Saturday, 5 March 2011

The Moon's A Balloon - David Niven

David Niven, actor and Hollywood movie star.  Born in London in 1910, he died in July, 1983.  This is his autobiography.
I remember seeing his films as a young child on Sunday afternoons with my mother.  He was one of those actors who stick in your mind as debonaire.  He must have been one of Mum's favourites as I remember we watched everytime he was on TV.  I read this book many years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it then.  When I spotted it on a charity shop bookshelf I decided to read it again.  Second time around I still laughed just as much if not more.
David didn't have the happiest childhood, having lost his father at a young age.  His mother remarried and his new stepfather wanted rid of the stepchildren and packed them off to boarding school.  David's first experience was a dirty and badly run school with cruel teachers and staff.  After getting a nasty infection he was removed and sent to Heatherdown where he was expelled at the age of ten.  At his final school, he lasted until nearly getting expelled for cheating in an exam.  Although mathematically challenged, David was reasonably bright at his other subjects, a good sportsman and performer.  He lived by his wits and cultivated friendships and was a good networker.  He would take what was offered and accept even if the consequences were not always successful.  After school he joined the Army and went to Sandhurst before being drafted into the Highland Light Infantry, he got on well with his compatriots and once again made many contacts he would maintain all his life.  After a trip to the States he got the bug and on leaving the army he went over there looking for work.  He made it to California and after some time got his break with Samuel Goldwyn of MGM.  When Germany invaded Britain and Europe, although David was not called up he decided to break his contract with MGM and return to Blighty to enlist for the war.  He didn't get into the RAF but got into the Army, then transferred to A squadron before finally being in charge of a British contingent France bound alongside the Americans, his immediate superior was an American.  After the war he returned to a changing Hollywood and although having been off camera for 6 years he managed to pick up his career.  He also ventured into television being one of three in charge of a TV production company which had several TV shows under its belt.  Although he didn't go short of women he was unlucky, he fell in love quickly and married his first wife after a short romance.  Sadly, she died of brain injury after a fall.  It was not long before he met and quickly fell in love again, marrying his second wife, a Swede.   She survived him.  He had two sons from his first marriage to Primmie and two girls with Hjordas.
There is a lot of name dropping in the book which David admits to in his wrap up.  However, it is a very funny and witty portrayal of his life.  He was a popular fellow and maintained some very strong friendships.  Although he accepted their kindness and help, he was always there for them too.  4*

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