All articles and pages may contain affiliate links. You can read our disclosure policy here.

David Niven

His many roles included Phineas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days, and Sir Charles Lytton (“the Phantom”) in The Pink Panther. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in Separate Tables (1958).

David Niven



There Goes the Bride



Eyes of Fate




All the Winners



Without Regret

Barbary Coast

A Feather in Her Hat


Mutiny on the Bounty



Rose Marie

Palm Springs


Thank You, Jeeves!

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Beloved Enemy



We Have Our Moments

The Prisoner of Zenda

Dinner at the Ritz



Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife

Four Men and a Prayer

Three Blind Mice

The Dawn Patrol



Wuthering Heights

Bachelor Mother

The Real Glory

Eternally Yours




The First of the Few



The Way Ahead



A Matter of Life and Death

Magnificent Doll



The Perfect Marriage

The Other Love

The Bishop’s Wife



Bonnie Prince Charlie




A Kiss in the Dark

A Kiss for Corliss



The Elusive Pimpernel

The Toast of New Orleans



Happy Go Lovely

Soldiers Three

Appointment with Venus



The Lady Says No



The Moon Is Blue



The Love Lottery

Happy Ever After



Carrington V.C.

The King’s Thief



The Birds and the Bees

The Silken Affair

Around the World in 80 Days



Oh, Men! Oh, Women!

The Little Hut

My Man Godfrey



Bonjour Tristesse

Separate Tables



Ask Any Girl

Happy Anniversary



Please Don’t Eat the Daisies



The Guns of Navarone



Il giorno più corto/ The Shortest Day

The Captive City

The Best of Enemies

The Road to Hong Kong

Guns of Darkness



55 Days at Peking

The Pink Panther



Bedtime Story



Where the Spies Are

Lady L



Eye of the Devil



Casino Royale



Prudence and the Pill

The Impossible Years



The Extraordinary Seaman

The Brain

Before Winter Comes



The Statue



King, Queen, Knave



The Canterville Ghost




Paper Tiger

The Remarkable Rocket



No Deposit, No Return

Murder by Death






Death on the Nile



A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square

Escape to Athena



Rough Cut

The Sea Wolves



Better Late Than Never

Trail of the Pink Panther



Curse of the Pink Panther


David Niven was nominated for one Best Actor in a Leading Role Academy Award for Separate Tables (1958)

Niven was a co-host of this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. To date, he is the only actor to win an Oscar in the same year serving as a host.


I wonder why it is, that young men are always cautioned against bad girls. Anyone can handle a bad girl. It’s the good girls men should be warned against. ~ David Niven

James David Graham Niven was born in Belgrave Mansions, London, to William Edward Graham Niven (1878–1915) and his wife, Henrietta Julia (née Degacher) Niven. He was named David after his birth on St. David’s Day, March 1 . Niven often claimed that he was born in Kirriemuir, in the Scottish county of Angus in 1909, but his birth certificate shows this was not the case.

William Niven, David’s father, was of Scottish descent; his paternal grandfather, David Graham Niven, (1811–1884) was from St. Martin’s, a village in Perthshire. William served in the Berkshire Yeomanry in the First World War and was killed during the Gallipoli campaign on August 21, 1915. He was buried in Green Hill Cemetery, Turkey, in the Special Memorial Section.

Niven’s mother remarried, to Sir Thomas Comyn-Platt, in London in 1917. Graham Lord, in Niv: The Authorized Biography of David Niven, suggested that Comyn-Platt and Mrs. Niven had been having an affair for some time before her husband’s death, and that Sir Thomas may well have been David Niven’s biological father, a supposition which has some support from her children. A reviewer of Lord’s book stated that its photographic evidence showing a strong physical resemblance between Niven and Comyn-Platt “would appear to confirm these theories, though photographs can often be misleading.”

English private schools at the time of Niven’s boyhood were noted for their strict and sometimes brutal discipline. Niven suffered many instances of corporal punishment owing to his inclination for pranks, which finally led to his expulsion from Heatherdown Preparatory School at the age of 10½. This ended his chances for Eton College, a significant blow to his family. After failing to pass the naval entrance exam because of his difficulty with math, Niven attended Stowe School, a newly created public school led by headmaster J.F. Roxburgh, who was unlike any of Niven’s previous headmasters. Thoughtful and kind, he addressed the boys by their first names, allowed them bicycles, and encouraged and nurtured their personal interests. He attended the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, graduating in 1930 with a commission as a second lieutenant in the British Army.

He did well at Sandhurst, which gave him the “officer and gentleman” bearing that was to be his trademark. He requested assignment to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders or the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment), then jokingly wrote on the form, as his third choice, “anything but the Highland Light Infantry” (because the HLI wore tartan trews rather than kilts). He was assigned to the HLI. He served with the HLI for two years in Malta and then for a few months in Dover.

Niven grew tired of the peacetime army. Though promoted to lieutenant on January 1, 1933, he saw no opportunity for further advancement. While crossing the Atlantic, Niven resigned his commission by telegram on September 6, 1933. Niven then moved to New York City, where he began an unsuccessful career in whisky sales, after which he had a stint in horse rodeo promotion in Atlantic City. After detours to Bermuda and Cuba, he arrived in Hollywood in 1934.

When Niven presented himself at Central Casting, he learned that he needed a work permit to reside and work in the United States. This meant that Niven had to leave the US, so he went to Mexico, where he worked as a “gun-man”, cleaning and polishing the rifles of visiting American hunters. He received his resident alien visa from the American consulate when his birth certificate arrived from Britain. He returned to the US and was accepted by Central Casting as “Anglo-Saxon Type No. 2,008.”

Among the films he can be glimpsed in were Barbary Coast (1935) and Mutiny on the Bounty (1935). He had a small role in A Feather in Her Hat (1935) at Columbia and back to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for a bit role, billed as David Nivens in Rose-Marie. (1936)

Niven’s role in Mutiny on the Bounty brought him to the attention of independent film producer Samuel Goldwyn, who signed him to a contract and established his career.

For Goldwyn, Niven had a small role in Splendor (1935). He was loaned to MGM for a small part in Rose Marie (1936) then had a larger one in Palm Springs (1936) at Paramount.