DAVID NIVEN Biography - Other artists & entretainers


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David Niven began his Hollywood career as an extra after resigning a commission with the Highland Light Infantry. His Sandhurst military school training and inherited membership of the officer class equipped him for many of the parts he was to play: charming, dapper and with a dash of light-hearted sexual roguishness. Following his military discharge, Niven had parts in a number of notable Hollywood films of the 1930s including The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), Dodsworth (1936), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) and Niven’s first major success; The Dawn Patrol (1938).


Signed to Goldwyn, he followed a supporting role in Wuthering Heights (1939) with his first starring role in Raffles (1940), a remake of the Ronald Colman original. Returning to the British army service during World War II, he was given leave to appear in n Leslie Howard’s The First of the Few (1942) and Carol Reed’s The Way Ahead (1944). On his discharge as a colonel he played the poet-airman caught between life and death in A Matter of Life and Death (1946), one of his most effective roles. He was consistently in demand on both sides of the Atlantic, an international debonair Englishman. In Around the World in 80 Days (1956) Niven gave one of his most memorable performances as studious 19th century adventurer Phileas Fogg.


He won a Best Actor Oscar for his performance as the fraudulent major in Delbert Mann’s Separate Tables (1958). During the 1960’s he appeared as a compassionate explosives expert in the blockbuster The Guns of Navarone (1961), and the sophisticated thief Sir Charles Litton opposite Peter Sellers in The Pink Panther (1964). The 1970’s saw Niven appear in two very different star-studded ensemble murder mysteries; the blackly comical Murder by Death (1976) and Agatha Christie adaptation Death on the Nile (1978). The Pink Panther series was mistakenly rekindled in the 1980’s and Niven revived his role of Sir Charles Litton for his final film, Curse of the Pink Panther (1983), in which Niven’s voice had to be dubbed due to the effects of a neurological illness.