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Old 02-21-2019, 03:22 PM
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David Niven


Is it fair to say that -with some glorious exceptions- few of his movies were masterpieces?
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Old 02-21-2019, 03:26 PM
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I don't know, but couldn't you say the same thing about virtually every actor or director in Hollywood, with the possible exception of John Cazale?

Last edited by Dewey Finn; 02-21-2019 at 03:30 PM.
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Old 02-21-2019, 03:41 PM
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Well he fell in the trap that most of the stars from the golden age did in the 60s and 70s when the studio system died

He simply had to take every role offered and stopped thinking about quality


in his autobiography he says something like "at my age a job is a job and I love acting too much to be picky although there are several parts he wished he never touched "
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Old 02-21-2019, 03:56 PM
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British actors tend to be less snobbish about their profession than Americans. The tend to view it as a craft, rather than High Art. If the movie sucks, but the actor did a good job, they don't feel any need to apologize.
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Old 02-21-2019, 04:13 PM
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Vanishingly few of anything are masterpieces.

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Old 02-21-2019, 04:38 PM
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Originally Posted by DrFidelius View Post
Vanishingly few of anything are masterpieces.
In other words, Theodore Sturgeon was an optimist.

Some data cites:

David Niven at RT (suprised so much of his work was rated given how far back his career goes) and at IMDb. Definitely in a lot of well thought of stuff back in the 30s. Starting in tiny roles and working up to better roles in stuff like The Prisoner of Zenda and The Dawn Patrol. Not so great stuff for a lot of the 40s and 50s. But still he was Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days which is sort of well regarded. Etc.

All too often in later years he was basically playing himself.
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Old 02-21-2019, 04:39 PM
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I admit that I wasn't very familiar with Niven's body of work, especially when he was younger, so I did a little reading.

It looks like, while he was, indeed, one of the more popular and well-liked movie stars of the late 1940s and 1950s, he primarily worked in lighter films (romantic comedies and the like) and action / war movies, genres which aren't as often equated with producing "masterpieces."

He won one Oscar (Best Supporting Actor), for a 1958 film, Separate Tables, with which I'm completely unfamiliar, but which appears to have been well-regarded at the time (it was nominated for seven Oscars in total).

One of the few enduring movies he starred in was Around the World in Eighty Days, and while that was a big hit (and a sprawling production with a huge cast), I'm not sure if it qualifies as a masterpiece, eiter.

So, yeah, he worked a lot, he was well-known, but it doesn't look like he generally worked in the sort of film that would be a "masterpiece."
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Old 02-21-2019, 04:42 PM
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I love David Niven. IMO he's as good as they get.
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Old 02-21-2019, 04:51 PM
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He won one Oscar (Best Supporting Actor), for a 1958 film, Separate Tables, with which I'm completely unfamiliar, but which appears to have been well-regarded at the time (it was nominated for seven Oscars
In fact, he won for Best Actor in that movie.

It was a departure from his usual natty playboy roles. In Separate Tables he plays a guy who, um, touches young women in dark movie theaters. Very young women. He gets arrested for it, and one of the older ladies at the hotel he stays at demands he be thrown out of the hotel.

The film portrays the old woman as a self-righteous old prune who should mind her own business and have compassion for Niven.

Compassion for molesters. Hmph. That'd be new.
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Old 02-21-2019, 05:06 PM
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He was in A Matter of Life and Death, which is an actual Powell and Pressburger masterpiece.

There's a lot to like about Niven: he rejoined the British Army as soon as WWII broke out (and he didn't need to, really), he never took himself terribly seriously, and he wrote a couple of hugely entertaining autobiographies.
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Old 02-21-2019, 05:13 PM
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In fact, he won for Best Actor in that movie.
You are, indeed, correct; I misread the IMDB entry for the film.
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Old 02-21-2019, 05:24 PM
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Remember, he was the star of the original Pink Panther
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Old 02-21-2019, 05:52 PM
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He won one Oscar (Best Supporting Actor), for a 1958 film, Separate Tables, with which I'm completely unfamiliar, but which appears to have been well-regarded at the time (it was nominated for seven Oscars in total).
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In fact, he won for Best Actor in that movie.

