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For more than forty years, Niven portrayed on screen the impeccable values of a lost breed of English gentlemen - handsome, beautifully spoken, elegantly dressed, witty, with perfect manners and utterly charming. Niv, according to his friends, was much the same off-screen. Both men and women were enchanted by his charisma, humour and joie-de-vivre. In addition to winning a For more than forty years, Niven portrayed on screen the impeccable values of a lost breed of English gentlemen - handsome, beautifully spoken, elegantly dressed, witty, with perfect manners and utterly charming. Niv, according to his friends, was much the same off-screen. Both men and women were enchanted by his charisma, humour and joie-de-vivre. In addition to winning an Oscar for Separate Tables (1958), Niven was a polished writer, and published two volumes of lighthearted autobiography: THE MOON'S A BALLOON (1972) and BRING ON THE EMPTY HORSES (1975). Yet behind those twinkling eyes, Niv's life was punctuated by tragedy and he was often deeply unhappy. From the death of his father when Niven was five, to his mother's neglect and the stepfather he loathed, through to the death of his beloved first wife and his volatile and disturbing marriage to his second wife, Hjordis, tragedy and hardship were never far away. Graham Lord, using new material from Niven's private papers, manuscripts, unpublished stories and correspondence, has written a fresh, revealing, funny and poignant portrait of a brave and brilliant man. Fully authorised by Niven's family and drawing from dozens of interviews with stars, from Lauren Bacall to Roger Moore and Sir John Mills, NIV: the Authorised Biography of David Niven is a fitting tribute to one of Hollywood's greatest heroes.


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For more than forty years, Niven portrayed on screen the impeccable values of a lost breed of English gentlemen - handsome, beautifully spoken, elegantly dressed, witty, with perfect manners and utterly charming. Niv, according to his friends, was much the same off-screen. Both men and women were enchanted by his charisma, humour and joie-de-vivre. In addition to winning a For more than forty years, Niven portrayed on screen the impeccable values of a lost breed of English gentlemen - handsome, beautifully spoken, elegantly dressed, witty, with perfect manners and utterly charming. Niv, according to his friends, was much the same off-screen. Both men and women were enchanted by his charisma, humour and joie-de-vivre. In addition to winning an Oscar for Separate Tables (1958), Niven was a polished writer, and published two volumes of lighthearted autobiography: THE MOON'S A BALLOON (1972) and BRING ON THE EMPTY HORSES (1975). Yet behind those twinkling eyes, Niv's life was punctuated by tragedy and he was often deeply unhappy. From the death of his father when Niven was five, to his mother's neglect and the stepfather he loathed, through to the death of his beloved first wife and his volatile and disturbing marriage to his second wife, Hjordis, tragedy and hardship were never far away. Graham Lord, using new material from Niven's private papers, manuscripts, unpublished stories and correspondence, has written a fresh, revealing, funny and poignant portrait of a brave and brilliant man. Fully authorised by Niven's family and drawing from dozens of interviews with stars, from Lauren Bacall to Roger Moore and Sir John Mills, NIV: the Authorised Biography of David Niven is a fitting tribute to one of Hollywood's greatest heroes.

30 review for Niv: The Authorised Biography of David Niven

  1. 5 out of 5

    Steve Higgins

    This book has been an absolute delight, in fact the perfect holiday read. The author tells the story of Niven's life, pretty much as Niven himself set it down in his best selling autobiography The Moon's a Balloon. However in this version the author tries to fill in the bits Niven left out of his book and correct many inaccuracies. Niven was notorious for embellishing the truth and the character of 'Nessie' to whom Niven lost his virginity in his book was, this author claims, pure fiction. Perso This book has been an absolute delight, in fact the perfect holiday read. The author tells the story of Niven's life, pretty much as Niven himself set it down in his best selling autobiography The Moon's a Balloon. However in this version the author tries to fill in the bits Niven left out of his book and correct many inaccuracies. Niven was notorious for embellishing the truth and the character of 'Nessie' to whom Niven lost his virginity in his book was, this author claims, pure fiction. Personally, I find that hard to believe even though no corroboration could be found with David's many friends and those interviewed for this biography. Nessie seemed to be just such a fundamental part of his life I just don't see how he could have invented her. In The Moon's a Balloon Niven paints a disappointing picture of his mean stepfather and his financially stretched mother. Neither according to the author were true. Niven's stepfather splashed out to help Niven numerous times and his mother, far from being poor was very secure financially. Niven says he never spoke to his stepfather after a disagreement over upkeep of his mother's grave but in fact corresponded warmly with him and the author even puts forward a case for the stepfather actually being Niven's actual father though the man he thought of as a father died in the First World War. Niven went to Sandhurst and was later posted to Malta. Later, he left the army and made his way to Hollywood becoming an extra and later, after obtaining a contract with the legendary Sam Goldwyn, a star. His affair with Merle Oberon, missing from A Moon's a Balloon, is documented here and the book follows his life as a movie star, the death of his first wife Primmie in a terrible accident only 6 weeks after coming to Hollwood and his unhappy second marraige to the swedish model Hjordis. An interesting part of the book detailed how David wrote his own best selling books; The Moon's a Balloon and Bring on the Empty Horses, the latter, a book I reviewed a while ago as the best book ever written about Hollywood. Niven struggled like many writers to keep focused on his project but living in the south of France with the Rainiers as close friends and neighbours and many other celebrity friends close by, plus his jet setting life style, writing must have been difficult; much more difficult than for me with, as I write this, only the winter sun and a sun lounger as a distraction. Niv as his friends called him, comes over as a lovely man and this biography as I said earlier is a perfect holiday read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Simon Binning

