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Bring on the Empty Horses

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  2,259 Ratings  ·  99 Reviews
David Niven recalls his time in Hollywood during its heyday. He recounts stories and anecdotes of the stars, producers, directors, tycoons and oddballs, many of whom were his friends.
Mass Market Paperback, 352 pages
Published 1976 by Dell (first published 1975)
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Jun 23, 2014 GoldGato rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the follow-up to David Niven's first memoir (The Moon's a Balloon), but this book is centered on the stories of Niven's friends and co-stars and directors. In other words, it's a wonderful recollection of the Golden Age of Hollywood but told in a gentlemanly fashion.

Niven was part of the Hollywood Raj, that group of ex-pat Englishmen who played cricket at the park off Sunset Boulevard and ate roast beef on Sundays, regardless of the California heat. There are hundreds of books about the
Seth T.
Sep 05, 2007 Seth T. rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone with eyes and a cerebellum
When asked which biography/memoir I best prefer, I am unable to hold back my admiration of David Niven's work here in Bring on the Empty Horses. I understand that he previously wrote something of an autobiography but I cannot vouch for that work. It is Empty Horses that has earned my love and adoration.

Niven, above all things, is a storyteller; and his recountment of the Hollywood heyday (essentially the '30s through the 50's) is magical exploration of an era that was at once special and somethi
Aug 22, 2012 Annette rated it it was amazing
I have read and re-read Niven's Bring On The Empty Horses and The Moons a Balloon. My knowledge of many of the great Hollywood actors comes from these books. I love the evocative life stories of Clark Gable, Errol Flynn and many more. Niven was as gifted at writing as he was at acting.

These books have an emotional link for me as well. My sister-in-law introduced me to these books (and many more). When she was in hospital, dying, I took the books with me and read parts of them to her. She often
Petra Eggs
Sep 25, 2008 Petra Eggs rated it it was amazing
Niven must have been the ideal guest. He was a naturally-gifted storyteller with a wonderful, often self-deprecating, sense of humour.
Nov 10, 2008 Maureen rated it it was amazing
i have read this book at least a dozen times, and always enjoy it. i definitely have the feeling of being let in on the secrets of old hollywood whenever i read it, though i do tend to skip past the sections about "missy" a pseudonymous starlet that niven uses to highlight the frailty of a star like marilyn monroe, or judy garland because i'm very familiar with it now, and it's a strange little narrative in the midst of a most fascinating memoir of the golden age.
Aug 13, 2010 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
This book will never go "back" to the charity shop, the photo's are enough- Garbo, Flynn, Gable, Dietrich, Bacall, and more... but an insite into this great name dropping book.
Niven is filming "Charge of the Light Brigade" with Errol Flynn, director Mike Curtiz (Hungarian)
"Flynn and I doubled up with laughter. "You lousy bums," Curtiz shouted, "you and your stinking think I know fuck nothing...well, let me tell you - I know FUCK ALL!"

Read the Moon is a balloon first
Sep 24, 2008 Cynthia rated it it was amazing
David Niven must have been a wonderful person to sit and chat with. I read this over and over again in junior and high schools.
I liked it, it was gossipy and fun. Who knew David Niven was so present during the Golden Age, I thought as I was reading it; turns out he inserted himself into many other people's stories to 'protect their privacy', which somewhat lessens the resonance of a memoir. But this isn't really a memoir, anyway, it's more of a bunch of fairly disconnected Hollywood anecdotes, some quite compelling. But they did feel rather disconnected, especially the segments at the end that went for just a few pages ...more
Kendra Bean
Feb 24, 2015 Kendra Bean rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
David Niven is one of my favorite Old Hollywood memoirists. Bring on the Empty Horses is less about him and more about his acting peers. These stories run from tragic ("Our Missie" - about Vivien Leigh) to fanciful (adventures with Errol Flynn). Niven often writes with warmth and great humor. He could spin a yarn better than anyone. I loved this book but am only giving it 4 stars because I like his autobiography The Moon's A Balloon sightly better and would give that one the extra star.