It was a departure from his usual natty playboy roles. In Separate Tables he plays a guy who, um, touches young women in dark movie theaters. Very young women. He gets arrested for it, and one of the older ladies at the hotel he stays at demands he be thrown out of the hotel.

The film portrays the old woman as a self-righteous old prune who should mind her own business and have compassion for Niven.

Compassion for molesters. Hmph. That'd be new.
I'd like to say a bit more about this role. He played a fraud, who passed himself off as a generally upper-crust retired major, when in fact he had never seen battle , never been to college, and ended the war as a lieutenant; he played against type as a stereotypical retired military buffoon when in fact he was a tortured soul who was afraid of sex. The women he molested* in the theater were not especially young, they were adults, if that means anything. Of course we don't see him doing it, but he does admit it later and acknowledges how wrong it was. Finally, he develops the courage to not leave the hotel, but to stay and face it out as his real persona rather than as the fake major. If the molestation puts the character beyond the pale, which it would not have done at the time, his acting of the role was still masterful. And the nasty old broad's repressed daughter, played by Deborah Kerr, was in love with him. Sort of virtue signalling for him.

*The extent of the molestation, if I remember rightly, was to sit next to a woman in a movie theater who was alone and attempt to touch her in some unspecified way and in unspecified places. One of them, in the course of the play, reports him to the management and he is arrested Maybe he was trying to put his arm around them; maybe he was trying to cop a feel. We, the audience, don't know. I don't know how bad it would have to have been for him to have been arrested and his trial a public record.

eta: I forgot to mention that, irrespective of his acting and personality, he was reputed to be one of the best hung stars in Hollywood, which contributed some to his local popularity.

Last edited by Roderick Femm; 02-21-2019 at 05:53 PM.
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Old 02-21-2019, 05:57 PM
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And, of course, his best performance, at the 1974 Oscar telecast:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3I3bNlK2_k
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Old 02-21-2019, 06:18 PM
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Sturgeon was an optimist.
Post abreviated.

No opinion on Niven, but this NEEDS to be a bumper sticker.

Last edited by E-DUB; 02-21-2019 at 06:19 PM. Reason: Why not?
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Old 02-21-2019, 06:19 PM
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He was in A Matter of Life and Death, which is an actual Powell and Pressburger masterpiece.

There's a lot to like about Niven: he rejoined the British Army as soon as WWII broke out (and he didn't need to, really), he never took himself terribly seriously, and he wrote a couple of hugely entertaining autobiographies.
Indeed he did.
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Old 02-21-2019, 06:27 PM
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Niven was no great shakes as an actor. He did not have much range and was pretty typecast as the English guy in Hollywood movies.

Separate Tables and A Matter of Life and Death were excellent films that suited his persona, he had some success.

However his books were a couple of the funniest I have ever read. Niven was a great storyteller. It is a pity he did not write more.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/...e_Empty_Horses

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Old 02-21-2019, 06:50 PM
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Haven't read his books and not a big fan of his acting. He (too) often played a silly ass, but was okay a few times (e.g., The Guns of Navarone). One of his better dramatic performances occurs in Bonjour Tristesse (1958). I also recall him being funny in The Brain (1969) as a master criminal with an unusual cranial abnormality, but it has been decades since I saw it and it's possible Eli Wallach is the one who provides most of the entertainment.

I believe Rich Little dubbed Mr. Niven's voice in at least some of his last few films.


From IMDB:

DN on his performance in Separate Tables: "They gave me very good lines and then cut to Deborah Kerr while I was saying them."


Also: "He was the visual inspiration for the original illustrations of super-villain and archenemy of the Green Lantern Corps, Sinestro (created in 1961)."

Coolest thing on his resume, imo.
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Old 02-21-2019, 07:26 PM
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Haven't read his books and not a big fan of his acting. He (too) often played a silly ass, but was okay a few times (e.g., The Guns of Navarone). One of his better dramatic performances occurs in Bonjour Tristesse (1958). I also recall him being funny in The Brain (1969) as a master criminal with an unusual cranial abnormality, but it has been decades since I saw it and it's possible Eli Wallach is the one who provides most of the entertainment.