    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 insecu 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.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Joy H.

    Added 7/4/12. Once I got into it, I enjoyed this biography of actor, David Niven.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    Don't read his autobiographical work with out delving into this wonderful biography!

  5. 4 out of 5

    John Hellinikakis

    This applies to the original hardback edition. Very interesting, well researched and well written read. If you have read his two autobiographies (recommended), it is a good companion to see which of David Niven's stories are actually fibs and what he missed out - true or false, some are outrageous. David Niven was a very likeable and loved man and a very good actor, with a light comedic talent, reputedly able to muster good performances out of poor material. Niv' was a complex and insecure man, This applies to the original hardback edition. Very interesting, well researched and well written read. If you have read his two autobiographies (recommended), it is a good companion to see which of David Niven's stories are actually fibs and what he missed out - true or false, some are outrageous. David Niven was a very likeable and loved man and a very good actor, with a light comedic talent, reputedly able to muster good performances out of poor material. Niv' was a complex and insecure man, especially when it came to his finances, but at the same time never mean, but generous with his friends. His personal life was bitter-sweet. Recommended

  6. 4 out of 5

    Debi Emerson

    I read David Niven's book, "The Moon's a Balloon" back when it was first published in the 1970s. I have re-read it many times & enjoyed it more each time. Recently, I discovered Graham Lord's biography, "Niv" and found it an excellent companion to Niven's own book. I have read quite a few of Niven biographies by various people, and this one is by far the best! I would recommend reading "The Moon's a Balloon" first, then this one to get an excellent picture of an often under-rated, but extrordina I read David Niven's book, "The Moon's a Balloon" back when it was first published in the 1970s. I have re-read it many times & enjoyed it more each time. Recently, I discovered Graham Lord's biography, "Niv" and found it an excellent companion to Niven's own book. I have read quite a few of Niven biographies by various people, and this one is by far the best! I would recommend reading "The Moon's a Balloon" first, then this one to get an excellent picture of an often under-rated, but extrordinay man.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Interesting I had read and immensely enjoyed both The Moon's a Balloon and Bring in the Empty Horses by David Niven. Consequently, I was curious to read a biography of him. This book is well researched and well written. Niven lived a life with great ups and downs; so very sorry to read of the profound sadness he experienced after his first wife's tragic death and his subsequent unhappy second marriage. What a shame that a gentleman who gave so many happiness was destined to live most of life with Interesting I had read and immensely enjoyed both The Moon's a Balloon and Bring in the Empty Horses by David Niven. Consequently, I was curious to read a biography of him. This book is well researched and well written. Niven lived a life with great ups and downs; so very sorry to read of the profound sadness he experienced after his first wife's tragic death and his subsequent unhappy second marriage. What a shame that a gentleman who gave so many happiness was destined to live most of life without it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Debra Polk

    Not bad just not amazing. I recently saw a pic of Niven and had the urge to read about. I always thought he was one of the most dapper and dashing men in films. Sad to learn about so many personal trials he went through but an interesting light read if you are in the mood to learn more about the Hollywood crowd in the Golden Years of the studio system.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Paul M

    A lovely, lovely man on the surface, but this book perhaps digs a little deeper than that. Still love him!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    #125 of 140 books pledged to read during 2019

