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The Moon's a Balloon

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  3,175 ratings  ·  152 reviews
Takes readers back to David Niven's childhood days, his humiliating expulsion from school and to his army years and wartime service. 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 April 26th 2005 by Penguin UK (first published 1971)
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Charming. Absolutely charming.

This isn't the greatest of memoirs I have read but Niven's rather down to earth narration makes it worthwhile. For someone so well known, he could have been much more arrogant but it is one of the aspects that makes this book so readable that he does not mind telling of his failures.

And, yet, I would have hoped for more insights and opinions rather than a more or less straight run-down of his life and career.
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
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
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
Edward Higgins
"Mmm. Trubshawe...Niven...

"Goats? Bad show..."
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
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
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
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
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
I remember David Niven from the 1970s when he was a regular tv chat show guest. His anecdotes often had Michael Parkinson crying with laughter and he played the part of urbane raconteur with a polished ease.

So this book seems like very much a part of that performance. Niven strikes me as the kind of person who worked very hard at being the perfect dinner party guest, honing his humorous anecdotes over so many years that he sort of forgot which had actually happened to him and which he had heard
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, Niv
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

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
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
Probably deserves more than 2 stars, as it's not badly written and I didn't find it painful reading, but ultimately, I just couldn't engage with this. I don't feel I know David Niven any better now than I did before reading it.
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
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.
An amusing memoir of the first half of David Niven's life. However, there is WAY too much military stuff, that I admit I really really quickly skimmed through. Also, one gets the sense that behind the gentlemanly air and self-deprecating humor, David Niven was not a nice person, with little respect for women and definitely someone who used others to rise to the top. Articles I've read about him since his death seem to confirm this.

I've also found his second book, "Bring on the Empty Horses," whi
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.
☆ 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
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
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
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.
Read On!
Knowing nothing about Niven but being a fan of the golden era of the Hollywood system, my mum recommended this book. Ensuring it was funny and full of his anecdotes with the old Hollywood stars.
Apart from his school years I would say 2 thirds of the book are about his time spent in the army, which I have to say I found a bit of a slog.
When Niven finally does make it to America and break into the movies all he really does is name drop about the stars he befriends. I was expecting some
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.
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.
Joe Rodeck
I got the general impression that the actor/businessman David Niven wanted to make sure not to burn any bridges in the industry. When you meet Sinatra, Liz Taylor or Judy Garland, you expect some sizzle; but there is little sex or drugs scandal or any negative exposure or bombshells. In fact, most of the players are practically whitewashed.

While this is humorous simple entertainment, the fart jokes and splitting seams are worn out. Still the subject matter is interesting and he writes very well.
A little bit, "And then this happened, and then that happened...", but lively and sparkling all the same.
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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 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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