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Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars

on 11 June 2013
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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on 2 February 2017
This biography is a fantastic insight into the weird and wonderful life of David Niven - one of the world's most loved actors. Also, it is full of information and anecdotes about other Hollywood stars and reveals stories and impressions about the Golden Age of Hollywood that Niven was at the centre of.

It is worth pointing out that this biography is a completely different entity from Niven's autobiographical books "The Moon's A Balloon" and "Bring On The Empty Horses". These two works use a slight artistic license in the story-telling, but are incredibly amusing and give you an armchair's impression of what it would have been like listening to Niven the raconteur. Graham Lord's book is a more authentic chronological biography with scholarly analysis on Niven's movie career and private life.

With colourful chapter titles including "The Most Poisonous Little Bastard" and "Sandhurst and the Hairy-Legged Irish", Lord tackles his subject with gusto and charts the course of Niven's early years from school, his military service and his arrival in Hollywood. Lord details Niven's battles with Hollywood executives, his progression from bit-part actor to A-List star, his surprising decision to serve in World War Two and the relationship fiascos with women he sometimes ended up in.

Niven's movie career is explored in detail, from his early role in "Wuthering Heights", the gigantic production of "Around The World In Eighty Days", his Oscar winning performance in "Separate Tables" and his much loved role in "The Guns Of Navarone". His incredibly successful writing career is documented in a well-researched section about a surprise career change that brought Niven much pleasure, critical success and financial rewards later in his life.

However, the most striking image Lord creates is of Niven the master communicator and joyous entertainer, the English gentleman at ease with the kaleidoscopic range of people he knew in Hollywood. From Elizabeth Taylor to Ingrid Bergman, from Humphrey Bogart to Cary Grant - Niven was friends with almost all the greats.

Lord had the co-operation of Niven's family and many of his friends for this biography, and it has to be said that some of the "juicy" details about Niven's private life may have been left out as a result. However, the book is not poorer for it, and Lord goes into tremendous detail when describing how Niven never really recovered from the tragic death of his first wife "Primmie", and the sad and painful last years of his life with his second wife Hjordis.

A strong effort from Graham Lord, and a valuable addition to the library of books on David Niven and the Golden Age of Hollywood.
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on 28 September 2015
Having read Niven's autobiographical books, I thought it would be interesting to read this biography, and I'm glad I did. In his own books, David Niven comes across exactly as he appeared on chat shows, and indeed, in many of his films - a charming, typically English male, with a love of fun and adventure (and women). This biography shows that whilst this was true, the man himself was a lot more complicated. The man we think we know was really Niven playing Niven.
He comes across as deeply insecure, from his somewhat loveless childhood, through his first forays into acting, through his Hollywood high life, and his later deeply unhappy second marriage. I suspect the only time in his life when he felt he could be himself was during his short-lived first marriage. He was aware of his limitations as an actor, and never pretended to be one of the greats, but he did know them all. The list of his male friends reads like a 'who's who' of the golden period of Hollywood, and his list of female partners seems to include just about every star from the same period (as well as any number of less well known ones). He seems to have had little self-confidence, and to have taken the attitude that he needed to grab what he could before being 'found out'.
The story of his second marriage dominates much of this book. He and Hjordes married very soon after meeting, and it seems to have been a disaster almost from the beginning. Whether she was the person portrayed in this book, it is difficult to say, but if so, it only begs the question as to why he didn't walk away; a question that I felt the author didn't really answer satisfactorily.
Overall though, this is a good biography. It is well written, with plenty of first hand accounts. In the end, it was difficult not to feel that for all his wealth, fame and connections, his was a rather sad life.
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on 7 June 2014
This is the book to read if you want a well researched, detailed account of David Niven's life, warts and all. Lord reveals the Niven stripped of anecdotes and easy chatter. After half way through, I found the detail tedious and an endless list of 'who's who' in which film - and he made a lot of films. It depends on what you want, facts for a film buff or the stretched truth of 'The Moon's a Balloon' and 'Bring on the Empty Horses' for entertainment. .
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on 26 October 2009
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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on 13 July 2017
Product promptly delivered in good condition. Mr Lords book is well written and clearly well researched. Niven comes across as a nice guy with more talent and ambition than he was ever willing to openly admit. He was not a stranger to bad luck, tragedy and spurts of ego. It would be interesting to find out more about his second wife. She was by no means an angel, but given Niven's admitted infidelity and unwillingness for her to pursue her own career there must be a bit more that can be said in her defence.
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on 6 December 2013
Having read "The Moon's a Balloon" many years ago together with "Bring on the Empty Horses" both by David Niven I looked forward to reading this biography and was not disappointed. David always struck me as being the epitome of an English gentleman, suave, well mannered, polite and brave. Until I read this book I didn't quite realise how brave he was. The author points out that a lot of David's own autobiographies should be read with a pinch of salt but I had already guessed that, it was David's humour and his way of coping I think. I won't go into the sad details of his second marriage here as I think you need to read it yourself and make up your own mind. However when I finished reading it I admired David Niven even more yet the book didn't set out to put him on a pedestal. A really interesting book about a true gentleman in every sense of the word.
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on 11 October 2013
I enjoyed this very much - it's true that some of it is a bit laboured, but overall this presented a rounded picture of a man who was clearly much loved by his friends even if he wasn't perfect. The comments about his second wife are those from people who knew her, and there's plenty of balance in this book, it seems Graham Lord just couldn't find many people who had anything good to say. He doesn't stint the descriptions about Niven's behaviour towards his stepfather or his business relationships but 'Niv' still comes across as a likeable, funny and sometimes tragic character. A very enjoyable read.
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on 27 November 2015
The book arrived well in advance of the expected date which is always a good thing. The book is well written and easy to read. it sets out to clear up some of the myths and legends about this charismatic actor but not ruin the man behind the legends. I think that everybody tends to stretch the truth in order to tell a good story and David Niven was no exception.
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on 18 July 2017
A well written biography of the late David Niven, this dispels any pre-conceived ideas of Niv. being a holier than thou British actor. His military career particularly through the war years was a revelation.
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