DAVID NIVEN, MEXICO, MAY, 1967
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James David Graham Niven (1 March 1910 – 29 July 1983), was a British actor and novelist, best known for his roles as Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days and Sir Charles Lytton, a.k.a. “the Phantom”, in The Pink Panther. He was awarded the 1958 Academy Award for Best Actor in Separate Tables.
Born in London, Niven attended Heatherdown and Stowe before gaining a place at Royal Military College at Sandhurst. He was gazetted a Lieutenant in the Highland Light Infantry. Having developed an interest in acting, he left the Highland Light Infantry, travelled to Hollywood and had several minor roles in film. He first appeared as an extra in the British film There Goes the Bride (1932). From there, he hired an agent and had several small parts in films from 1933, 1934 and 1935, including a non-speaking part in MGM’s Mutiny on the Bounty. This brought him to wider attention within the film industry and he was spotted by Samuel Goldwyn. Upon the outbreak of the Second World War, Niven returned to England, and rejoined the army and was recommissioned as a lieutenant.
Upon his demobilization, he resumed his acting career and despite his brief film appearances before the war, he was voted the second most popular British actor in the 1945 Popularity Poll of British film stars. He appeared in A Matter of Life and Death (1946), The Bishop’s Wife (1947), and Enchantment (1948), all of which received critical acclaim. Niven later appeared in The Elusive Pimpernel (1950) The Toast of New Orleans (1950), Happy Go Lovely (1951), Happy Ever After (1954) andCarrington V.C. (1955) before scoring a big success as Phileas Fogg in Michael Todd’s production of Around the World in 80 Days.
Over the later part of his career, Niven appeared in over thirty additional films, including many shows for TV. He spent the latter part of his career writing books, with some success. In 1982, he appeared in Blake Edwards’ final “Pink Panther” films Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther, reprising his role as Sir Charles Lytton. It was during the filming of the “Pink Panther” films that Niven was diagnosed with a form of Motor Neurone Disease and his health quickly declined. He died a year later in 1983, leaving four children. Niven was married twice, latterly to the model Hjördis Paulina Tersmeden.