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Location: Vero Beach, Florida, United States

My name is Pat and I live in Florida. My skin will never be smooth again and my hair will never see color. I enjoy collecting autographs and playing in Paint Shop Pro.,along with reading and writing. Sometimes, I enjoy myself by doing volunteer "work" helping celebrities at autograph shows. I love animals and at one time I did volunteer work for Tippi Hedren's Shambala Preserve.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Biography of Niv

Niv: The Authorized Biography of David Niven  by Graham Lord

Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1 edition (November 18, 2004)
ISBN-10: 031232863X

From Publishers Weekly
How do you write a biography of a film star whose memoirs are already considered among the best the genre has to offer? Lord, former editor of London's Sunday Express, begins by pointing out that the tales in Niven's books were frequently exaggerated, if not outright fiction, then sets out to gently correct the record. The real story is filled with absorbing details, particularly when Lord recounts the young Niven's struggle to make it in Hollywood and his varied military career during WWII. But as the "authorized" biographer of Niven (1910–1983), Lord is often overly sympathetic to the actor, most notably when the subject turns to "Niv's" second marriage to a Swedish model. Lord and his interviewees repeatedly attack the wife for alcoholism, extramarital affairs and an allegedly ridiculous desire to be an actress, while shrugging off Niven's constant womanizing and heavy drinking. Other unsavory aspects of his personality, like his treatment of his book publishers, are similarly glossed over. It's worth noting, however, that an overwhelming number of Niven's films are described as among his worst; even The Pink Panther is surprisingly dismissed as "dreadfully unfunny." Yet such harsh critical assessments do little to diminish Niven in his biographer's eyes, and the star's reputation as a lovable raconteur remains untarnished, even by the truth. Photos.

Before I talk about this book I need to fess up about something...

Recently, I read my first book by Charles Dickens.  I liked it, but it took me longer to read than other books, due to the language.  So, from there I wanted something to take me back to the present language and I read "the Parade's Gone By", which is about the making of silent movies.  Upon finishing that I thought:  I need a real get away book.. so I thought I would read The Time Traveler's Wife to escape.  *my head is hanging*.. I read the first 18 pages.  If you've read the book you know how it goes:  Henry.  Clare.  Henry.  Clare.  Henry.    Clare.  I was not being drawn in to this and wondered if this is how the whole book was going to read, and so I grabbed a bunch of pages and scanned them in my brain.  They went:  Henry.  Clare.  Henry.  Clare.   Henry.  Clare.

I closed the book and put it back in the tbr pile in hope that it's just "me".  I will try it again another time, but right now.. it was driving me nuts and was not sucking me in to a world of wonderful characters and story. 

So.. that's the confession.  I know MANY love that book... but it's not for me.  I will however give it a second try at another time, because I do know that sometimes things don't grab you just because of how you think or feel at the moment.

Ok.. now.. on to the book I picked up after that one! (not a fantasy)

David Niven, or Niv as he was known to his friends.  This is not an autobiography because his is out of print (The Moons a Balloon), and used copies seem to begin at 35.00, but an "authorized biography" by Graham Lord.

I have always liked David Niven's movies.  I can't say I've seen them all, but the ones I have seen I can say that he's a fine actor.  You are drawn to him and his character, his outgoing personality and of course to his wonderful British accent.

Now, about the book, I will say that I read it.. I didn't put it down nor set it aside, but I do wish I had been able to have his autobiography instead of his biography.

For one thing, if the author says the name of Niven's autobiography once, he says it a million times! (not exaggerating either! Not a page goes by that he doesn't refer to it)  Mr. Lord also seems driven to name every female that David Niven every slept with.. and trust me.. it's many!   Though he doesn't go into detail (thank gawd) he can't let the smallest chance that Niven slept with "so and so" get by him... it got old .

Somehow, in between ladies, he did get to mention Niv's youth and how he broke into movies, his marriages, and his kids.  

He also managed weave the movies into the book nicely and didn't spend too much time on individual movies, which was really done well; I didn't feel this was a list of movies and movie descriptions like in other books I've seen.

Something I was interested to see if it got mentioned was a favorite movie of mine that Mr Niven was a part of (though not the main star) called Murder By Death.  It is an absolutely comical movie spoof of old detectives, and a murder that happens at a house at "2 -2 Twain"  (that alone get a smile from me).  Anyway, that particular movie was made in 1976, his character was named Dick Charleston (a take off on Nick Charles) and the woman who played his wife was Maggie Smith.  Her character was named Dora Charleston (Nora Charles).  Together they spoofed  The Thin Man series of Nick and Nora with their dog Asta.  Anyway, I was shocked to find out that David Niven was 65 yrs old when he made that movie! That blew me away.  And beautiful Maggie Smith was a mere 32 yrs old.. and even with that huge age difference between Niv and Maggie.. they looked great together!

In some respects, there were some things that made me not think Mr Niven was the greatest of guys.. yet as you read the entire book you also realize that, although Niv was known as being a happy fellow all the time, that much of his life (married life) was actually pretty sad.  There seems to have been two David Niven's.  The happy carefree David..  and the man who's life you really wouldn't want for yourself.  Once all told, even with things in the book that irked me somewhat, David Niven, like anyone else, had a life story to be told.  He was a fine actor who made the best of his life that he could, and was lucky enough to have loved the work he did.

This book was good.  Not great, but good.  I did tire of the "conquests" because they were so "in my face" , and Mr Lord did like to mention any money that Niven made and compare it to what it would be equal to when he wrote the book, which made little sense to me, I couldn't understand his obsessing on what it would be equal to "today".. it didn't matter!... ah well,  I did get information about Niven that I didn't know, so  I did enjoy the book. 

If you like to read celebrity biographies or autobiographies and want to read about David Niven I hope you are luckier than I was and can get your hands on the book written by Mr Niven titled The Moon is a Balloon.   But this was by no means a bad book.. and should you want to read it and can overlook the quirks of the author, well.. all the better!

3 Comments:

Blogger Nymeth said...

Yep, I'm afraid the whole thing is Henry. Clare. Henry. Clare :P Maybe it'll grab you next time, but if not, oh well...we can't all love everything :P

7:40 AM  
Blogger Cath said...

The Time Traveler's Wife: I think it's more or less thee and me, Pat. I didn't like it that much, found the main characters unsympathetic and didn't care about them one bit. Not many people share my dislike. That said, it might be worth you trying again some other time.

Fascinated by the David Niven book. He came over in interviews as a contented man. Amazing what we don't know, eh? Will pick this up in the library if I see it.

7:52 AM  
Blogger Ladytink_534 said...

When it comes to someone I particularly admire I do like to read the truth in their biographies but I don't think I could stomach it if they turned out to be truly horrible people either :(

I haven't tried The Time Traveler's Wife but I've heard SO much about it. I think the movie is supposed to come out this year.

Oh, even if it is out of print your library may be able to get it for you ILL'd from another library if they don't have it.

3:03 PM  

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