British film actor and producer, who later became a best-selling author.
Niven was brought up in Kirriemuir, Scotland, and educated at Stowe School. He arrived in the USA in 1935 after Sandhurst, the Highland Light Infantry (1929–32), and a variety of occupations in various parts of the world. Be?-ginning as an extra (appropriately classed ‘Anglo-Saxon Type No. 2008’), he progressed to larger parts in such films as The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), with his friend Errol Flynn. His first starring role came in Bachelor Mother (1939).
During World War II he served with the Rifle Brigade and the Phantom Reconnaissance Regiment, reaching the rank of colonel. On leave, he made The First of the Few (1942), with Leslie Howard, and The Way Ahead (1944). His memorable postwar films included The Moon is Blue (1953), Around the World in 80 Days (1956), and Separate Tables (1958), which brought him an Oscar and a New York Critics Award. Always urbane and debonair, Niven fitted Hollywood's image of the aristocratic English gentleman exactly. Notable of his later films were The Guns of Navarone (1961), 55 Days at Peking (1963), and The Pink Panther (1964). Successful, too, was the Four Star Television Company he co-founded with Charles Boyer and Dick Powell (1904–63).
A natural raconteur, he achieved huge success with his autobiographies, The Moon's a Balloon (1971) and Bring on the Empty Horses (1975), and several novels. Niven's first wife, Primula, died tragically young in an accident in 1946. His second wife was Swedish model Hjordis Tersmeden, whom he married in 1948. He died bravely fighting an illness that deprived him of his voice.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).