight into the man behind the persona and what a persona he had ! Blessed with good looks. charm and social intelligence in abundance, an ability to attract men and women in equal measure, incredible vitality and good fortune yet there is a certain brittleness/superficiality to the book - just endless repeats of how much 'fun' he was, how many 'close' friends he had - what charming witty company he was!!
- yet he sounds fairly tightfisted and obsessed with money (esp regards the taxman) despite being extremely wealthy and living a luxurious hedonistic lifetstyle with servants etc
- Although he loved and was loved by his children there is a sense that he somewhat failed them as a parent and was not there for them when they needed him - leaving them to greater extent to the care of boarding schools, nannies and an unloving selfcentred alcoholic second wife. And the children do not really seem to have been there for him in his final very difficult year and he ended up being cared for (in most part) by a young Irish nurse with visitors from time to time - why were they not around for him -this is not explained or explored at all and we are left with the impression they were damaged by their childhood yet this is not explored either.

- he does seem to have led a full life right up untill MND really took its toll despite his unhappiness in his second marriage - his wife is described in most unflattering terms both as a person, wife and mother - yet David must have been attracted to her and stayed with her for 30 odd years for some reason despite being such a horrible mother to his kids - why ?
IT feels a somewhat superficial exmination of a complex man despite the shining persona and endless detail. Everybody is keen to impress what a lovely man he was (and how awful his second wife was) yet without a real sense of insight into the inner man or his contradictions.
I came away with the impression of a person who was blessed with good fortune in his vitality and charm and lived life to the hilt - was great company and a good friend - but a somewhat lost person and with certain weakness to him and an inability to face upto life issues - with so many distractions he could keep the difficult issues and life at a distance and issues such as his dysfunctional relationship with a wife who hated him, his womanising,drinking are just left as him being a good old boy. I got the impression the author would just have loved to have had Niven as a dinner party guest but was not interested in exploring what lay behind the mask.
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