David Niven, a native of Scotland, was named for the Saint’s Day on which he was born on in 1910. Following in the footsteps of his father, a wealthy British Army Captain who died at Gallipoli in 1915, Niven entered the Royal Military College, where he earned rank of second lieutenant in the Highland Light Infantry. During World War II, Niven joined the Rifle Brigade and worked his way up to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Commandos, seeing time in Normandy during the invasion.
Following his service in the war, Nevin made his way to Hollywood in the early thirties with only his amateur college theatrics to his acting credits and his dashing, debonair looks. Despite his lack of experience, Niven quickly graduated from bit parts to supporting and lead roles which capitalized on his polished British diction and his charming persona. He was loaned out by Samuel Goldwyn to play the lead role in the 20th Century Fox feature “Thank you, Jeeves” (1936), but greater success came with Edmund Gouldings “The Dawn Patrol” (1938) in which he played a heroic, happy-go-lucky WWI pilot.
In 1949, Niven teamed up with Dick Powell, Charles Boyer and Ida Lupino to form Four-Star, a television production house. This marked his entry into the burgeoning halls of television, although he continued to appear in numerous films over the next four decades.
Equally adept in comic and romantic roles, he played the handsome, romantic hero of “Bachelor Mother” (1939), and Philieas Hogg, the imperturbable Englishman in “Around the World in 80 Days” (1956). He won critical acclaim for his role in the Michael Powell-Emeric Pressburger dramatic fantasy “A Matter of Life and Death” (1946) and received an Oscar for his portrayal of a disgraced, repressed British military man in “Separate Tables” (1958). Niven was also wildly adored for his performance in “The Pink Panther” (1964), which was followed by several “Panther”-themed films during the next two decades.
In the 1970’s, Niven published his best-selling autobiographies, “The Moon’s a Balloon” and “Bring on the Empty Horses” as well as the novel “Go Slowly, Come Back Quickly.” During the War, Niven met and married his wife, Primmie, who was a member of the Royal Air Force at the time. They had two sons, David Jr. and Jamie. Niven’s wife died shortly after the birth of her second child. Niven died on July 29, 1983 in Chatequ-d’Oex, Switzerland, of Lou Gehrig’s disease.