  11. 5 out of 5

    John Pearce

    Mr Lord is at some pains to point out that this is an authorised biography, and further that the late Mr Niven's family have both co-operated with its writing and expressed their approval of the result. For myself I found the book of uneven quality, a view which in some sort reflects the uneven qualities of Mr Niven himself. The shallowness, laziness and promiscuity of his salad days are redeemed by his immediate response to the outbreak of world war II; the maturing and sobering effect of his w Mr Lord is at some pains to point out that this is an authorised biography, and further that the late Mr Niven's family have both co-operated with its writing and expressed their approval of the result. For myself I found the book of uneven quality, a view which in some sort reflects the uneven qualities of Mr Niven himself. The shallowness, laziness and promiscuity of his salad days are redeemed by his immediate response to the outbreak of world war II; the maturing and sobering effect of his war service is shrugged off by an avid return to the false glamour of Hollywood, dreadfully cut short by the cruel death of his first wife; and a precipitate second marriage led to a lifetime's repentance at luxurious and over-indulged leisure. From all of this Mr Niven seems to have learned little; his personality, formed before the war, evolved little in the light of a set of experiences which would have felled many men. That said, his winning charm and friendliness ensured that he did not lack for support and help, particularly during his last sad decline. What will survive of his work is an open question - a handful of beautifully judged performances [Separate Tables, The Way Ahead, A Matter of Life and Death], another handful of competently acted stereotypes in expensively mounted shlock [The Guns of Navarone, Around the world in 80 days, Carrington VC, The Pink Panther], and over eighty more justly-forgotten films in which Mr Lord insists that Niven's performances often rose above the material, which was probably just as well. At the end of the book I felt that I had learned little about the essential David Niven but a lot about the values and mores of the world he inhabited and in which he prospered, and in some ways this portrait of the film business is the book's chief value. Mr Lord writes a competent journalist's prose commendably free of cliche, but the essentially superficial quality of his subject is reflected in the lack of depth in the writing. The book tells us little of Mr Niven's inner life; but perhaps that is because he didn't have much of one to begin with.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Gillett

    This is a very entertaining read for anyone with a love of old films. I've read so many biographies of stars: Grace Kelly, Robert Wagner, and more. All of them included wonderful, hilarious stories about David Niven, clearly he was an important part of their lives and someone to be adored. So, even though I'm not a huge fan of his work, I sought out this book and was not disappointed. I would have loved to have a drink with this guy. Graham Lord tells a well-researched story and makes sound concl This is a very entertaining read for anyone with a love of old films. I've read so many biographies of stars: Grace Kelly, Robert Wagner, and more. All of them included wonderful, hilarious stories about David Niven, clearly he was an important part of their lives and someone to be adored. So, even though I'm not a huge fan of his work, I sought out this book and was not disappointed. I would have loved to have a drink with this guy. Graham Lord tells a well-researched story and makes sound conclusions about Niven's life and relationships. If I have any complaint at all. It's that I found Lord's writing style a little labored at first. It's very factual, not a lot of affection or warmth infused, and his turn of phrase had me rereading sentences to make sure I understood the meaning. Still, I got used to his style and sailed through the book. The tales had me laughing out loud.

  13. 5 out of 5

    OK Dad

    Wasn't a huge fan of Niven, but I was always aware of his work. This book made me a huge fan. Very "British" in writing style and pacing, however the triumph and tragedy (of course there's tragedy) of Niv's life makes for extraordinary literature. Don't even start the count the number of mega-starlets he slept with...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Philip Davies

    I found this book hard work. The style is very much like a final year dissertation, factually accurate, chronologically exact but lacking any feeling or emotion. The author has a fascination with the cost of things, reference to value or the present day equivalent seemingly on every other page.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bkwormmegs

    If you like old Hollywood this is a good read. And Niven is a great character to read about! Lots of fun and insight into what seemed a beautiful life but was sad in many ways.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rajit

    Not especially gripping in its own right but a hugely valuable companion piece to Niven's own books.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Liz

  18. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn Sue

  19. 5 out of 5

    Emma

  20. 4 out of 5

    Johnny Duncan

  21. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Bretton

  22. 4 out of 5

    Simon Wallis

  23. 5 out of 5

    Theresa LaTorre

  24. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Watson

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mrs C Mitchell

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kay

  27. 5 out of 5

    Linda

  28. 4 out of 5

    mrs yvonne watson

  29. 4 out of 5

    judith graham

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michael Bird

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