Sep 23, 2011 Lexi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This isn't really a memoir, so much as a collection of stories about anything and everything from David Niven's years in Hollywood, specifically during the '30s and '40s. He manages to strike a great balance between dishing out gossip and staying respectful of people who were clearly important to him. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for funny anecdotes, touching stories, and interesting characters from the Golden Age of Hollywood - it's a great read.
Jan 19, 2012 Nathan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Niven's personal reminisces and anecdotes about the 'golden age' or Hollywood (30s through 50s). Many funny stories, but the overall impact is of a hollow, empty place. All the women were 'stunningly beautiful' and all the men were 'everyone's favourite fellow', and every story involved vast quantities of scotch or gin. Went away feeling quite sorry for them all, really. 2.5/5
Oct 30, 2011 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
This autobiography read likes a desription of the classic Hollywood of the 30's to the 50's and is informative but most of all it is fun to read. This is one of those books you have to read if you are a fan of old Hollywood. Otherwise you miss out on a great and funny book that has been written by one of the humble and funniest men in cinema ever.
One of the first Hollywood memoirs I ever read and one of the few that has stuck with me. It's so witty and naughty with plenty of anecdotes about that eternally dysfunctional little burg called Hollywood. Laugh-out-loud funny in many spots.
Feb 07, 2013 Gary rated it really liked it
Possibly the best autobiography I have ever read and I have read many.
It is surprising really as I am not a fan of David Niven and did not know a great deal about him prior to reading this book.
It is very funny at times and the book flows like it was written by a seasoned writer.
Dec 05, 2015 Simone rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An entertaining and intelligent (if occasionally dated) depiction of glamorous old Hollywood, told by a participant. Niven's tales are full of compassion, humour, and self-effacing modesty, sprinkled here and there with sly winks and grins. Good holiday reading.
Jan 23, 2013 Jae rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
Not, in my opinion, quite as good as 'The Moon's A Balloon', but wonderfully entertaining nontheless.
Hayden Weal
Mar 20, 2017 Hayden Weal rated it it was amazing
Hilarious and written with deftly readable prose, this book fed my insatiable hunger for quips and anecdotes from the Hollywood golden age. An eclectic cast of flawed characters presented by an unassuming narrator. Fantastic.
Gema P. R.
Mar 05, 2017 Gema P. R. rated it did not like it
Nota: 2 Podría haber disfrutado más de las memorias de este truhán si no fuera porque la edición en castellano titulada: David Niven: Memorias es como mínimo descuidada. Parece que el corrector no existe para editorial.
Gail Heaslet
Feb 17, 2017 Gail Heaslet rated it really liked it
Interesting book. Insider stories of Hollywood's Golden Age. Cute anecdote about the title of the book (unfortunately we find out midway through the book). Mr. Niven, with his background as an actor, really knows how to bring a story to life!
Samantha Glasser
Mar 22, 2012 Samantha Glasser rated it really liked it
Shelves: movies, non-fiction
David Niven is an often neglected actor from the Golden Age, but as a man, he was very likable. This book is proof that the talented actor was also a talented writer. He discusses many different people and scenarios in this book, the title of which is derived from an amusing incident on a film set. He writes with depth and clarity; it is obvious he has really analyzed the people he mentions. His respect for fellow stars and directors is admirable, especially the maligned ones.

Here we learn that
Nicola Pierce
Jan 04, 2015 Nicola Pierce rated it it was amazing
Two surprise and welcome Christmas presents were David Niven's memoirs "The Moon's a Balloon" and "Bring on the Empty Horses". I read the both of them in two sittings - it was impossible not to.

I love anything about Hollywood and actors, especially regarding the 'Golden Age' of the industry. These books provide the most wonderful insights into the systems and personalities that abounded throughout the 1920s, 30s and 40s.

If I had one quibble - just one - I would have liked to have learned more
Jun 11, 2007 Frederick rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those interested in Hollywood.
This highly diverting memoir is the follow-up to THE MOON'S A BALLOON. I have not read THE MOON'S A BALLOON, but if BRING ON THE EMPTY HORSES is merely a pale imitation than THE MOON'S A BALLOON must be hilarious. Niven actually makes Hollywood sound like a beautiful place. In his Hollywood people offer each other cool glasses of iced-tea, smiles and good fellowship. But he does not shy away from reality. There is a chapter describing an actress's nervous breakdown in frightening detail. The rea ...more
Daniel Etherington
As I'd just read The Pat Hobby Stories by F Scott Fitzgerald, Niven's anecdotes about 1930s-1950s Hollywood connected nicely.