I believe Rich Little dubbed Mr. Niven's voice in at least some of his last few films.


From IMDB:

DN on his performance in Separate Tables: "They gave me very good lines and then cut to Deborah Kerr while I was saying them."


Also: "He was the visual inspiration for the original illustrations of super-villain and archenemy of the Green Lantern Corps, Sinestro (created in 1961)."

Coolest thing on his resume, imo.
Really? What about being the Best. Bond. EVAR?
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Old 02-21-2019, 07:38 PM
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*The extent of the molestation, if I remember rightly, was to sit next to a woman in a movie theater who was alone and attempt to touch her in some unspecified way and in unspecified places.
Watched this crappy movie just a few days ago.

He 'nudged' them with his elbow, trying to get their attention.

Big-Freakin'-Deal.
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Old 02-21-2019, 08:57 PM
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Really? What about being the Best. Bond. EVAR?
This is incorrect. Casino Royale (1967) is the Best. Bond. Film. EVAR. But it's not because of Mr. Niven or his unfunny stuttering through the first third or so of the flick. It's because it contains more prime sixties babeage than any other film.

As Bond, Mr. Niven's performance ranks no worse than third worst, thanks to Mr. Lazenby and (first and worst) Mr. Nelson.

Last edited by Dropo; 02-21-2019 at 08:58 PM.
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Old 02-21-2019, 10:53 PM
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Watched this crappy movie just a few days ago.

He 'nudged' them with his elbow, trying to get their attention.

Big-Freakin'-Deal.
Yeah, sorry there were no car chases or buildings blown up. Just every-day plain old drama, with, y'know, characters. It could have been done on TV.
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Old 02-21-2019, 11:04 PM
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Did a great job in The Bishop's Wife. I can't think of anyone else who could have done it better.
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Old 02-22-2019, 12:26 AM
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Watched this crappy movie just a few days ago.

He 'nudged' them with his elbow, trying to get their attention.

Big-Freakin'-Deal.
In the climate of the time when Terence Rattigan was writing the original play, it would have been impossible to make it much more blatantly sexual.

In those days, it was a big deal to conventional manners and morality, which is why Rattigan poses the argument, in a way that is fairly obviously coded for what was really unmentionable in general discourse at the time, i.e., touching up a man.

Anyway, that's hardly relevant to Niven's qualities as an actor.
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Old 02-22-2019, 12:37 AM
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Very good in The Rogues a very enjoyable series that lasted only a year for reasons I can no longer remember.
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Old 02-22-2019, 10:35 AM
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Yeah, sorry there were no car chases or buildings blown up. Just every-day plain old drama, with, y'know, characters. It could have been done on TV.
But they failed. The characters were one-dimension clichés. Very little development or resolution. The acting was histrionic. Started nowhere, went nowhere. Sad broken story about sad broken people.

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In the climate of the time when Terence Rattigan was writing the original play, it would have been impossible to make it much more blatantly sexual.
Oh, I know. It just doesn't hold up well. Niven was about the best part of that film.
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Old 02-22-2019, 02:48 PM
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....There's a lot to like about Niven: he rejoined the British Army as soon as WWII broke out (and he didn't need to, really), he never took himself terribly seriously, and he wrote a couple of hugely entertaining autobiographies.
He was also pals with JFK. Here he is, seated just beyond the First Lady, for the President's last birthday party, aboard the yacht Sequoia: https://hjordisniven.files.wordpress...en-sequoia.jpg

At a dinner party with the Kennedys (don't think it's at the White House): https://happythoughtsdarling.files.w...davidniven.jpg

Skeet shooting at Camp David in the fall of 1963: https://i.pinimg.com/736x/56/dd/b6/5...62b13e63f6.jpg

Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 02-22-2019 at 02:48 PM.
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Old 02-22-2019, 03:42 PM
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No one else LOVES his role as the suave Dick Charlston (paired with the then totally smokin' hott Maggie Smith) in the ultra- camp yet delightful Neil Simon written murder-mystery parody send-up "Murder By Death"?
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Old 02-22-2019, 03:45 PM
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He was also pals with JFK. Here he is, seated just beyond the First Lady, for the President's last birthday party, aboard the yacht Sequoia: https://hjordisniven.files.wordpress...en-sequoia.jpg

At a dinner party with the Kennedys (don't think it's at the White House): https://happythoughtsdarling.files.w...davidniven.jpg

Skeet shooting at Camp David in the fall of 1963: https://i.pinimg.com/736x/56/dd/b6/5...62b13e63f6.jpg
He was the sort of chap that was such good company that he got a lot of invites, I suspect.

Of course, he was as complex a man as anyone else, but I've always thought a good judge of character is how people in privileged positions treat those who are not so blessed. At Niven's funeral, there was a huge wreath sent by the porters at Heathrow airport, with the inscription "To the finest gentleman who ever walked through these halls. He made a porter feel like a king."

https://www.independent.ie/entertain...-26552274.html
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Old 02-22-2019, 03:55 PM
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Of course, he was as complex a man as anyone else.... "To the finest gentleman who ever walked through these halls. He made a porter feel like a king."
From IMDB:

"I thought it would make Hjordis [wife Hjördis Genberg] happy if we adopted a child. We talked to friends about the idea and they thought it would be marvelous. Hjordis said she'd love to adopt a Swedish girl, so we did. Her name was Kristina. [NOTE: The child was in fact Niven's by an affair with an 18-year-old model. Hjordis had to put up with the pretense.]"

Complex, perhaps; a gentleman, perhaps not....
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Old 02-22-2019, 05:24 PM
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From IMDB:

"I thought it would make Hjordis [wife Hjördis Genberg] happy if we adopted a child. We talked to friends about the idea and they thought it would be marvelous. Hjordis said she'd love to adopt a Swedish girl, so we did. Her name was Kristina. [NOTE: The child was in fact Niven's by an affair with an 18-year-old model. Hjordis had to put up with the pretense.]"

Complex, perhaps; a gentleman, perhaps not....
Oh aye, he was no saint, not at all. I thought his two adopted daughters were genuine adoptees though but eh, wouldn't be surprised.
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Old 02-22-2019, 08:04 PM
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No one else LOVES his role as the suave Dick Charlston (paired with the then totally smokin' hott Maggie Smith) in the ultra- camp yet delightful Neil Simon written murder-mystery parody send-up "Murder By Death"?
Yes, oh yes!! I love that movie and everyone in it!

When Dick tries to change seats because of some obscure dinner seating rule, and a sword falls from the ceiling, barely missing him, he says he was spared from death only because "I am so tremendously well bred."

"Murder by Death" is such an underrated comedy.
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Old 02-23-2019, 07:37 PM
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..."Murder by Death" is such an underrated comedy.
"Listen! Cow on wall speaks!"
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Old 02-23-2019, 07:57 PM
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He was also a member of the original Rat Pack. Lauren Bacall, in her autobiography, referred to Niven and his wife as "the Nivs."

Aside: Bacall was the link between RP 1.0 and 1.2, as she dated Sinatra after Bogie's death.
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Old 02-23-2019, 08:46 PM
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"Listen! Cow on wall speaks!"
"Moose! Moose you idiot!"
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Old 02-23-2019, 08:53 PM
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This is incorrect. Casino Royale (1967) is the Best. Bond. Film. EVAR. But it's not because of Mr. Niven or his unfunny stuttering through the first third or so of the flick. It's because it contains more prime sixties babeage than any other film.
BRAVO! This is my fave Bond movie for exactly this reason.
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Old 02-23-2019, 08:56 PM
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No one else LOVES his role as the suave Dick Charlston (paired with the then totally smokin' hott Maggie Smith) in the ultra- camp yet delightful Neil Simon written murder-mystery parody send-up "Murder By Death"?
Yes, this too. LOVE this movie. Saw it in a theater in 1975 at age 14...was familiar with all the parodies at that age....and peed myself laughing.
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Old 02-23-2019, 11:01 PM
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