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The Moon's a Balloon
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The Moon's a Balloon

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  2,605 ratings  ·  129 reviews
Takes readers back to the author's childhood days, his humiliating expulsion from school and to his army years and wartime service. This book shows how after the war he returned to America and there came his Hollywood success in films such as Wuthering Heights and Around the World in 80 Days.
Paperback, 327 pages
Published October 27th 1994 by Penguin Books (first published 1971)
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Petra X
Quintessentially English, Niven was a Hollywood star in the time when an English accent and formal manners were in vogue. Successful as he was, as soon as war against Germany was declared, he returned to Britain to fight as a soldier for six years.

One of Niven's most famous lines, illustrating just how he could appeal to an audience was delivered when he was presenting the Oscars in 1974 and a naked man ran across the stage behind him, "Isn't it fascinating to think, that probably the only laug
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Robyn
Jan 30, 2008 Robyn rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone... especially people that like old movies and know Niven
This is the greatest autobiography I've ever picked off the shelf. Rather than have me go on and on about it's awesomeness, I'll give you some highlights from the first two chapters:

the FIRST paragraph:

"Nessie, when I first saw her, was seventeen years old, honey-blonde, pretty rather than beautiful, the owner of a voluptuous but somehow innocent body and a pair of legs that went on forever. She was a Piccadilly whore."

"Grizel [my sister], who was two years older than me, became very interested
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Ruth
David Niven tells his life story (or at the least the first part of it) in this book, and he does it in wonderfully entertaining, genuinely amusing and often quite touching fashion. From his early life with a distant stepfather, through his life in the Highland Light Infantry, before deciding to give up a military career to try his luck in Hollywood (although he returned to Britain to fight in World War II), Niven takes the reader on a journey packed with anecdotes and funny interludes.

As he exp
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Ruth
C1971: I have always felt that this is the best “Hollywood” autobiography. It helped that I always liked David Niven in films and the relatively early days of cinema are so interesting. However, his early life and career during the Second World War were, dare I say it, even more captivating. I am certain that, as with everyone’s memories, there were a few less than accurate details due to his reputation as being a raconteur of note. This is a laugh out loud funny book! I have re-read this book o ...more
David Hull
A most enjoyable autobiographical read which clearly conveys the delightfully charming, mischievous, colorful, and witty, antics, experiences, and life, of one of Britain's best-known and much-loved actors - the archetypal English gentleman, David Niven; from his childhood in London where he was born in 1910, through the wartime years as a commissioned officer with the Highland Light Infantry, and his acceptance in the US as an accomplished actor during Hollywood's 'heydays', initially in the mi ...more
Jane
I love David Niven. I read Bring on the Empty Horses a long time ago and he cracked me up then, so I was excited to read his autobiography. His pre-Hollywood life is pretty fascinating, especially his army friends. I did enjoy all the name-dropping, especially from his first days in Hollywood, but he started losing me after his Oscar win, and the last few pages just felt strange. I guess it's what he was living through at the time, but the transition from the classic film era to his brushes with ...more
Ellie
David Niven is not just an actor who writes, he is an actor with something to say who says it well-in written form. The combination of all 3 qualities is not so easily found. He is, as is said, witty, urbane, and sophisticated; he has moved in exciting, glamorous circles; he has known tragedy and he has witnessed it in others lives and he has been present for it all. His gift to us is his ability to articulate memory and insight. What a surprise it was to me: I opened the door of this book becau ...more
Dave Powell
Its easy to see why this is considered one of the greatest Hollywood biographies. Through a combination of good fortune and good contacts Niven made his way to the top during Holywood's golden era, maybe not the greatest actor , as John Mortimer commented - "I don't think his acting ever quite achieved the brilliance or the polish of his dinner-party conversations." he still managed to win an Oscar for Separate Tables in 1958.
Friends with the rich and famous from Marilyn Monroe (who he slept wi
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Stephen Collins
More than anything, David Niven reminds me of my grandfather. The same cultured voice (although my Papa had a combination of Received Pronunciation and whatever its Kiwi equivalent is, versus Niven’s UK Public School accent), the same approximate age, the impeccable grooming and, most importantly, the fact that he was a raconteur of the first order.

I also remember seeing this book, and Niven’s later memoir Bring On the Empty Horses , on my grandfather’s bookshelves as a child.

Without doubt, Nive
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Jules Jones
This is an abridged version of the first volume of Niven's memoirs, read by Niven himself. The edition I have is 2 CDs, with a running time of about 2 1/2 hours.[return][return]It says something about Niven's talent for storytelling that as a teenager I utterly adored my parents' copies of Niven's memoirs, even though I had no idea who he was and had never seen any of his films. I picked them up because they were books and they were there, and I had a marvellous time. His anecdotes were frequent ...more
Sean Peters
Hi

David Niven's autobiography is regarded by many to be one of the best written books of it's kind, and it is.

One of the most comical books with his many exploits, especially with Errol Flynn, well they did get into so much trouble and got away with a lot more.

Told with his wry and dry humour, laugh out loud comical moments, with great stories about many c-stars.