Apparently he cheated a bit and not all the anecdotes are based on his own experiences, despite them mostly being in the first-person. They're still readable though, if you're interested in period Hollywood. Niven knew many key players in Hollywood of the era from Clark Gable to Samuel Goldwyn to Greta Garbo. Or claimed to. His anecdote about William Randolph Hearst was p
This is a wonderfully warm book, David Niven's character sparkles through it's pages, even when dealing with stories which are often troubled and less than glamorous.

He tells the tale of his journey from boat hand and film extra to hobnobbing with the glitterati of Hollywood in it's real heyday.

There are some great insights into the formation and working of the studio system, but the real gems are the tales of the stars and their foibles.

He spares some blushes by anonymising some tales, but ther
Mark Colenutt
Jul 04, 2013 Mark Colenutt rated it it was amazing
One of Britain's most elegant writers and that is the big thrill with this book and not so much the Hollywood glitz. It was Niven's second and penultimate work of his trilogy.

The writer/author has indulged his experience of Hollywood's golden era and name dropped from opening to closing page. As he says, "If you're sitting down to dinner with Chairman Mao, it makes little sense to talk about the butler."

This then is Hollywood's most glorious biography written from the inside out, by one of its p
Jan 01, 2014 Eskana rated it liked it
What an interesting read- a real view into mid-1900s Hollywood, as embellished by (who else?) an actor. David Niven, famous for various roles and one of my favorite actors, gives some really fascinating insight into numerous names in show biz, not just stars (including Cary Grant, George Sanders, Fred Astaire, and others,) but also directors, producers, writers (including F. Scott Fitzgerald1) and even the influential newspaper critics that could make or break an actor. He also discusses the imp ...more
Oct 24, 2011 MAP rated it really liked it
The second of David Niven's charming and often hilarious books regarding his life in Hollywood. It's especially interesting to read this book after having read Louise Brooks' since the people written about often overlap (Marion Davies, Humphrey Bogart).

Although it's impossible to tell how much is true (or how much is true but didn't happen to Niven - his own son admitted that when Niven liked a story but wanted to protect the privacy of those involved, he simply inserted himself into one of the
Jul 23, 2011 Ruth rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
C1975: On the set of 'The Charge of the Light Brigade', when, wanting to see stray horses wandering through the battle, Michael Curtiz , the director, directed the wranglers to "Bring on the empty horses". When Niven and Flynn cracked up laughing, he responded with:'You people, you think I know fuck nothing; I tell you: I know fuck all" Hence the name of this book! Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons make quite an impression in this book and it seems strange in the age of the Internet that it used ...more
Jennifer Griffith
Nov 30, 2008 Jennifer Griffith rated it it was amazing
This book is like a version of the National Enquirer for the 1930s, just rife with juicy gossip about all the old film stars. Some of it is a bit hard to believe that David Niven could have known all those people and done all those things and been in the right place at the right time for every single one of the events he claimed but if he was, well bully for him. The details are just salacious (and fun) and if a person likes old movies, this book is full of fun. He's got a million hilarious stor ...more
Donna Nolen
May 04, 2014 Donna Nolen rated it it was amazing
It's been a few years since I read this book. For an insider's view of old Hollywood, this book can't be beat. He not only tells how he made it into acting but also about the lives of those he worked with as well.

David was so self conscious at the beginning the directors would lie to him and tell him they were just practicing a scene and when it was over yell, "CUT!"

He also gives an insider's perspective on Peter Sellers that few knew.

If you love the glamour days of old Hollywood, then pick u
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Bring on the empty horses 1 19 Feb 22, 2008 03:45PM  
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

James David Graham Niven, known as David Niven, was an Oscar winning English actor and novelist. Niven wrote four books. The first, Round the Rugged Rocks, was a novel which appeared in 1951 and was forgotten almost at once. In 1971, he published his autobiography, The Moon's a Balloon, which was wel
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