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The Moon's a Balloon

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  4,987 ratings  ·  244 reviews
One of the bestselling memoirs of all time, David Niven's The Moon's a Balloon is an account of one of the most remarkable lives Hollywood has ever seen.

Beginning with the tragic early loss of his aristocratic father, then regaling us with tales of school, army and wartime hi-jinx, Niven shows how, even as an unknown young man, he knew how to live the good life.

But it is
Paperback, 327 pages
Published October 27th 1994 by Penguin (first published 1971)
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Tim Hansen Yes, there are some hilarious scenes in Niven's autobiography juxtaposed with searing sadness--from his first night encounter with Nessie was a hoot…moreYes, there are some hilarious scenes in Niven's autobiography juxtaposed with searing sadness--from his first night encounter with Nessie was a hoot (pp.44-47) to the tragic loss of his wife Primmie after a bad fall at their home in Hollywood.(less)

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Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
British soldier / actor / wit / ranconteur David Niven took as his personal life myth that once everything is smooth sailing for him, something comes along to louse it up. These vicissitudes are well in evidence in this, his first set of memoirs, that was a huge bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic. From a dodgy childhood bordered with neglect he was kicked out of one school and wound up in a worse one, until a better one surprisingly presented itself. He was deemed officer material in the ...more
Sep 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
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.
Jan 17, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: film
David Niven's friend Roger Moore wrote that he told splendid stories,but he also embellished them.I had earlier read his other book,Bring on the Empty Horses,and found it immensely enjoyable.The Moon's a Balloon is the story of his life,which saw him serve in the army,become a bootlegger,work as a movie extra,fight in World War II and become a major international movie star.It has its share of laughs,but also highlights the hardships of Niven's life.The saddest part is the death of his first ...more
Terence M
Jul 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this book nearly fifty years ago and again about twenty years ago. As one who almost never can find the humour or cause for side-splitting laughter in books that are supposed to be funny, I can cite "The Moon's a Balloon" as a book that made me truly laugh.
Sep 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Michael Sparrow
Apr 05, 2019 rated it liked it
This was interesting throughout with as much emphasis on his years in the military--both before his film career and during WWII--as his film career. And I wish there had been more information on the latter. THE MOON'S A BALLOON was written almost 50 years ago and this comes through in some of his descriptions of sex and drugs. Very readable, though!
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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 ...more
Jan 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Christmas 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
Edward Higgins
Sep 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"Mmm. Trubshawe...Niven...

"Goats? Bad show..."
Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very interesting biography from one of the great actors of the Hollywood Contract system. I always enjoyed David Niven in the movies, particularly The Pink Panther, the Guns of Navarone, and Around the World in Eighty Days. His characters were always so suave and debonair.

What I did not realize was that he was in the British Army, specifically the Highland Light Infantry. It was to be his career. I was a third into the book wondering how in heaven's name he was going to end up in Hollywood as an
Aug 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hollywood
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
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
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,"
Apr 04, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
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
Apr 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that I had been meaning to read for years, especially after a trusted recommendation, but I was only a kind-of-fan of David Niven on screen. Then I saw him a week or so ago in Bluebeard's 8th Wife in a very funny supporting role to Gary Cooper and Claudette Colbert, and fell a little in love with him.

Once I had got over the surprise at the rather fruity language and schoolboy humour of the book, I settled into a quick and entertaining read. Most of the book
David Hull
Oct 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Dec 28, 2016 rated it liked it
I read this at some point in the '90s. I don't recall any details, just a general sense of having read something pleasant and somewhat entertaining, befitting of the biography of a true, English gentleman.
Feb 07, 2013 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.
Jan 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
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.
Kevin Goodrich
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting story. You can hear his voice. His history is worth the read.
Halina Connelly
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
A self deprecating recount of a life lived to the brim.
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 ...more
Stephen Collins
Jan 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
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,
Dec 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book and it's companion, Bring on the Empty Horses. I didn't know very much about Niven before reading these books. Only that he played charming, urbane characters in the movies and that his wife died whilst playing a child's game during a dinner pary. I was rather ambivalent towards him. Somewhere I read a little blurb or something about these books and decided to give them a try. So very glad I did. If you are someone who enjoys older films, you will enjoy reading these books. The ...more
Jan 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Not quite sure what my reaction to this book is. It was fairly funny, and witty, and well-expressed, but somehow I kept getting frustrated by it. Not least because Niven sort of keeps stopping stories just when they get interesting, or telling stupid stories that he found interesting, or telling interesting stories in a stupid way. He tends to put himself on the sidelines of most of his stories, when it's blatantly clear that he was the cause and confusion of the entire situation, not simply, as ...more
Jan 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
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
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. This is David^^Niven.

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,