James David Graham Niven (1 March 1910 – 29 July 1983) was a distinguished British actor, soldier, memoirist, and novelist. Recognized for his handsome and debonair persona, Niven achieved acclaim in Classic Hollywood films, earning both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award.
Born into an upper-middle-class family in central London, Niven’s early education included Heatherdown Preparatory School and Stowe School, followed by the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. After military service as a second lieutenant, he explored his interest in acting, initially with minor roles in British films. In 1935, Niven secured a contract with Samuel Goldwyn after a small part in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935).
His career progressed with significant roles in films like Dodsworth (1936), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), and The Prisoner of Zenda (1937). By 1938, he was a leading man, starring in Wuthering Heights (1939). With the outbreak of World War II, Niven returned to the British Army, receiving a new commission as a lieutenant. His wartime contributions included co-starring in the morale-boosting film The First of the Few (1942), which highlighted the development of the Supermarine Spitfire fighter plane.
Niven’s career flourished post-war, with standout performances in A Matter of Life and Death (1946), The Bishop’s Wife (1947), Around the World in 80 Days (1956), Separate Tables (1958), and more. He received the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Separate Tables. Notable later appearances include The Pink Panther (1963) and his portrayal of James Bond in Casino Royale (1967).
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