Book / David Niven, Mémoires: Critique | CineChronicle

Summary: If we had to award an elegance prize to actors, then David Niven would win all the votes. But before fame, he will have experienced a real life of adventure. In his career of nearly a hundred films. Niven especially reveals a disposition for romantic comedies where her smiling casualness works wonders; he then met international success, thanks to his role as Phileas Fogg in Around the world in eighty days by Michael Anderson, then with The Guns of Navarone by John Lee Thompson and Beijing Fifty-Five Days by Nicholas Ray.


Bringing together two works initially published separately (Get the moon and Stars stringy, published respectively by Robert Laffont in 1971 and 1977), these monumental memoirs by David Niven are a continuation of the cinematographic publications of Éditions Séguier which propose to rediscover the careers and lives of great stars through autobiographical writing. Hollywood. Niven lends itself nicely to the exercise, respecting the traditional expectations of this type of writing while enriching them with a touch of humor and a style that is both sober and elegant which directly echoes its British roots. It is indeed in the land of Albion that his story begins. Quickly confronted with the strict education lavished during his English childhood and adolescence, the young Niven becomes a deserter and embarks for Canada before joining the United States. This first sea journey will be renewed thereafter, Niven sharing with Errol Flynn, his acolyte of The Charge of the Light Brigade (Michael Curtiz, 1936), a taste for boats and marine horizons. Filled with anecdotes, Niven’s memories allow one to explore behind the scenes of classic Hollywood through a gaze that is both lucid and enchanted. Without forgetting his first moments of disgrace which made him fear that his film career would end before even having started, Niven evokes his strong friendships with Fairbanks, Clark Gable or Cary Grant.

The actor in no way seeks to showcase himself to the detriment of his partners and on the contrary puts his pen at the service of a description that is both respectful and earthy of their character. It is here that the voice of Niven stands out, which does not suffer from any bitterness. From his meetings with Chaplin, Churchill, Jack Warner or William Randolph Hearst, the actor mainly retains the positive traits of his prestigious interlocutors and seeks to excuse certain excesses specific to their autocratic character.

Niven’s deference to those around him obviously does not exclude a certain objectivity concerning the general and particular situation of the periods mentioned. The splendor of the star-system is described through an amused and critical gaze that gives Niven the role of privileged witness. The evocation of McCarthyism or the emergence of tensions in Europe before the Second World War are described in the manner of heartbreak that deeply divided the Hollywood microcosm. If we regret that in view of its length the book does not offer any index, the presence of a few black and white illustrations makes it possible to prolong the pleasure taken in reading this excellent book.

  • Author: David Niven
  • Translation: Simone Hilling and Rosine Fitzgerald
  • Editions: Séguier
  • Release Date: May 21, 2021
  • Format : 960 pages
  • Prices: € 24.90 (print) – € 17.99 (digital)