Also worth reading his sequel to this

Highly recommended
Craigb
I will only read autobiographies of people I like or people I admire. David Niven is one of those people I admire. The quintessentially Englishman who made it in Hollywood. He was on a par with Chaplin and Stan Laurel. So big a star he shared digs with Errol Flynn as they both became stars in their own right. And yet at the very height of his stardom he came back to Britain to fight for King and country. A decision that probably curtailed his career as one of the most famous actors of his time. ...more
Rob Adey
Niven pretty much presents himself as an R-rated Beano character, and this collection of scrapes and practical jokes would arguably be better off in 'annual' format.

I found the first half of the book, which deals with his schooling and the military, good fun. But the second half is a cavalcade of movie stars I know nothing about - I barely know who David Niven is, to be honest - so I lost interest. I expect if you have seen more than three films made before 1970 you will have a different experi
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Roy Higgins
I'm not much for reading autobiographies but David Niven was a bit of a lad in his day. As were his friends like Errol Flynn. Very funny and well worth a read.
Sandie
This has been on the back burner for such a long time and I'm so pleased that I finally got around to reading it. A captivating and funny book. David Niven's writing was eloquent and witty. A great insight in to Hollywood's golden era.
Mal Adams
It's worth reading this for all of the anecdotes of what must have been a very colourful life led by David Niven. I do think it's worth taking much of what he includes here with a pinch of salt. I think Niven is, in keeping with many of his roles, a bit of a teller of tall tales - he embellishes, exaggerates and quite possibly completely invents things here.

It does give an insight into the life that a highly privileged young man and then a highly fortunate Hollywood star. I love his descriptions
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Melody
I picked this up as it was recommended by Antonia Quirke in her own autobiography Madame Depardieu and I can see where she got some of her style from. Niven has a way of telling stories about the very best of us - from Charlie Chaplin to Joan Baez, there may not a single name that matters from the 30s to the 60s that isn’t dropped - that makes one first marvel and then appreciate that bit more that we ever get anything wonderful or good, artistic or otherwise, done as a species. It gets a little ...more
Penroj
I believe this to one of the best biography's I have ever read. For a start he writes it himself, and who know's him better?

David Niven was a great natural narrator (in my opinion as good as Peter Ustinov) and he reflects this in his book. He tells it all, good, bad and the normal with equal verve and vigor. By the end of it you really feel as if you have had the priviledge to meet and understand what he meant and how he really enjoyed the life he had.
Mark Colenutt
Simply the most elegant, honest and funny biography you are ever likely to read. William Faulkner said he would read Don Quixote at least once a year, well I average Niven's biography every two - it is that good.

You might not have rated Niven as an actor but as a writer he was an outright Oscar winner everytime.

I have two copies: one I lend out and one I keep for myself.
Rob
I would never have read this book except it was the only book in my Grandmothers house that I had not read and I was stuck there during the school holidays. It was quite witty and a quick read. One suspects very strongly that Niven was less superficial than he made out to be. Maybe it was the understatedness of an Englishman of his generation.
Fiona
I read this decades ago when I was in love with everything Hollywood. I know much of it has been debunked since but everyone loves reading stories about the stars of Hollywood's Golden Age.
Kristina
A little bit, "And then this happened, and then that happened...", but lively and sparkling all the same.
Luke Devenish
As a memoir, unreliable; an entertainment, the reverse. Funny old bugger.
Jae
Charming, witty and funny autobiography - as you would expect from David Niven.
***Carol***
I read this book many years ago & absolutely loved it.

This time around my enjoyment is slightly clouded by knowing that Niven didn't let facts get in the way of a good story & that he would have been unable to write that his second marriage was deeply unhappy.

Also a lot of the names he drops are now forgotten.

What is still very good & authentic sounding are his childhood memories & his grief at the death of his first wife.

I'd actually be interested in reading one of the biograph
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Daniel
Aug 15, 2007 Daniel rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all
Actors are crazy.
Tony
Niven, David. THE MOON’S A BALLOON. (1971). ****. An immediate best-seller when it was first published, Niven had spent thirty years in Hollywood and could drop names like nobody’s business. This autobiography – descried by subsequent biographers as half fiction and half half-truth – traces his life from his youth and early school days through to his ultimate retirement from the film industry with his second wife. As Niven appeared on the screen, so he was in life: flouting authority and always ...more
Jane
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
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Jim
The second time I'd read this classic autobiography, and I sailed through it. You can't say Niven led a charmed life, but he had some gilded times in a gilded age. Why he packed in his Hollywood life to go and fight in the war I will never understand, but I do respect and admire him for doing it. I'm not sure I would have done the same. An easy read, and if you like tales of old Hollywood full of anecdotes and warmth, you can't go wrong with this.
Gareth Evans
This book has a terrific reputation; I am not sure why it fell so flat with me. It's certainly funny at times, occasionally laugh out loud funny. The sections on his military service are good, especially his pre-war service. Apart from this the book is superficial and self serving. It seems that half the book is pretty pointless name dropping - I spent lots of time with Churchill but I can't remember a word he said, etc. ad nauseum. The emotional tone of the book is very flat. A tragic death see ...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.
David^Niven

James David Graham Niven, known as David Niven, was a 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 well-received, sel
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